CL: You started in show business as a production assistant for "Entertain-ment Tonight." Then The Brothers McMullen hit big -- and suddenly you were in front of the camera. What was that sudden fame like?
Edward Burns: You could imagine it was pretty surreal. After I won the [Grand Jury Prize at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival], I quit "Entertainment Tonight" at the film festival. I said, "Look, I don't think I'm going to need that $5 an hour job anymore," and that was kind of fun. It was one of those new things, and like any stage of your life, it takes time getting used to. But, as anything else, the longer you are in a situation, you learn how to deal with it.
I have noticed an unusual pattern in your career. When you are cast in a Hollywood/big-budget film you always play a hero or an action figure, like in Saving Private Ryan or 15 Minutes. Whereas when you create a film, you always portray yourself as an underdog, nice guy and a more vulnerable character. How do you explain this dichotomy, and which role do you prefer?
The nice thing about this little career I have is I make these lower-budget independent films, and then I have the acting side. I guess as a filmmaker, I try to create honest characters, so in that, there is a sort of certain vulnerability that some of the characters I've written for myself have. But the great thing about being an actor, I get to go off and play the action hero or the soldier in World War II, which can be a lot of fun because I don't write those characters for myself, so I kind of actually look for those type of parts when I'm selecting roles to act in.
There are distinct similarities between all your films -- they are all about relationships. Why is this what interests you?
Probably because there are so few films made about relationships, and those are the films that I tend to enjoy most. I certainly like a mystery, a thriller, an action film, but I'll see that in the theater and I don't tend to see it again. Whereas, when you see a good relationship film, you can watch it over and over. When you are making a film, you end up working on it so long, you have to watch it so many times. If I was making an action film I'd be bored out of my skull.
Do you believe that there is a perfect person for everyone?
I do ... I do think it's tough to find them and it requires some work once you do, but I think you can find a near-perfect match.
Do you consider the roles you write for yourself similar to your own life and experiences?
I will use my background to sort of color my characters. For example, in Sidewalks of New York I drew from my experiences with my girlfriend at the time in order to create that relationship. And I feature an Irish kid from Queens, working at "Entertainment Tonight," -- but that's where the similarities end. You need to be careful to draw from your own life for fear that your friends will stop talking to you.
How do you direct yourself?
Directing yourself isn't difficult -- especially when you write the script. You know the material so well, and it's so well rehearsed. When you're in a scene you can tell when you are doing a good job -- when you are in your zone -- and you can also tell when another actor is in their zone. So that's how you can direct other actors while being an actor in scene.
Is there anyone in particular you would like to work with?
Paul Newman was always my hero. I'd love to work with him.
What is it about New York that interests filmmakers?
Well, you know, I was born and raised here, so for me it's no more complicated than it's my hometown; the place I love. Maybe there are so many relationship films set here because there are just so many options and so many people, and unlike, let's say Los Angeles where everyone's in their cars, because New York is such a pedestrian city you actually do sort of rub elbows with all these different people.
You've made movies elsewhere. What is your favorite part about making a movie in New York?
Sleeping in my own bed.
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