Bruce Springsteen agreed to be part of director Tom Jones' new documentary about The Boss' beloved Asbury Park, New Jersey after seeing a rough cut at a film festival.
Jones feared his film, Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'n' Roll, would fall flat after Springsteen's aides turned down an interview request, but he pressed on with the project and eventually Bruce came to him.
Jones, a Jersey kid who first started hanging out in Asbury Park in the 1970s, didn’t just get Springsteen talking about the old days—he wound up filming the musician at the very spot where Springsteen first found his voice. That would be the Upstage Club, a long-abandoned room next to where Springsteen wrote his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.—a hangout where musicians once jammed with one another after their paying gigs ended. The room still stands; Jones and his crew discovered that it still has “Steel Mill,” the name of Springsteen’s pre-E Street band, scrawled on the wall.
"I put together a package and sent it off to Bruce's management and they declined, so we put it away, and then they started this film festival in Asbury Park and asked me to show clips from the film I shot," the filmmaker tells WENN. "We did 76 interviews but we did not have Bruce in it. It was becoming the world's most expensive home movie!
"We put it up at the Asbury Park film festival two years ago and Bruce surprised us and came... Then he called the next day and said, 'Hey, it's a really great film. I'd like to be in it!' Bruce saved me... and now we have a theatrical release.
"We've had to be very careful about Bruce and the way he's used and the way we've marketed the film. He did us a huge favour and we tried to be respectful of that."
Jones always felt he was destined to meet Springsteen one day, because the rocker has always loomed large in his life.
"When I was a kid Bruce roomed for a while with my best friend's older brother - before he had an album...," the filmmaker recalls. "His music was the soundtrack of my childhood.
"We also owned the house that was next to Bruce's house in New Jersey, that he sold about six months ago and I never met him! He was so nice to my grandfather, who, at the time, was in his 80s and who was a crossing guard at the little school across from his (Springsteen) house. He used to come out and say hi.
"They were pals and it's ironic that I never got to meet him. I didn't meet him until we finished the first version of the film."