Since making his critically acclaimed debut in The Brothers McMullen, writer/actor/director Edward Burns has continued to ply his trade by performing both behind and in front of the camera. Once again sitting in the director’s chair, Burns hits the big screen this month as Paulie in The Groomsmen. While the film is another semi-autobiographical character study that Burns also wrote, he insists that it not be called a comeback.
Married to Christy Turlington (with whom he has two children), Burns’ new outing delves into the territory that’s become his calling card: neighborhood buddies trying to figure out the answers to some of life’s burning enigmas. Here, Burns expounds on some of what inspired him to sit down and start typing in the first place.
“There’s a Federico Fellini film called I, Vitelloni which had similar kinds of stories dealing with men wrestling with graduating to the next level of maturity; my guys are in their mid-30s, hitting 40 and not doing it. So, I wanted to look at it socially. Why is it that men, from this generation don’t want to grow up?”
As the Groomsmen storyline holds, Paulie’s preparing to walk down the aisle with his live-in fiancée, Sue, played by Brittany Murphy. The script for the film was initially written focusing solely on the shenanigans of a tight clique of suburban New York City hood rats – Paulie, his big brother Jimbo (Donal Logue), his cousin Mike (Jay Mohr) and their buddies T.C. and Dez (John Leguizamo and Matthew Lillard).
Once the first draft was completed, Burns hit the pavement to put his story on celluloid but encountered another speed bump – nobody was interested in a tale without a leading lady. So Burns got on the blower and, eventually, he got lucky. “I had to call Brittany up and say, ‘look, I need a fucking favor – in order to get this movie made, we need you.’ She said, ‘hell yeah!’”
Cold-calling pretty thespian buddies for favors aside, there’s been a sea of change in the way that films make it to the screen. Burns says he is well aware of the fact that it takes a trifle more effort to get movies made in a time when even A-listers like George Clooney still have to glad-hand around town to procure proper financial backing.
“I’m just shocked that after 11 years, how hard it still is to get these [kind of] movies made ... The independent or the specialized film business has changed so dramatically from when I first came in the mid-’90s,” he says of the climate within the industry.
“It used to be the business model [in which] they’d buy a $50,000 movie for $200,000, they got a million out of the box office or two million and everybody was really happy. That business model just doesn’t interest them anymore ... They’re businessmen,” he says of the financial boundaries he’s encountered, continuing, “you can’t blame them. They’re not guys who grew up loving movies.”
The latter not withstanding, Burns takes another look back to the Ramen noodle days and also pays homage to another New Yorker known for his Gotham-based films. “I wrote a couple of bad versions of Reservoir Dogs in film school thinking that that’s what I wanted to do. I’m a huge Tarantino fan but it isn’t my sensibility as a writer,” he points out.
“I fell in love with films because of Woody Allen ... the best cinematic memories I have are of watching [Allen films] ... Crimes and Misdemeanors is probably my top choice – the marrying of that heavy drama with very light comedy. That’s something that I tried to do in The Groomsmen. I just try to do my version of a guy who’s writing and directing and acting; telling his stories in New York.
“Another great example to look at is that you don’t need to do what they tell you. You don’t need to go and make an action film or genre film,” says Burns. “You can stay in your milieu and keep doing one movie every year-and-a-half and you can have a career.”
The Groomsmen is currently in select theaters.
Film: Interview [Edward Burns: The Groomsmen]
Back to the Big Screen: Multi-hyphenate Edward Burns Returns with The Groomsmen
By Chris Pryor
Article posted on 7/18/2006
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