'Springsteen on Broadway' Director on Creating the Boss' Knack for "Chaos"

Springsteen - Publicity - H 2019
Kevin Mazur

Thom Zimny discusses his intimate doc and reveals how he captured the "raw emotion" of the rocker's Broadway hit.

Director Thom Zimny has been working with Bruce Springsteen for nearly 20 years (they met in 2000 when Zimny was an editor on HBO's concert doc Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live in New York City). "Bruce in the editing room has that same intensity that he has in the music studio," says Zimny, "which is really working on story and striving to find the best way to tell that story." But it's their most recent project, Netflix's intimate concert doc Springsteen on Broadway, that's been the director's favorite collaboration so far thanks to the personal nature of the film (which is nominated in the variety prerecorded special category).

Filmed during two July 2018 performances of Springsteen's sold-out Broadway show, the doc was released Dec. 16 on Netflix, just as the show at the Walter Kerr Theatre closed for good, after earning north of $113 million during its 236-show run. "I think the first night of filming it threw him off rhythmically a little bit," says Zimny. "By the second night, he was used to the idea of the cameras."

Zimny captured Springsteen's songs and stories (including a personal revelation about his fraught relationship with his father) on a stripped-down stage, rarely showing the audience and instead bringing the cameras in very close to Springsteen's face. And he had to be ready for anything. "When Bruce's eyes went to the tears during the song 'Long Time Coming,' the raw emotion in that performance was one of those things that I could never plan," says Zimny, who reveals that Springsteen threw that song from his 2005 Devils & Dust album into the set list at the last minute. "He does that on every film I've worked with him on, and he does it with the band onstage. He throws out a song that they're not ready for, and in this weird way that chaos amps up the energy of the whole thing."

This story first appeared in the Aug. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.