Edward Burns Interview
Up Close & Personal
Edward Burns. Courtesy
dward Burns' filmmaking career began with "The Brothers McMullen,"
a tender character-driven story about three Irish Catholic siblings.
Burns wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the film that received
an avalanche of critical acclaim, winning the Grand Jury prize at the
1995 Sundance Film Festival as well as the "Best First Feature"
at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards. Some of his subsequent films,
which he wrote, produced, directed and starred in include: "Sidewalks
of New York," "She's the One," "Life or Something
Like It," "Looking for Kitty," "Newly Weds, "Nice
Guy Johnny," "The Groomsmen," and "Purple Violets."
His cinematic breakout role as an actor was in Steven
Spielberg's epic World War II portrait, "Saving Private Ryan,"
elevating his status to a bankable movie star. Since then, Burns has
acted in dozens of films including "Man on a Ledge, "15 Minutes,"
"27 Dresses," "Friends With Kids," and his latest,
"Alex Cross," in which he co-stars with Tyler
Perry, Cicely Tyson, Jean Reno, and Matthew Fox.
Burns recently participated in a press conference
to talk about "Alex Cross," in which he plays a detective,
and the following has been edited for content and continuity for print
L-R: Edward Burns as Detective Thomas Kane and Tyler
Perry as Alex Cross.
Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment. Photo by: Sidney
Had you read any of James Patterson's books and
what in particular attracted you to the role of Detective Tom Kane?
Burns: I knew Patterson's books and had read a few of
the Alex Cross novels and was aware that the character I would play
did not exist in any of the novels. Rob (Director Rob Cohen)
sent me the script and said that he was working on this and that he
wanted to make it much more of an action film which would be different
from the books and earlier films. He said he wanted to develop this
new character opposite Alex who is his best friend. He said he would
be working on the script until we shot and would love to have some input.
Anytime a filmmaker says he wants you to collaborate, that gets an actor
excited. So that's why I jumped in.
Ed Burns and Tyler Perry play long-time buddies
in "Alex Cross." Courtesy Photo
How would you, as Tom, describe your friendship
with Alex (Tyler Perry)?
Burns: There are two scenes in the film that sort of
give you some insight into when these two met and how their relationship
has evolved from when they were kids to where they are now. The thinking
was that we became buddies as kids and when we were little, I was sort
of a little bit more of his protector. As we got older, and he got bigger
and smarter, he then became the guy who looked out for me and that is
what the tone of the relationship is when we meet these characters in
Was the physical aspect of your role difficult
and how did you prepare?
Burns: When you get to play these kinds of parts, there's
always a period of time where you're doing tactical training. We worked
with the guys from the Detroit Swat Team and that's always a lot of
Burns: "I was surprised that he (Perry) had
any interest in stepping outside
his own films." Courtesy Photo
Because it's so different from any of his previous
roles, were you surprised that Tyler was cast in the lead role and how
was it working with him?
Burns: I was surprised that he had any interest in stepping
outside of his own films. For myself, as a writer, director, actor,
that was a big decision, but I finally decided I would work for someone
else which is stepping outside your comfort zone. So I was surprised
that he was doing it, but when I read the script, I got it immediately
why he accepted the role. I'm sure he gets a lot of offers but was looking
for the right thing.
Ed Burns as Detective Thomas Kane.
Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment. Photo by: Sidney
How much preparation did it take to nail your
relationship with Tyler as Alex Cross?
Burns: Almost none, other than the fact that when we
met three days before the shoot and hit it off because we have this
common background career wise. The first scene I shot with Tyler is
the last scene in the film where we talk about what great buddies we
On "Saving Private Ryan:" "...I looked
at that experience (working with Steven Spielberg) as my graduate film
school." Courtesy Photo
Did you have an opportunity to talk to Tyler about
the craft and do you ever second-guess the director?
Burns: I'll answer the second part first. I had the
great benefit of the first time I ever acted for someone else, and spoke
a lot of dialogue that I didn't write, it was with Steven Spielberg
("Saving Private Ryan"). When I showed up on that set,
I knew I wasn't going to be offering any suggestions or question where
the camera might go. Instead, I stood behind him and watched every move
he made and looked at that experience as my graduate film school, and
have applied that on every film I've worked on since. With Rob, we immediately
hit it off. Rob knows how to shoot action and what I did on this film
was to watch because that is something I don't do, (action films)
but you never know when you might need that skill set. So, I'm watching
and never think 'why is he making this choice?'
Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) and Detective Thomas Kane
(Edward Burns) "interview" a suspect in a scene from "Alex
Cross." Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
Photo by: Sidney Baldwin
As far as Tyler and I, immediately that was the first
thing we started to talk about - our respective careers, the choice
to become an actor for somebody else, and sort of juggling those two
very different worlds, and how to approach being on the set since you're
the guy who is usually calling the shots.
Note: Part 2 is a Beverly Cohn exclusive interview
during which Burns talks about his personal life, including marriage,
his family, and being a celebrity.