Bruce Springsteen's new Netflix special strips away his rock star mythology
'The magic trick was the beauty of him taking us on this journey,' says director Thom Zimny
Bruce Springsteen might conjure memories of rock concerts in packed arenas, but as The Boss nears 70, he's changing his tune.
Last week, the 69-year-old rocker wrapped a nearly 300-show run of his Broadway show. The next day, a three-hour long film version was available to binge on Netflix, simply titled Springsteen on Broadway.
Since its release, it's been getting rave reviews.
It's Springsteen like never before — stripped-down and vulnerable — doing what he does best: jamming on the six string and telling stories.
"I saw the magic trick was the beauty of him taking us on this journey where he tells a part of his story," Thom Zimny, the film's director, told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.
"The music and his life unfolds on that Broadway stage."
The set is nothing fancy: a wooden stage, a microphone stand and Springsteen all on his own. For three hours, he performs acoustic versions of his greatest hits and shares stories from his life.
"Before I filmed it for the Netflix special, I spent a lot of time just taking in those details," Zimny said.
'Ready for the surprise'
Zimny, who is known for his work on music documentaries, has worked with Springsteen for nearly two decades. When it came to this special, he wanted to get it just right.
Each shot is intentional, from a wide-shot with Springsteen and the audience, to a close-up on his guitar.
In one moment, during a performance of My Father's House from the 1982 album Nebraska, Springsteen reaches his hand out, as if he's caressing an invisible figure.
"I remember seeing it happen in that performance that we were filming ... and slowly talking the cinematographer into slowly zooming in," Zimny recalled.
"That's how I approach the show, which is to be ready for the things that I recognized that he would be doing but also ready for the surprise."
Later, viewers are given an extreme close-up of Springsteen as he sings The Ghost of Tom Joad.
"I knew that had to be a moment that camera would slowly creep in, because in that, I could see Bruce's eyes and the drama of the writing," the director said.
Zimny was so attentive to the cinematography because he wanted to provide an experience that an audience member at the Broadway performance wouldn't have, he said.
"Taking in the show, there's certain songs that I knew I could give you a better view with the camera than you could ever have," he said.
Indeed, the show is a unique experience and one that Springsteen fans might not expect.
Having worked with Springsteen for the past 18 years, those quieter moments are something Zimny has become used to.
"A part of the Broadway show is an extension of a lot of the albums where he's looking at the details of his life, writing about them, and sharing the intimacy of that," he said.
In creating Springsteen on Broadway for Netflix, Zimny emphasizes that and strips away the rock star veneer from the veteran musician.
"The sense of who he is comes across in the narrative and the beauty of him walking across a wood stage and listening to those steps of the boots go across the stage," he said.
"The level of tearing down the 'rock star at a stadium' that I wanted to make sure ... the film got."
To hear our full interview with Thom Zimny, click listen above or download our podcast.