Whether or not you can relate to his blue-collar kind of filmmaking—one where close-but-dysfunctional Irish Catholic families are a main source of interest—there's no denying Edward Burns' impact on the American independent film movement. It all started when The Brothers McMullen (which Burns wrote, directed, produced, starred in and financed) premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival; the flick—which had cost Burns $24,000 to make—was picked up by Fox Searchlight and went on to gross more than $10 million at the box office.

It was just the beginning of Burns' roller coaster ride through Hollywood, both as a filmmaker and actor. Like many actors, Burns has his shtick, which works better in some roles than it does others. Like John Cassavetes before him, he's a proponent of the "one for them, one fore me" philosophy of filmmaking, meaning that he'll do a bid-budget project to finance his next indie. All in all, Burns is a reliable actor—and one who knows his own material best.