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Ed Burns Returns Home for 'Fitzgerald Family Christmas'

Filmmaker and actor holds screening and Q&A session at Malverne Cinema 4.

Growing up in nearby Valley Stream, Edward Burns' love of the movies brought him to the Malverne Cinema 4.

For instance, it was here that the then-aspiring filmmaker saw "Dead Poets Society" with his biggest fan and inspiration, his mom. So when it was time to showcase his latest film, "The Fitzergald Family Christmas," which was shot in nearby Valley Stream, Lynbrook and Rockville Centre, the renowned actor, writer, director and producer chose the small artsy theatre as one of three places on Long Island to hold Q&A sessions with moviegoers. (His mom was there this time too.)

Following the 2 p.m. showing of the film Sunday, Burns, who watched the final 30 minutes of the movie from the back of the theatre, walked down the aisle as the credits were rolling and received a standing ovation from the audience.

He then spent more than a half hour fielding questions from fans and aspiring filmmakers inside the packed theatre. Some simply wanted to know exactly what local spots Burns used in the movie and how he chose them.

"As I was writing the screenplay, I just imagined that the Fitzgerald family grew up in the house I grew up in in Gibson, which is part of Valley Stream," Burns told them.

He called his mom, Molly -- who now lives in Rockville Centre -- and asked her what family friends would open up their homes to his film crew. Tina and Tom Costello, who live down the block from Burns' childhood home, offered up their house.

"There were some surreal moments," Burns said of filming inside their house. "I could remember me and my brother having lunch in that kitchen with the Costello boys … We watched a number of Superbowls in the 70s in that living room."

Burns' sister, Mary, and one of her friends both volunteered their houses to serve as the homes of his movie siblings. And his buddy offered up his mother-in-law's house in Queens Village.

"It helped sort of inform the actors by being in real locations instead of showing up on a sound stage," he explained.

Other scenes were filmed at the Gibson and Rockville Centre train stations, and the family-owned bar featured in the movie, which is called "Fitzgeralds," is actually Mary MacNamara's Irish Pub and Grill located in Lynbrook on Stauderman Avenue.

The movie tells the story of a large Irish-American family. Twenty years after their father deserted them, Gerry, played by Burns, his mother (Anita Gillete), and his six adult siblings must confront the difficult decision of letting him participate in their Christmas celebration. The movie explores the loving yet imperfect relationships between siblings and parents, and the importance of family and forgiveness. Reminiscent of real-life situations and personalities, the movie had the audience laughing at one moment and wiping tears from their faces the next as they related to a family that could easily be their own. 

"We screened it up in Toronto and 20 people came up to me, saying, 'I'm not Irish, I'm not Catholic, and I'm not from Long Island but this is my family," Burns said. "I screen it here and people ask, 'What the hell where you doing peaking in my window?"

The former Chaminade student and Hewlett High School graduate said the film is not actually about his family, but it is "autobiographical in the sense that the Fitzgeralds definitely come from the exact same place that I come from and they are shaped by the same experiences."

Burns said he was inspired to "write the big Irish clan film" after years of hearing stories from close friends who do come from large Irish-American families of nine and 12 children, and some advice he received from fellow filmmaker Tyler Perry.

To create his on-screen family, Burns brought back one actor from each of his past 10 films including Michael McGlone, who played his brother in his first movie, "The Brothers McMullen," which launched both of their careers. The movie also features "Nashville" and "American Horror Story" star Connie Britton, who plays Burns' love interest.

"They are use to the fact that if they are going to work with me they probably aren't' going to get paid that much … but they know they are going to play real people who are going through real situations," he added.

Burns says he enjoys making "small, personal films," because they allow him to split his time on both sides of the camera, and have more control in the editing room. 

He added, "I want to be sort of the Long Island, Irish Woody Allen."

"The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" is now playing in select theatres and is available on iTunes and OnDemand. Click here for details.

Check out photos and video from Burns' appearance in Malverne in our gallery above, and if you've seen the film, tell us what you thought of it in the comments space below.

rosemary gurry January 15, 2013 at 03:31 PM
I want to buy DVD.

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