Celebrity Sighting: Ed Burns at the Commons

Film still from "Nice Guy Johnny."

Film still from “Nice Guy Johnny.”

Hey there Hamptons Party Girl readers and followers! I’m finally back and rarin’ to go after a fantastic holiday trip south.

I had planned on posting something else today for my first day back but then I saw Ed Burns and his son at Bridgehampton Commons so I thought I’d share that instead. I interviewed the actor/filmmaker back in 2010 when he was doing press for “Nice Guy Johnny.” He is a super nice guy by the way.

Anyway …

Though I joked about it afterward, I did, in fact, resist the urge to run up and ask if he remembered me. : ) Or to snap a photo and intrude upon his private time. Alas, I was also remiss in inviting him as a birthday present for my friend Lisa’s fabulous girls’ night out at the Hotel tonight. Maybe next year Lisa.  : )

For old times’ sake, since it’s the end of the year and all, here’s a little trip down memory lane and a link to my interview with Ed from The Press.


— On the surface, the Hamptons might seem to be an unusual place to pick as a setting for a film in which a young man chooses to dump a chance at a lucrative career to pursue the less financially desirable job of his dreams. But listening to filmmaker and part-time East Hampton resident Edward Burns tell it, the East End is the perfect backdrop for his latest, “Nice Guy Johnny,” which was released on iTunes, video-on-demand and DVD last Tuesday.

“The film is about fighting for your dream,” Mr. Burns said during a telephone interview last Wednesday. “There’s a reason great artists end up on the East End. The light is so incredible—there’s just a dreamlike quality.”

The East End is a special place to the man who made his mark with his first film, “The Brothers McMullen,” in 1995, which he financed, produced, directed and starred in. The actor, film producer, writer and director originally hails from Queens, but he’s spent considerable time on the East End since he was a boy.

“I’ve been going out there since I was a kid,” he said last week, adding that he planned to bring his two young children out to trick-or-treat for Halloween. “I walk on the beaches there—they’re the most beautiful in the world.”

“Nice Guy Johnny” is the story of a young man, Johnny Rizzo, who is about to be married to his fiancée, Claire. Though he’s just starting out in life, Johnny has made a vow to Claire that he will trade his dream job as a local sports talk radio host—even though it’s the 2 a.m. time slot—for a better-paying, more stable career by the time he turns 25.

During a visit to New York to interview for a company that makes cardboard boxes (shades of “The Graduate”; Mr. Burns acknowledges that his movie is an “absolute direct homage”), Johnny, played by Matt Bush, visits his lothario Uncle Terry, played by Mr. Burns, in the Hamptons. The womanizing Uncle Terry, a bartender who leads a life driven largely by the pursuit of pleasure, does his level best to derail Johnny’s plan of settling down with the well-meaning but overbearing Claire, encouraging his nephew to follow his dreams of broadcasting instead, all the while pushing Johnny to chase women and live as decadently as he does.

Mr. Burns explained that the South Fork is the perfect place for his playboy character to live. “I thought to myself, Where would Uncle Terry have a house?” Mr. Burns said. “It’s gotta be the Hamptons.”

The houses, beaches and Hamptons lifestyle play a prominent role the film, particularly the areas of East Hampton, Wainscott and Sagaponack. And Mr. Burns’s old stomping ground in Springs also plays a pivotal role in “Nice Guy Johnny,” he said.

“We shot a scene at the end of Girard Drive in the Springs—I used to live on Girard Drive,” Mr. Burns explained. “I used to walk my dogs there, and I always thought, one day I’ve got to shoot here.”

The film, which Mr. Burns said he shot with a digital camera and a three-man crew, for $25,000, is all about “the notion of following your dreams,” he said. Exasperated with the studio marketing distribution system and the dwindling financing opportunities for independent films, Mr. Burns said he began work in earnest on “Nice Guy Johnny” after turning down a well-paying director spot on a big-budget romantic comedy last year, one he declined to name.

“Having passed on that project, I decided to stick with the films I like to make,” he said. “So it’s about me personally also fighting for my dream.”

This is Mr. Burns’s second venture into digital film release. The first was “Purple Violets,” which was released in 2007 on iTunes.

Mr. Burns, who is married to supermodel Christy Turlington, added that the opportunity to tap into his own experiences and desires was a big part of the impetus for him to “play with the notion of different versions of dreams.” He recalled the lyrics of the Bruce Springsteen song “Jungleland” and others on the seminal 1975 album “Born To Run” as an inspiration for the movie’s “dream girl,” Brooke (played in the film by Kerry Bishé), who serves to open up Johnny’s eyes about what’s important in life.

“She’s like that Springsteen song about the beautiful girl on the hood of a Dodge … I imagined that girl on Main Beach in East Hampton or Beach Lane in Amagansett,” he said. “She represents whatever promise you think the right girl holds for you. ‘The girl,’ you think, ‘that could change my life.’”

In pursuing his dream, the writer/director of nine released films who has acted in twice as many movie roles said he hopes to bring good, dramatic smaller films to a wider audience, the way cable television does. By utilizing a digital platform instead of a standard theatrical release, Mr. Burns said his desire is to find the right audience for his smaller independent films.

“There are really great quality dramas on television—‘Mad Men,’ ‘Sopranos,’ ‘Six Feet Under’—all the same audience who would want access to our films. This way we’re bringing the movie to them,” he said.

“Nice Guy Johnny” is now available across every digital platform, Mr. Burns said, including on-demand, on iTunes, Netflix and PlayStation.

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