Prolific Ken Burns Working on Docs About Country Music, Hemingway, Jackie Robinson, Vietnam

Ken Burns Headshot - P 2012
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Ken Burns Headshot - P 2012

"If I were given 1,000 years I would not run out of topics," said Burns at the TCAs, while revealing details of his new projects. "I feel more creatively alive than at any time in my life."

The already prolific Ken Burns, whose documentaries for PBS have spanned everything from The Civil War to Baseball to The Central Park Five, has 14 films in the pipeline for the public broadcaster.

And if you think that sounds like a lot -- his upcoming documentary about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt is 14 hours long -- Burns told reporters gathered for the Television Critics Association winter press tour Monday that he has 100 ideas for new projects.

"If I were given 1,000 years I would not run out of topics in American history," said Burns, whose next documentary, The Address, which chronicles a group of disabled students as they memorize President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, bows April 15 on PBS.

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Burns, 60, is working on a film about the history of country music that won't air until 2018. The working title is I Can't Stop Loving You, he said. He's also in production on documentaries about the Vietnam War, Ernest Hemingway (which is targeted for 2019) and Jackie Robinson.

"Jackie has been so smothered in myth, it's really hard to get at the real person," admitted Burns, so his film will examine Robinson's upbringing in Pasadena. For instance, Burns will attempt to verify whether a story told about Robinson and his brother -- that after they swam in the county pool, that pool was drained and refilled -- is actually true. 

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His country music film, which will feature the Carter family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks, among others, is set to air in 2018. And he compared the story of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt to Downton Abbey, "with two added virtues: it's true and it's made in America."

"I feel more creatively alive than at any time in my life," enthused Burns. "I'm a pig in shit."