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Bev Cohn: Edward Burns Part 1
Edward Burns Interview –
Up Close & Personal…
Part 1

Beverly Cohn

Edward Burns
Edward Burns. Courtesy Photo

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 purposes.

Edward Burns with Tyler Perry in the film 'Alex Cross'
L-R: Edward Burns as Detective Thomas Kane and Tyler Perry as Alex Cross.
Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment. Photo by: Sidney Baldwin

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.

Edward Burns behind a poster of the Alex Cross movie featuring Tyler Perry
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 the film.

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 fun.

Tyler Perry as Madea in 'Madea's Family Reunion'
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.

Edward Burns as Detective Thomas Kane in 'Alex Cross'
Ed Burns as Detective Thomas Kane.
Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment. Photo by: Sidney Baldwin

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 are.

Edward Burns in a scene from 'Saving Private Ryan'
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.

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Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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