Edward - or Ed - Asner (above), an actor known mostly for B-grade movies and television work, became a legend along the way. Though roles have almost dried up as he has aged, he makes a surprise return as the police chief in the comedy The Animal, which opens in Hong Kong today. Tracing Asner's history seems at once as mysterious as the man himself. He says he was born on November 15, 1929, in Kansas City, but also claims to have fought in World War Ii - which would have made him just 15 when all the fighting was over in 1945. He is also said to have played top-level high-school football and to have led a basketball team that entertained the Allied troops during the hostilities. What is known is that he was born into a Jewish family, named Yitzak Edward Asner, and got the taste for acting as an announcer at his high-school radio station. From there, he moved to Chicago and its famed Playwrights Theatre Club and then, during the 1950s, on to New York and Broadway, where he married Nancy Sykes in 1957 (they divorced in 1988). From an off-Broadway run of The Three Penny Opera, Asner made good use of his gruff, slightly sinister looks and landed roles on television during the 1960s. A part in 1962's Kid Galahad began a varied but still prolific film career (from They Call Me MISTER Tibbs in 1970 to Fort Apache, The Bronx in 1981). It was while he worked on Elvis Presley's Change of Habit in 1969 that he met Mary Tyler Moore - a woman who changed his life. Tyler Moore was at the time working on a pilot for a TV series centred around a television newsroom and fought, against the studio's wishes, to have Asner play the newsroom's grumpy but loveable boss, Lou Grant. The studio bowed to its star's wishes, and the rest is television history. The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran for seven seasons from 1970 in most English-speaking nations of the world, and Asner picked up three Emmy awards for his efforts. When that series ended in 1977, he went on to play the title role in the TV series Lou Grant which ran for five years. He also picked up an Emmy for his role in the hit TV series Roots along the way. But it was his role as head of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981-85 that brought Asner the most headlines. He used his post to rail against the United States' policy of intervention in South America, supporting - among other things - the group Medical Aid for El Salvador. These activities, he says, brought him in to the sights of Ronald Reagan and fellow actor Charlton Heston, who campaigned against Asner, knocking him out of his post (Heston took over as guild boss). Lou Grant was also cancelled in 1982 - Asner still claims it was due to political pressure on his studio. Few roles were forthcoming until Reagan's term was up and Asner reappeared in a number of films - most notably JFK (1991). Television continued to be his saviour, and Asner has appeared in a series of TV movies, while enjoying somewhat of a rebirth in films but, unfortunately, none of them are much good.