HOLLYWOOD – In the middle of an acoustic performance of his classic song “Dancing in the Dark,” Bruce Springsteen finally had a chance to crack some jokes. He noted, “I am here today begging complete strangers for their vote” at one point as the audience of primarily Emmy voters and media laughed. And when he hit the lyric “Sit around getting older” he stopped completely and zinged, “There’s a joke here somewhere. When I figure it out…” which prompted even more laughter. For the most part, however, the majority of the conversation between the legendary rock star and director Martin Scorsese was a bit more religious than one might have expected beforehand.
The two New York Metropolitan area natives were on stage in celebration of Netflix’s “Springsteen on Broadway,” a music special that chronicled his Tony-Award winning residency in 2018. The night also kicked off the first of a slew of “FYSEE” events (mostly screenings and Q&A’s) centered on the streaming services many Emmy contenders. What was clear, though, was that despite meeting a few times over the years the two icons did not seem to know each other very well. They started the conversation about their backgrounds and spent a great deal of time discussing the influence of the Catholic church in their lives. Those influences are fairly obvious in Scorsese’s (“The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Silence”), but unless you were a hardcore fan of Springsteen beforehand it might be a slight surprise (it was to this writer at least).
Springsteen talked about how strange it was that the dark church he spent so many hours at as an altar boy was now painted in a “welcoming” white. He happened to drive by the church the other day, saw the door open and went inside to discover he’d crashed someone’s funeral. In fact, he is often is compelled to drive through his old hometown, Freehold Borough, which he calls a rich location “where so much happened.” But it reminds him that “Darkness always more interesting than light” and “You have to earn the light.”
As for the Broadway residency, it turns out the idea came from an invitation to perform at the White House at the end of President Obama‘s second term. Springsteen thought he’d just read some lines from his memoir, “Born to Run,” with some songs, but ended up rewriting it because it sounded strange coming directly from the book.
“I went down and played about 90 minutes of what would become the Broadway show in the East Room,” Springsteen recalls. “And the alchemy just felt right.”
The Netflix special was a different beast altogether and Springsteen discussed how uncomfortable he was shooting the first of two scheduled days. There was only a partial audience in the theater and director Thom Zimny having the camera in intimate spaces which was much different than the show Springsteen had been performing numerous times a week. He recalls getting up the next morning for the second day realizing he just had to stop “thinking about what you are doing” to make the filmed special work.
The duo also hit on other topics such as Scorsese’s own music documentary, “The Last Waltz,” which chronicled the last performance of The Band, but their conversation continued to circle back to their faith.
“As you get older you find you the prayers that give you…a small piece of the Devine, the creative process,” Springsteen says. “I can’t do it for you unless I do it for me. I can’t have fun unless you are having fun.”
“Springsteen on Broadway” is currently available on Netflix worldwide.