One of a number of American independent filmmakers launched to prominence in the '90s by virtue of their success at the Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Edward Burns was born in Woodside, Queens, in 1968 and raised on Long Island. After attending Oneonta College and S.U.N.Y.-Albany, he transferred to Hunter College in New York City to study motion pictures; there he helmed a number of short films, including the 15-minute Hey, Sco! Upon graduating, Burns began working at a local news outlet and made Brandy, a 45-minute effort screened as a work in progress at the 1992 Independent Feature Film Market.
During the spring of 1993, while working as a production assistant for the television newsmagazine Entertainment Tonight, Burns began conceiving The Brothers McMullen, a comedy focusing on the romantic troubles facing three Irish-Catholic siblings. Shot primarily in his parents' Long Island home, with a cast of unknowns including Burns himself and his then-girlfriend Maxine Bahns, the feature was filmed over eight months' time with a budget of about 25,000 dollars and with the aid of a technical crew comprised largely of fellow Entertainment Tonight staffers. Rejected by a series of distributors, The Brothers McMullen bowed at Sundance in 1995 and won the festival's Grand Jury Prize, becoming one of the most successful independent efforts of the year.
For his follow-up, She's the One, Burns retained much of the McMullen cast and crew, including Bahns and actor Mike McGlone; by virtue of his newfound fame, he was also able to cast up-and-coming stars Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz in pivotal roles, and he even solicited an original soundtrack from rocker Tom Petty. Filmed with a comparatively lavish budget of about three million dollars, the romantic comedy premiered during late August 1996. Burns soon began work on his third feature, No Looking Back, a romantic drama set in a coastal town's working-class community. The film co-starred Lauren Holly and was released in 1998; that same year, Burns co-starred in the Steven Spielberg World War II epic Saving Private Ryan. In 1999, he was back on the screen with an appearance in Oliver Stone's football drama Any Given Sunday. In the years that followed, Burns wrote and directed a series of additional comedy-dramas incluing Sidewalks of New York (2001), Ash Wednesday (2002), Looking for Kitty (2004) and The Fitzgerald Family Christmas.