His father Sr. Edward J. Burns is a retired police sergeant. Ed's mother Molly worked for the Federal Aviation Administration at Kennedy Airport. Edward is a middle child - he has an older sister Mary and a younger brother Brian, who is a producer/screenwriter. All in all he grew up in a traditional Irish Catholic family.
Burns first attended The State University of New York at Albany and majored in English Literature but his junior year transferred to Hunter College in Manhattan to study filmmaking, where he began writing screenplays.
After completing several short films, Burns graduated with big dreams. Meanwhile, through his father's connection with Dunleavy, he secured a part-time job as a production assistant for the show The Reporters. Simultaneously, he began filming McMullen, an eighteen-day shot that dragged over eighteen months. His father was a producer. His mother was the caterer.The Burns' Long Island colonial provided most of the sets. When The Reporters folded midway through McMullen, Burns found similar work with Entertainment Tonight. Together with his younger brother Brian he formed Irish Twin Productions and put by together enough cash to make The Brothers McMullen, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and went to gross more than $10 million at the domestic box office.
Burns followed up The Brothers Mcmullen with a pair of piquant independent films he also wrote, directed and acted in - She's The One, with Jennifer Anistonand Cameron Diaza romantic comedy with more mainstream appeal and audiences involved into it, and No Looking Back, with Lauren Hollyand Jon Bon Jovi filmed in 1998. Also in 1998 Burns took a role as one of the foot soldiers, private Reiben, who go in search of a missing soldier in Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan. The film ended up being one of the most critticaly acclaimed films of all time. - and Burns enjoyed even more growing success. Next up for Burns is Any Given Sunday, a football movie directed Oliver Stone.