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Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks Reflect on ‘Philadelphia,’ Jonathan Demme at Tribeca Film Festival

Variety logo Variety 4/29/2017 Michele Amabile Angermiller
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Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks were the main event at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday night (April 28), taking the stage at New York’s Beacon Theater for an hour-long discussion about writing, performing, directing, and even mourning. “The strongest union of our two names is from the motion picture ‘Philadelphia,'” said Hanks, who won an Academy Award for his leading role in the film about being afflicted with AIDS. “God bless [director] Jonathan Demme. We just lost him.” (Demme died earlier in the week at the age of 73, following a long battle with cancer.)

Springsteen also took home an Oscar for the 1993 movie, for Best Original Song. Demme, he shared, first came to asking him to write “more of a rock song.” Said Springsteen: “I tried for a day or so to come up with something, and I didn’t come up with anything. I had some lyrics, and eventually, I came up with that tiny little beat and the track. I figured it wasn’t what he wanted, but I sent it to him anyway. He sent me that opening piece of film where the camera moves slowly through Philly, and I said, ‘What do you think?’ And he says, ‘Great.’ And that was it. … He was such an inspirational guy. No Jonathan Demme, no ‘Philadelphia;’ No ‘Streets of Philadelphia.'”

Hanks then added: “Well, I have to tell you, if you ever want to have a great moment in a motion picture, walk out a door and make sure they just put up a Bruce Springsteen song.”

The packed house — which included Malia Obama, Robert Rodriguez, Gayle King, Jon Landau, and Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson in the audience — for the festival’s Tribeca Talks: Storytellers series, also got to hear about the influence of cinema in Springsteen’s songwriting. The Boss tipped his hat to longtime manager Landau, a former film critic, who introduced him to such classics as “The Grapes of Wrath.”

“Born to Run,” Springsteen’s seminal third album, was meant to be “cinematic,” he explained. “Basically, you tell a story to save your life. … Three minutes of bliss and compressed living, that’s why you can get so excited in such a short period of time. It was that life or death hunger. That is what I wanted my characters to be about. Life awaits you, but taking it is a rough and tumble business.”

In a humorous moment, Hanks displayed a picture of a young Springsteen performing with his first band, The Castiles, standing atop a lifeguard stand in Sea Bright, NJ, rocking a pair of white corduroy pants, red turtleneck and sandals, which Springsteen said “I haven’t worn on stage in a while.,” but joked at the time he probably thought he was “ the coolest f—ing thing that has ever lived.”

Quipped Hanks: “You were making some pretty good darn money for a guy wearing these sandals.”

“The first night we played at the swim club and they paid me $5,” Springsteen answered. “Jesus Christ, someone paid me $5. That was the best money I ever made… except for all the rest.”

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