By The Greater Astoria Historical Society
Actor, writer and director Edward Burns was born Jan. 29, 1968, and raised in Woodside and Valley Stream, L.I. Burns is known for his role as Pvt. Richard Reiben in “Saving Private Ryan” and for later directing shoestring budget romantic comedies such as “Nice Guy Johnny” and “Newlyweds.”
He is the middle of three children born to Irish Catholic immigrant parents Edward, a police officer, and Molly, a Federal Aviation Administration employee at John F. Kennedy International Airport. After graduating Hunter College in 1992, he broke into the movie industry as an assistant on the Oliver Stone film The Doors.” He married model Christy Turlington in 2003 and has two children.
As a child, the future celebrity’s parents, both enthusiastic movie buffs, encouraged him to pursue his dreams and expand his horizons past his suburban Long Island upbringing. After finishing college, he wasted little time, plunging right into a career in the entertainment industry.
After cutting his teeth with Stone, he produced and acted in his first film, “The Brothers McMullen,” while paying the bills by working behind the scenes for the TV show “Entertainment Tonight.” Released in 1995, the movie was largely based on Burns’ own Irish Catholic background and filmed in his childhood home and neighborhood. Produced on a budget of some $24,000, the film took in more than $10 million at the box office and earned the young director the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
The Queens native shines both in the director’s chair and on the silver screen. Following up on “The Brothers McMullen,” Burns appeared as war-hardened, outspoken Pfc. Richard Reiben in the 1998 World War II epic “Saving Private Ryan,” emerging as one of only three survivors of the film’s final battle. Transitioning to romantic comedy, our war hero appeared as a love interest of leading lady Debra Messing in “Life or Something Like It” in 2002 as well as the 2007 independent film “Purple Violets,” which he also wrote and directed.
Burns does not limit his artistic expression to directing and acting. After releasing “Purple Violets” exclusively on iTunes, the first feature film to debut on the Apple site, the son of Woodside made repeated guest appearances as himself on the HBO series “Entourage.” The show follows the career of fellow Queens native and actor Vincent Chase and his friends from the old neighborhood as they set a new course for themselves amidst the glamour of Hollywood. He also rekindled his on-screen romance with Debra Messing and her character Grace in the TV sitcom “Will & Grace.”
As an actor, writer and producer, Burns remains on the cutting edge. His romantic comedy “Nice Guy Johnny,” shot for $25,000, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2010. He followed up this achievement by making “Newlyweds,” which debuted at the same event one year later for only $9,000.
Burns has also recently starred and directed in the drama “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas,” which earned positive reviews from critics after first showing at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. The young man from Queens has proven a versatile and creative talent able to exploit changing entertainment technology and extremely tight budgets.
Commenting on his success and innovative style, Burns has advice for those looking to break into directing: “If you are an aspiring filmmaker, in this day of inflating budgets and runaway production, the truth is you can make a movie for no money in New York … and have a blast.”
For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.