Bruce Springsteen at the National Board of Review

Bruce Springsteen presented Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino with the National Board of Review’s Icon Award for their work on The Irishman. Here are his comments from the event:

I once read Marty said that it’s the job of the artist to make the audience care about his obsessions. If that is our measure of success, then filmmaker Martin Scorsese, actor Robert DeNiro and actor Al Pacino, the 3 men we’ve come to honor tonight with the Icon Award have been deeply successful. An icon is a beacon notable to all that ultimately stands for much more than itself.

So what do these men represent to us? Longevity? Each of them has been at their respectful trades for half a century, culminating with a historic collaboration in their new film, “The Irishman”. Is it excellence? If awards are the measure of value, they have 27 Oscar nominations and four wins between them. And even with that, they’ve been screwed!

If a hold over the public consciousness is that measure, well the public long ago told us how important the work of these three men has been to them. I remember standing in long “Avengers”-like lines, stretching around the block, thrilled, waiting to see “Taxi Driver” and “The Godfather,” blockbusters and recently, with many others, counting down the days until I could slip into the world of “The Irishman”. Maybe it’s America? The melting pot. Marty, Bob and Al all hail from a tiny 20 square mile island that nevertheless, if you’ve seen their films, feels like the capital of the world. They’re the fulfilled promise of a nation forged by immigrants and their sons and daughters.

For me, it’s the depth of the story telling. It’s a death defying trip making your emotional and inner life available in the dark to complete strangers. You’re on a tightrope and your commitment is what makes an actor or a filmmaker obsessively watchable. I believe it’s the artists with something eating at them that we can’t take our eyes off of. Brando, Sinatra, Hank Williams, Dylan. You can’t look away.

What has been eating at Marty and Bob and Al all these years, though rampant Catholicism helps, I still don’t know. But I hope it never leaves them alone.

They’ve drawn these strings together beautifully in “The Irishman”, the occasion of which brings us here tonight. “The Irishman” plays like an elegy looking back on a life lived in all its triumph and regret. I’m 70 now and that struck a particularly emotional chord in me and my own work. To watch them do it with such grace and certitude was lovely to behold.

Let me speak as a fan now. I love these guys, I love them for what they’ve given to the art of filmmaking, for what they’ve told us about ourselves and for what they’ve revealed to us about our country. They have been my artistic role models since my youth, my mentors at a distance, guiding me in the principles of doing my work. In them I’ve seen the religious commitment, the intensity and dedication it takes to bring forth your vision, reveal your heart and to tell your story. No one in films has ever done it better than Marty, Bob and Al. It is no wonder we celebrate them tonight. With that, it is my pleasure to present the National Board of Review’s Icon Award to Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.

- Bruce Springsteen
January 8, 2020