On that morning when I wake up in a panic because I haven't made a movie in a year, I can be like, "OK, I have two shooting days to look forward to at the end of the month." Also, filmmaking is a craft like anything else, and you can get rusty, so it's good to keep your chops up. And the great thing is, the stakes are so low. If it doesn't work, it's going to cost us $20,000.
Q: You and Connie Britton have known each other for a long time. What's this I hear about you being interested in a role on "Nashville"?
A: What happened was, I told a journalist that Connie did us a big favor by working around her "Nashville" schedule, and he said, "If it was reversed, would you do the same and be on her show?" And I said "Absolutely." But, you know, I'm not calling up the producers of "Nashville" to see if I can get a part.
Q: That's an interesting point, though. How often do you find yourself pursuing acting gigs?
A: Quite honestly, never. I've come to realize that, if I'm your co-star, I'm a little bit of a kiss of death at the box office.
I did a movie with Robert De Niro ("15 Minutes"); it bombed. I did a movie with Dustin Hoffman ("Confidence"); it bombed. I did a movie with Angelina Jolie ("Life or Something Like It"); it bombed. I did a movie with Ben Kingsley ("A Sound of Thunder"); it bombed. I did a movie with Tyler Perry ("Alex Cross"), and while it didn't bomb, it was his lowest box office to date. So my joke is, I might be box office poison.
But seriously, I went out to LA after "Saving Private Ryan" because my agent said move to LA, you're gonna become a movie star. This is your moment. And I did everything you're supposed to do. Took the meetings. Got the movie with De Niro. Everything was on the right track. And when we were shooting the last two weeks on "15 Minutes," we were back in New York, and I was back home, and I was like, I miss this, and I don't know if I have it in me to pursue acting. I missed being home and I missed being a filmmaker; I hadn't made a film in three years.
So I pulled out a script I that I had written a couple years earlier, "Sidewalks of New York," and basically I haven't looked back. The filmmaking has always been the No. 1 priority. The acting is something that, in between my writing and directing, if I have a window, I call my agent and say, "Hey look, April, May and June, I'm free, can we find something?"
Q: I recently learned that your brother is married to your wife's sister (Burns is married to Christy Turlington). That sounds like a premise for one of your movies.
A: My brother Brian is a writer, as well. He wrote for "Entourage" and he writes for "Blue Bloods" now on CBS. His wife's name is Kelly, Christy's sister. The minute he proposed to her, he said, "I'm going to propose to Kelly, and just so you know, I have dibs on this story." Maybe that would be a good one for us to write together.
Q: Do you ever find yourself contemplating the Judd Apatow formula, where you'd do a film with your wife and kids?
A: Uh, no. When Christy and I were on our first date, she said, "I've been offered dozens of acting jobs, and if you want a second date, promise me you'll never ask me, because I have no interest." And you know what, it's worked out pretty well, and I'm not going to jinx us.
Burns talks about his films at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the City Winery; go to citywinery.com. "The Fitzgerald Family Christmas" opens at the Wilmette Theatre Dec. 21; go to wilmettetheatre.com.
A John Hughes Christmas
The pride of the North Shore wrote and produced 1992's "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" (Chris Columbus directed). The movie receives a 20th anniversary screening 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday at Cinema Borealis in Wicker Park. Programmer Becca Hall calls the movie "honestly manipulative, forthright, noble, and actually quite sweet." Go to northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
The 3 Penny Was Here series at Lincoln Hall pairs "Die Hard" and "Gremlins" — Christmas settings for both — with a peanut gallery of comedians on hand to provide commentary. 7 p.m. Thursday. Go to lincolnhallchicago.com.
Divided by race
Local documentary producer Kartemquin teams up with the Black Cinema House to screen three rarely seen short docs from the 1970s about race in Chicago. Dubbed "Chicago: Segregated City," the evening will include an early look at scenes from "'63 Boycott," a new film from Kartemquin (still in progress) about the 1963 protest of then Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Benjamin Willis. A post-show discussion will include filmmakers Gordon Quinn and Peter Kuttner, as well as Steve Bogira, a senior writer for the Chicago Reader. Admission is free, 6 p.m. Monday at the Chicago Public Library's Great Grand Crossing branch at 73rd Street and Ellis Avenue. Go to blackcinemahouse.org.