Ed Burns: back to his roots

 

Filmmaker opened FLIFF with Nice Guy Johnny

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By Madeleine Marr

 Craving vintage Edward Burns? You asked for it, you got it.

The 42-year-old filmmaker is back to writing, directing and starring in his latest indie, Nice Guy Johnny, which opened The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Friday night.

"It's a return to form,'' Burns says, referencing his first movie, 1995's The Brothers McMullen. The then-27-year-old wunderkind shot the drama in his family home in Long Island for under $25,000.

After getting picked up by 20th Century Fox, the sleeper grossed more than $10 million at the box office.

"What we tried to do was kind of go back and recapture a little bit of the great time we had making McMullen,'' he says. "None of us had ever been in front of a camera before. There was this collective vibe that we're all in this thing together; let's bust our asses to make it happen. I was antsy to return to that feeling.''

Burns' latest film follows a similar formula: Shot for $25K over 12 days with a three-man crew, Johnny is about a small- town sports radio talk show host (Matt Bush) who moves to New York City to take a stuffy job with his fiancÎe's father. A meeting with his skirt-chasing Uncle Terry (Burns) changes the plan.

"I decide I'm going to take this kid out to the Hamptons and talk some sense into him,'' explains Burns. "Then the hilarity ensues.''

Working with no-name eager beavers has its advantages: Actors did all their own hair and makeup and helped out around the set, lugging equipment and setting up lights.

"The cast was completely willing to do it,'' says the father of two, married to model Christy Turlington. "It's a com pletely different experience in that they can't believe that they're a lead in a feature film. They don't care what time lunch is. They don't have tickets to the theater that night. They're not pissing and moaning about having to do another take.''

Burns enjoyed going full circle. "My only goal when I was in film school remains unchanged. I wanted to be some version of an Irish American Woody Allen, writing and directing a small, talky comedy drama once a year,'' Burns says. "I haven't been able to pull that off, but I've done OK.''

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