On Aug. 29, 2021, the world lost one of Hollywood’s longest-running actors, Ed Asner. The actor died at the age of 91, and with such a long career, he’s had a role in just about everything. Old school fans remember him as Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And some of the younger fans may love and remember him for his role as Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar movie Up.
But did you know that Asner was a part of the Star Wars universe as well? Video game fans may know him as Master Vrook Lamar from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) and Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords (2004).
Although, the actor has a Star Wars role that even predates that, and it dates back to 1996. At this time, not much was going on in the Star Wars universe. This was the quiet period between Episode VI’s Return of the Jedi in 1983 and Episode I’s Phantom Menace in 1999. But what did come out during that time was the final chapter of a Star Wars radio drama. And it was Ed Asner who voiced the role of the crime king of Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt.
Ed Asner in the Star Wars radio drama
The Star Wars: Return of the Jedi audio drama was a six-part series, and was a continuation of the two other audio dramas that preceded it for the original Star Wars film and The Empire Strikes Back. The first two radio dramas were released in 1981 and 1983 respectively, as part of a collaboration between NPR and Lucasfilm.
At the time, NPR had an ongoing series called NPR Playhouse, and so Star Wars was perfect for them to adapt at this time because of its popularity. And the installments even included some of the original cast. For Star Wars and Empire, Mark Hamill reprised his role as Luke Skywalker. Billy Dee Williams returned to voice Lando Calrissian for Empire only. And Anthony Daniels voiced C-3PO for all three installments.
Though, the Return of the Jedi drama did not air until 1996 due to conflicts between NPR and Lucasfilm. Eventually, the series’ CD and cassette tape producer, Highbridge Audio, took over the final radio drama in cooperation with NPR and Lucasfilm. And the series was apparently popular enough to get Ed Asner on board, and even John Lithgow, who voiced Yoda in the Episode VI audio drama.
There are recordings of the audio drama out in the ether. And yes, the Return of the Jedi one can be found on YouTube, clocking in at about 2 hours and 30 minutes total (although the official runtime is said to be about 3 hours). Asner can be heard within the first 10 to 15 minutes as Jabba the Hutt, speaking some impressive Huttese. The voice is a little different from the one in the film, sounding a bit more alien and even robotic, but it’s a Jabba the Hutt that gets to be unique to him.
And so, if you haven’t listened to the Star Wars audio drama, it’s certainly something to check out and listen to in your spare time. It’s got music from John Williams and all the authentic sound effects, so Star Wars fans should definitely plan on listening if they haven’t already.
Follow Dork Side of the Force for more Star Wars news and updates.