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Edward Burns | When Irish Eyes Are Smilin', Films Get Made
an emily blunt interview

 

 

 

Edward Burns is a hard working Joe. He wrote, starred in and directed his first film, The Brothers McCullen, which he got made for something like twenty-five thousand dollars. It made millions and established him as Mr. Independent Film. He shortly followed with a couple more self-penned, self-starring, self-directed films; "She's the One" and "No Looking Back."

Then the "actor" Ed Burns lands a primo gig across from Tom Hanks in the immediate classic Saving Private Ryan. This guy's luck was being a lady! Get this for a "pinch me" moment - he then ends up costarring with Robert "Bobby" DeNiro in 15 Minutes , a film I actually hated, but awful script or not, who could blame him for signing on the dotted line?

You could say Burns, who's actually written and directed five pictures so far and dated several super beauties, just has one of those rare charmed lives we hear so much about; call it the "Luck of the Irish" if you like. But admit the guy's got talent behind that devilishly handsome smile atop a tall fit form of grade A man meat.

In his latest film, Confidence, Ed plays a conman named Jake Vig. He does a great job with the dialog driven script. Of course his films too are based on the conversation, but this character was unlike anything Burns has done before. He really holds the film steady and even manages to steal scenes away from dynamo Dustin Hoffman. A whole new respect has been layered for the guy.

About ten times as attractive in real-life, Eddie strolls in and gets comfy. He immediately seems familiar - a regular guy - aside from the fore mention mansteak qualities.

Emily:[After studying him like a Puma that's stumbled across a portly injured Yak at the watering hole...I focus] You're more or less a director and actor within your own vehicles so how'd you get involved in Confidence?

Eddie: Two things. How did this guy come up with this and make it all work. I mean I sat back down and reread it to try and sort of make sense of it. And the other thing was this great great dialog. It's a great lead part. A kind of part I've never been offered before. I met with James Foley and fortunately got the part!

Emily: Your films seem to have a stepping stone feature in them. Each a kind of growing.

Eddie: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean I think in the past I had been picky and I don't have any formal acting. I've been kind of looking for parts that felt like a comfortable step for me as an actor. A little harder, you know? So I could grow as an actor. I have been very fortunate in the jobs that I've gotten. I have gotten to learn from the people I've worked with. So after doing that and after doing a few things on my own I was looking for something that I wasn't going to be able to draw from my own person; play a variation of myself like I'd done in the past. I was ready for something entirely new.

Emily: What kind of research did you need to do to pull of a conman?

Eddie: When we were on set we had a guy Brian Van Holt -he's one of the guys- he did a lot of cons. So he us go out in wardrobe to a used car lot to see if we could pull a con and get a car off the lot without paying for it. So we were able to do that. But we didn't know Brian was a lunatic driver I forget what highway we were on…he's driving crazy and we had an accident off the side of the road. We had to ditch the car. Call a cab. 3 weeks later into production the cops show up on set…I'm just kidding we didn't do any of that! [laughter]

Emily: [nervous laughter- he's cute and quirky and funny...focus....focus] Sadly you had me till the "ditch the car" bit actually.

Eddie: [laughter] Rachel went out with a pickpocket and actually learned how to "pick"- no I think she just learned how it's supposed to go down. But that's about it for training stuff.

Emily: Rachel said earlier she is now moving to NY with the guy.

Eddie: Really huh?

Emily: Yeah…yeah she's relocating to NY for him.

Eddie: With the pickpocket? [Instantly calling my bluff with a wink]…Hmm things are going good with that huh? [laughter]

Emily: So would you say you are the kind of actor you like to direct?

Eddie: Yeah I am because I 'm a writer. I am very respectful of the script. I never assume just because you're the actor you can go in and start rewriting. When you're directing and you get one of those actors? It's a really big pain in the ass! [laughter] My first time out as an actor [of course he means not in one of his own films] was with Spielberg and at no point in the making of the film did I feel the need to suggest to Steven where he might place the camera. [laughter]

Emily: That must have been something huh?

Eddie: Saving Private Ryan was a great first film for me! I just sat up and listened and watched Hanks and him - they're interaction- and believe me learned a lot about filmmaking. But ya know I also learned a lot about acting just watching hanks with other actors, watching Hanks and Spielberg; how they talked about approaching one of those big scenes. So I think from those experiences I'm probably the type of actor I'd want to work with. Spielberg had toys and equipment I'd never even seen before. I watched and took mental notes believe me.

