A very personable Ed Burns fielded questions at the U.S. — and perhaps more notably, Long Island — premiere of his new film, “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas” at Clearview Cinemas in Port Washington Thursday evening.
Burns proved Gold Coast International Film Festival Executive Director Regina Gil right.
“He is something of a Long Island hero and a very modest man,” she said when introducing Burns. “He’s a writer, director, producer, actor — and a hell of a nice guy.”
Audience members of this sold-out premiere seemed to agree.
The indie film tells the touching story of a large Irish family whose adult siblings must cope with the scars of their childhood and their loyalties when, after 20 years, their estranged father shows up for Christmas.
Burns plays one of the brothers. The film also features Friday Night Light’s and Nashville’s Connie Britton, along with notable New Yorkers such as Joyce Van Patton and Malachy McCourt, as well as Long Beach actor Ed Lauter. Most everyone in the film had acted in Burns’ earlier pictures.
Honoring Burn’s roots, the film was largely shot in Valley Stream, including a section of that community known as Gibson (Burns' hometown), as well as Rockville Centre and a bar in Lynbrook.
During the Q&A, many expressed how relatable they found the film, and how accurate the relationships in the film seemed.
“You do the Irish alcoholic family very well from a therapist’s perspective,” one woman told Burns.
“You have the dysfunctional family down pat,” said another. “Do you have a background in psychology?”
Burns said that he’s always “been interested in people. I called my friends from big families to pick their brains” and ask, “does this ring true?”
Burns’ own family seems very supportive, with his relatives, including his parents, and close friends in the audience.
And while the film is a Long Island one through and through, audiences everywhere can connect with family dynamics that emerge around Christmas.
The holidays, he said, are about “celebrating your family” and often about avoiding uncomfortable issues. “Sometimes you have to have those conversations and you have to cover the tough stuff.”
At a private after-party, Burns received the festival's Artist of Distinction award at Haute Durvó in Roslyn.
The film will be released in some Manhattan and Long Island theaters on Dec. 7, and be available on iTunes Nov. 21.