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Ed Burns talks 'Fitzgerald Family Christmas,' parenting and favorite Long Island memory
Actor, writer and director Ed Burns — who was born in Woodside, Queens, and raised in Valley Stream — recalled his favorite childhood memory at a recent Mamarazzi event hosted by The Moms, Melissa Gerstein and Denise Albert in Manhattan on the heels of “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas” premiere.
“Growing up on Long Island, my favorite memory would have to be riding our bikes to Long Beach and spending the day at the beach without our parents when we were 11 years old,“ he said.
Burns, married to model Christy Turlington and father to Grace and Finn, returned to Long Island after 15 years to film his new Christmas movie.
Here he talks about his inspiration, his family and balancing it all:
Q. What did you draw upon in your own personal life that came out on film and in the writing of “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas?“
A lot of people think these films, especially “The Brothers McMullen” are autobiographical. It is in fact that the Fitzgerald family comes from the exact same place that I came from — working class, Long Island, Irish-Catholic from that neighborhood. So certainly, who I am, how I was raised and the people I was friends with are a big part of who these people are. That said, any of the major plot points I never pull from my family's experience for the simple reason that I don't want a Christmas like this one!
There are some little things that I pulled from my family and extended family. For example, my wife's tradition, which I never heard of before, is to all wear matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. So I was like all right, I'm going to steal this for the film. And it's something we do now with our kids.
Q. Would you ever put Christy in your movies?
Christy said on our very first date: 'Look, for the last 10 years I've been offered dozens of parts in movies. I don't want to be an actress so if you want a second date promise me you won't ever ask.' So I never have.
Q. Is it true that you're going to do a 20th reunion of “The Brothers McMullen?“
We're going to do a sequel, I just started writing the script. The plan is that the first movie came out in 1995 and ideally we'd like to get it out by 2015. It's going to be a good one.
Q. What inspires you to write your films?
They come from different places. I acted in a movie last year with Tyler Perry called “Alex Cross” and he had just re-watched 'The Brothers McMullen.“ And he said your first two movies were so successful that had to do with these Irish-Catholic families and you haven't gone back there in 15 years. Take a look at what I'm doing, the empire I'm building. You have to super serve your niche. Your audience loved those two movies, give them another one. The minute he said it I knew he was right so I started writing the screenplay for “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas.“
Q. Do you think your focus has changed making movies, writing since having kids?
To be quite honest, I've never sat down and thought about myself as a husband and a father when I was writing a screenplay. So now my oldest is 9 years old, so this will be the first script that I'm really looking at fatherhood, marriage, child-rearing. That said, there's no way that being a father and a husband hasn't changed the way I thought about my parents, my friends' parents and the challenges they must have experienced and what all parents must deal with. That definitely shaped the writing in this but it wasn't something that I consciously sat down to do.
Q. How do you balance it all?
Both of our jobs require us to travel. And I made a decision at a certain point that if I want to be the dad I want to be that means I have to stay in New York. So that means I have to focus more on my filmmaking, which I can control and keeps me in town. But I sort of said, I won't go take an acting part that will take me to Australia for four months. And I'm lucky that I'm not just an actor because having to make those decisions would be difficult.
Q. When you're on the set and your kids have something and you're late, do you ever feel guilty as a working dad?
All parents these days feel guilt. When you're the director, you call the shots, so if there is something that is very important that I need to be at, we schedule around it. I also think you have to have the healthy perspective that kids want to see their parents work, be engaged, happy and satisfied, even little kids. We don't need to be there as much as we think we need to. They're OK.
Q. Would you let your two children follow in your footsteps?
The rule is after 18 we'll help them do what they want to do. Get through high school, get into college. While you're in school, if you want to pursue acting or modeling or photography, we'll help you. But nothing until 18.