Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks started their much-anticipated Tribeca Film Festival conversation Friday with a tribute to the late Jonathan Demme, the Baldwin-born director who first brought their work together.
“The strongest union of our two names is from the motion picture ‘Philadelphia,’ ” said Hanks. “God bless Jonathan Demme. We just lost him.”
Hanks won the Oscar in 1994 for his portrayal of an attorney fired after his firm discovers he has AIDS. Springsteen won the Oscar that year for his haunting song “Streets of Philadelphia.”
Springsteen said he struggled with the song for a couple of days and thought Demme, who died Wednesday, at 73, from complications with cancer, wouldn’t use it. “He was such an inspirational guy,” Springsteen said. “No Jonathan Demme, no ‘Philadelphia.’ No ‘Streets of Philadelphia.’ ”
In case there was any doubt how the hourlong conversation about Springsteen’s recent memoir, “Born to Run,” and his early days was going to go, Hanks quickly added about the song that memorably opens the film, “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.”
Hanks gleefully led Springsteen through a discussion from his days in The Castiles through the “Glory Days” of “Born in the U.S.A.,” peppering the talk with song lyrics he wanted the crowd to finish. The capacity crowd at the Beacon Theatre, which included Hanks’ wife, actress Rita Wilson, and Springsteen’s wife, bandmate Patti Scialfa, as well as CBS’ Gayle King and director Robert Rodriguez, was more than happy to scream along.
Hanks did question Springsteen about not paying taxes in the late 1970s. “I never met anyone in New Jersey who paid taxes,” Springsteen said, smiling. “Certainly not anyone under 25. . . . I pay ’em now.”
The discussion was at its best, though, when Hanks drew Springsteen into discussions of creativity. “A rock song is three minutes of bliss and compressed living,” Springsteen said, before adding that he always thought his song “No Surrender” was “too glib.” He said he is proud of his song “Born in the U.S.A.,” even if many misunderstand its meaning.
“I like to happen to the world,” Springsteen said of his music. “All artists like to happen to the world. We don’t like the world happening to us, because we’ve had enough of that already.”