Ed Burns Turns the Spotlight on Family

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and as it does, gift giving, good food and, most important, family drama will take center stage. Cue filmmaker Ed Burns, whose newest movie, “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas,” unwraps some family memories that just might teach people what the holiday spirit is all about

by Ilyssa Panitz • More.com Celebrity Reporter
ed burns image
Photograph: Summit

More: So you are the brains and the star behind your latest production, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas.
Ed Burns: I wear a lot of hats, yes!

More: Writing, starring in and directing films is not new for you.
EB: When I was in film school. I was too intimidated to ask any of the kids in the theater program to act because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. As a result, I put me and my friends in my films and got the acting bug. Ever since then, I have been writing parts for myself.

More: Does this mean you like having complete control?
EB: I was never about making a blockbuster but rather small personal films that were really meaningful to me. If I am going to make my type of films. You want to have the last word on everything that is going to be up on the screen because it is representing me.

More: Is it safe to say you are a good multitasker?
EB: When it comes to filmmaking, yes. When it comes to life, I have to confess, a lot of things fall by the wayside. I am really bad at reading e-mails and texts. I also tend to forget a lot of birthdays because I am in a fog when I am in the middle of working on a film.    

More: This film touches on many emotions: feeling abandoned, betrayed, left behind, hate, anger and love. Were you in a dark place when youwrote the screenplay?
EB: When you sit down to write a screenplay, you don’t start with a theme. I always start with the characters I create and then build a scenario. From there the whole writing process takes you on a journey. As you are halfway through the script, the theme presents itself. The themes here are the importance of family, the love you get from your family, forgiveness and redemption through forgiveness. Look, the dad in this movie did a terrible thing when he abandoned his family, yet the only way he is going to redeem himself before he dies is to go and seek them out and get their forgiveness.

More: Could you forgive a father who abandoned you?
EB: There are certain characters that won’t want to forgive him or should forgive him. What I came away from this experience saying was maybe you need to grant forgiveness even if it is just for one night. I found that there could be a lot of healing from that.

More: Have you ever had a family member hurt you the way your character will be hurt in this film?
EB: No, I have not. As much as this was the most personal film I have ever made, there are things I pulled from my imagination or stories I have heard from friends. What was really personal for me was that I returned to the neighborhood where I grew up to make this film. We shot the film on the block where I played as a kid, or drank in that bar, waited at my train station and even attended my Catholic church.

More: This was not the first time you took on the complexities and the drama that come from being part of a family. Many people remember your smash hit debut as a filmakerThe Brothers McMullen. Why is highlighting family dynamics an important theme for you to revisit?
EB: I make small films about the decisions men and women make during the course of their daily lives. These are people who are trying to do the right thing. I guess that is what most of us are dealing with in our day-to-day lives. The films I like to make reflect everyday life with humor and honesty.  

More: Not only did Connie Britton and Michael McGlone share the screen with you in The Brothers McMullen, but you rehired them for The Fitzgerald Family Christmas. How awesome was it to be teaming up with them again?
EB: So awesome, you have no idea. Mike and I had not worked together in 16 years, so being with him was a blast. I am really excited to work with him on the McMullen sequel. As for Connie, this is our fourth film together. She is not only my dear friend but a real part of my troupe. I am lucky to have her.

More: What do you and your wife [model and former More cover girl Christy Turlington] teach your own children about the importance of family and forgiveness?  
EB: It is just that. Forgiveness is a big part of growing up and maturing. It can also be the only way we will be able to move on. None of us go through life without hurting people, and you yourself would want to be forgiven if you had the choice. We as parents try to instill that in them. In terms of family, you don’t teach them about the importance of family; rather, you show it by being there and participating in their lives and upbringing.

More: Do you and your family have any holiday traditions?
EB: We do what my family did while I was growing up. We do Christmas with the immediate family at home and open gifts together. Then we go out to my sister’s house in Long Island. Everyone just packs into the kitchen and gets together.  

More: Would you ever cast your wife in one of your projects?
EB: She told me on our first date, “I have no interest in being an actress, so if you want a second date, promise me you will never ask.”

More: I read somewhere that you turned on your Irish charm to land her. True or false?
EB: I truly pulled out all the stops to land her, let’s put it that way.

Click here to read Andrew McCarthy's Secret Career.


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First Published Tue, 2012-12-04 00:30

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