Brian De Palma… the second course
And now, a video for Dancing in the dark was needed. It was a long time coming, because the original clip, shot in a studio under the direction of Jeff Stein, was discarded by Springsteen himself.
It’s enough to take a look at it to know why: With a black background, Bruce appears alone in front of the camera, literally ‘dancing in the dark’. After shooting a few takes, and some discussion with Daniel Pearl, director of photography, he called Brian De Palma.
The renowned American filmmaker decided to shoot the clip on the same night that Bruce Springsteen opens his Born in the U.S.A. tour. That is, on June 29, 1984, at the Saint Paul Civic Center, in Saint Paul, capital of the state of Minnesota.
It was a double opening night, because Patti Scialfa and Nils Lofgren made their E Street Band debut.
The clip, itself, is fairly simple. It’s not a lavish production like many others of the era, but it was a very common formula. Usually the band was filmed during rehearsals and then these images were mixed with those of the actual concert.
In this case, both the performance and the audience are real. The people who attended that first performance of Springsteen’s tour were unaware that a video was being made, but they did realize that something was going on when Springsteen sang Dancing in the dark twice.
De Palma needed to have enough footage and repositioned his cameras after the first few takes. And most curiously, both times, he pulled the same young woman out of the audience to dance with him during Clarence Clemons’ sax solo.
Because in the Dancing in the dark clip, everything was ‘real’ except for Courteney Cox‘s part… which was «prepared».
«Did you see my dance. It was pathetic.»
The future Monica Geller of ‘Friends’ was then 20 years old, a complete unknown and adored Bruce Springsteen. When she heard about De Palma’s auditions, and the opportunity she would have to dance with her idol, she went.
«I went to Brian De Palma’s office,» she told Smoothradio. «He put the music on and said, ‘Okay, dance.’ And I thought, ‘Now? Here? In front of you? Just the two of us?’» Cox always thought they chose her «because they thought I was one of those mind-blown fans…«. And truly, that’s how she comes across in the Dancing in the dark clip: an excited fan in the front row.
Apparently, Springsteen was told to pick one person from the audience during the filming of the Dancing in the dark performance. Supposedly, he thought Cox was a fan and luckily chose her to dance with him on stage. He had no idea she was part of the plot. Nor did she know that her 20 seconds of dancing with Bruce, would mean so much to her future.
Courteney Cox in an interview with Howard Stern recalled that experience:
«Bruce Springsteen is so amazing… God, he’s so amazing. I love that song.»
Although she was a bit more critical of her dance moves in front of the artist’s thousands of fans.
«I was a little embarrassed…and that’s how I feel when I watch the video, when I watch it, did you see my dance. It was pathetic. I’m not a bad dancer, but that was horrible… I was so nervous.»
Dancing in the dark became one of the most iconic videos of the era, mainly because of the famous scene that propelled the career of a then aspiring Hollywood star and today one of the best-known faces in film and television. Since then, those dance moves of the star with the fan have been forever associated with the song.
The first single from Born in the U.S.A. is a classic at Springsteen’s concerts, and every time he sings the song, he chooses someone at random from the audience and dances with him/her on stage. On more than one occasion, Bruce has brought out Adele Ann Zerilli, his mother, and the videos have gone viral.
Original title: Bruce Springsteen: Dancing in the Dark
Director: Brian de Palma
Music Song: Bruce Springsteen
Cast: Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, Steve Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Courteney Cox