Ed Burns talks about his Irish American roots with 'The Fitzgerald Family Christmas' - VIDEO
Cahir O'Doherty sits down with actor Ed Burns
“But when Perry asked me about Irish America the light bulb went off. It usually takes me about three to six months to finish a first draft. The script for Fitzgerald took six weeks.”
The reason was simple. Burns had been drafting the film in his head for years.
“I’d been sitting on these characters for 15 years. When you know a world so intimately, when you know the sights and sounds that surround these characters, when you know what their motivations are going to be you don’t come up against the usual roadblocks. “
Burns threw himself back into the kitchens, living rooms and bars of his childhood on Long Island.
“It just kind of poured out of me. There are probably more moments from my actual life and family experiences. I very rarely do that,” he says.
“There are things in there that my brother, who saw the film, loved but he told me afterwards, ‘I don’t know that I can watch it again.’”
The dead loss dad in The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (played flawlessly by Ed Lauter) is a real piece of work. Having walked out on his wife and kids years earlier, he leaves Burns’s character to become a surrogate father to his own siblings.
“My dad when he saw the film said, ‘Will you please stop this already?’ Everyone sees these films and thinks that I’m some version of these a******s.”
The truth, Burns says, is that in reality he has never written the kind of father figure that his own dad actually is.
“My father is the antithesis of these types of guys that I’ve written. Every one of these a****** fathers has been based on my grandfather. I don’t know what that is. I guess you need a bad guy,” he offers.
There’s nothing particularly Irish American about that setup, Burns insists. “People from all ethnic backgrounds have come up to me and said, ‘I’m not Irish and I’m not Catholic but how did you know my family?’ The more specific a thing is the more universal it is too. I focus on the little things that very family believes.”
Things have changed in Irish America in the two decades since Burns wrote The Brothers McMullen. Most dramatically, the relationship with the church has changed he says.
“I look at how my friends and I were raised and how we related to Catholicism versus my parents and the difference in the way our kids are changing too,” he says.
“But I am also surprised how strong Irish American ties to their own ethnicity remain when you’re talking about third fourth and fifth generation. They still hold on to them very strongly.”
For Burns it’s all a win in that he gets to profile the community he loves in a career he clearly adores.
“I feel very fortunate and lucky. My films don’t get a big splash when they’re released. They don’t make a ton of money. I’ve never made the big movie on a Friday night,” he says.
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