Emily: You're talented but lucky too. How does feel to work with all these talents you're buddied up with?

Eddie: Naturally the first time was just incredible luck. I mean those guys were on board and one of the reasons you wanted to do the movie was I want to learn from these guys. When I was working with Bobby DeNiro I said, " I'm no dummy. I'm showing up and I am suck up as much as I can from this guy!" I believe you do play up to the level of competition - it's like sports- the better the level of competition you get better. And the more you do that? The more confident you feel. Three years ago I wouldn't have been confident enough to take this role, but based on my own film making experiences, the whole Hanks- DeNiro experience, I really felt I was ready to step outside what I had been doing. This film was one of those crazy charmed experiences where you sign on and 2 weeks later Rachel's on board…then two weeks later Dustin joins in then people like Paul Giamatti, Lawrence Chestnut…all these other guys that have been leads in other movies are now joining onto this ensemble. Then the final piece is Andy Garcia! It was charmed. Then it turned into a charmed shoot. Everyone got along there were no bad apples. Sometimes in an ensemble you get one that can ruin the whole vibe. There was none of that everyone was there t support James. And the other thing was the script was so good everyone wanted to say the lines. You wanted to speak these lines. That's what attracted everyone to the project. It was the script.

Emily: Anyone change his or her character from the script?

Eddie: Well that was the one thing that was a little different. Great intuition. Originally Dustin's role was for a 250-pound NY Mafioso that owned a boxing gym. You don't usually think, "Dustin" for that part. But Dustin knew, obviously, those scenes had to be reworked. It was important the character still have a physical threat. The whole dynamic between Jake and The King was this physically ominous presence that he has.

Emily: So The King wasn't so much this creepy sexuality? [Hoffman's character is uber ceepy folks]

Eddie: No - right- see originally he's this big bruising boxer and he's kind of smacking me around a lot bit and that's how he threatens me. When Dustin came on board he said you're not really going to buy me doing that he didn't'? want to use a weapon or anything so me, Jamie [Foley- the director], Dustin and Doug [Young- the screenwriter] had rehearsal a couple of weekends and it was really Dustin recreating the character and trying to find how was he going to get the threat. We would do scenes and of course certain parts of the scene needed to play to move along and this and that and he found the physical part had to be reworked. It is an incredible process to watch someone like Dustin Hoffman find that. And for me as a young actor to be a part of his creative process as he's forming a character- watching as things happen and he incorporates them [Ed beams a huge adorable smile at me - like a child that snuck backstage at the circus and saw the clown unmasking]. Then the next rehearsal what he added? That's a part of the character and he's digging and he's looking and he's searching and something else comes on board - now that's a part of the character! By the end you see this new version of "The King" and it's another remarkable Dustin Hoffman character and you say, "Wow! I was a part of his shaping him." Not only is that cool if you're a film fan - like I still am- but also it's the work you get better doing something like that with someone like Dustin Hoffman.

Emily: You're great at a shoestring budget - how'd you finance Sidewalks of New York?

Eddie: We were given a short list of actors that if we got them I would get another six million for the film. My agent said to me, "If Ed Burns the actor can make some big budget films occasionally, then Ed Burns the director can finance his own films." And the key for that with me is the independence. I have done five films for eleven million dollars not because I like working with such low budgets but because it's the only way to maintain that they're not meddling with ya and telling you who to put in, changing the title of the movie, and changing the ending and doing all that stuff that they do or can do at times. Jamie had the greatest experience on this because Lion's Gate is a very filmmaker friendly studio. They totally left them alone. So anyway, they said you should look at some acting things. I said okay. Next thing I know, like I said before, I got a Hanks and Spielberg script [laughter]! I said, "This is a no brainer!"

END

There ya go. Edward Buns, err, Burns' success is a no brainer. The truth is he's a go getter that has that constitution successful folks all seem to have… Hey, eleven million may seem like a lot to you and I but in the world of film, even independent film, that's like chump change- and he did five movies for that. Frugal? Ya and smart at casting, organizing, then skim some budget fat off by writing and directing the peice. Wearing umpteen hats can get a film made...of course it doesn't harm matters any if you also happen to be a piñata of bubbling charm as well as evil sexy. Purr.

Ed is a co-chair of the Short Shorts Festival which starts next week in Los Angeles at The Egyptian Theater...I'll be there with little bells on to lend a hand to the festivities...and in case Eddie gets too drunk to drive...hehehehehehe (<- rodent cackle).

See Confidence it's brilliantly entertaining.

 

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