nys writers logo

No Looking Back

(American, 1971, 135 minutes, color, 35mm)

Written and Directed by Edward Burns

Produced by Robert Redford

Lauren Holly . . . . . . . . . . Claudia
Jon Bon Jovi . . . . . . . . . . Michael
Ed Burns . . . . . . . . . . Charlie

The following film notes were prepared for the New York State Writers Institute by Kevin Jack Hagopian, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Pennsylvania State University:

In 1993, while working as a production assistant for the syndicated program, Entertainment Tonight, Ed Burns began working on the script for The Brothers McMullen (1995). The film, an Irish-American family drama, took eight months to produce and was shot on weekends at his parents’ Long Island home with a $25,000 budget. It starred a no-name cast, including Burns himself as Barry McMullen and his then-girlfriend Maxine Bahns as Audry. The Brothers McMullen appeared at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995, earned the coveted Grand Jury Prize, and brought in $9 million at the theaters.

His second film, She’s the One (1996), grew out of a $3 million deal with Twentieth Century Fox. It again starred Burns and Maxine Bahns, with rising stars like Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz rounding out the cast. The film also featured a soundtrack with new songs by Tom Petty.

No Looking Back (1998) tells the story of Claudia (Lauren Holly), a restless young woman living with her boyfriend, Michael (Jon Bon Jovi), in a dead-end seaside town. She encounters difficulties when an old flame, Charlie (Ed Burns), comes to visit. Eminent critic Andrew Sarris, writing in the New York Observer, calls the film, “Deeply satisfying,” and says “Holly gives a richly expressive performance.”

No Looking Back is the third entry in what is quickly becoming an important cinematic chronicle of life on Long Island, a place that has rarely interested other filmmakers. Watching it, one can’t help thinking about Long Island as metaphor: Life is as flat as the terrain. Its inhabitants are ‘enisled,’ stranded, isolated despite the cheek-by-jowl density of houses and cars. There are shots in Rockaway, along an aging and deserted boardwalk, and a love-scene in the very same motel where Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco held their trysts.

Burns finds poignancy in his home territory: unrequited love, unfulfilled hopes, illicit passion and betrayal. Although Burns gave comic treatment to this material in his first two films, in a manner that some critics compared to the more recent works of Woody Allen, No Looking Back is a starker examination of dead-end lives.

As in the earlier films, the characters are drawn from the principally Irish, working class, twenty-to-thirty-something milieu that Burns finds familiar. Here, in a departure from his earlier work, he tells the story from a female point of view. Burns confesses in an interview in Premiere that he used the actresses in the film as ‘bullshit-detectors’ to question and improve its authenticity.

Edward Burns was born in Woodside, Queens in 1968 and grew up in Valley Stream, Long Island. He attended SUNY Oneonta and the University at Albany before transferring to Hunter College in New York City to study film.

Burns plans to continue making films about what he knows. His next will be about cops, and will attempt to puncture many of the current Hollywood and television stereotypes. It will be based in part on the lives of people near and dear to him: Burns’s father was a cop, as are four first cousins and one of his best friends.

Burns will also appear in Stephen Spielberg’s forthcoming Saving Private Ryan, a big-budget D-day epic starring Tom Hanks. He calls his experiences as an actor under Spielberg’s direction “the ultimate graduate film school.”

Actress Lauren Holly was raised in Geneva, New York, and began her career as a teen with modeling jobs for knitting magazines. She received a Daytime Emmy nomination for her role as Julie Chandler in the soap opera, All My Children, and appeared in four full seasons of CBS’s Emmy-winning Picket Fences as Deputy Maxine Stewart. Her notable film roles include Dumb and Dumber (1994), and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993).

Pop idol Jon Bon Jovi grew up in Sayreville, New Jersey, and is the author and singer of several hit songs including, “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “Livin’ On a Prayer.” Recently, he has made the transition from music to screen with roles big and small in such films as Homegrown (1998), Little City (1998), Destination Anywhere (1997), and The Leading Man (1996). Bon Jovi maintains that the story of No Looking Back partly mirrors his own life: he stole his best friend’s girl back in Sayreville, another dead-end seaside town, and is still happily married to her.

— Kevin Hagopian, Penn State University

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at