Demme, who died Wednesday in New York at the age of 73, worked with Springsteen on the film “Philadelphia,” for which the legendary singer won an Oscar for his original song “Streets of Philadelphia.”
“Over here on E Street, we’re deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Jonathan Demme,” Springsteen wrote on his website Wednesday night. “He was an inspiration for me, a beautiful filmmaker and a great spirit. Always smiling, always involved with the world and always pushing you to go for your best. He’ll be deeply missed.”
In addition to an Academy Award, Springsteen won a Golden Globe and a Grammy for the haunting strains of “Streets of Philadelphia.” Demme’s 1993 movie was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to address the AIDS crisis and also won actor Tom Hanks his first best actor Oscar.
Accepting his Oscar in 1994, Springsteen thanked Demme for “having me as a part of your picture,” adding: “I’m glad my song has contributed to its ideas and its acceptance.”
It was the first song Springsteen wrote for a motion picture. Following their collaboration on “Philadelphia,” Demme directed the music video for Springsteen’s 1995 hit “Murder Incorporated.”
E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt took to Twitter to pay his own tribute. Van Zandt called Demme “one of our great filmmakers” and “one of the most beautiful souls on the planet. Another magical, irreplaceable friend gone.”
Prior to their E Street Band collaborations, Van Zandt had previously worked with Demme through the activist group Artists United Against Apartheid, which Van Zandt founded in 1985. The group produced anti-apartheid anthem “Sun City,” for which Demme directed the video, receiving a Grammy nomination for his work.
“His contribution to ‘Sun City’ was pivotal in getting Nelson Mandela released and ending the South African apartheid regime. He was a saint,” Van Zandt tweeted.
Demme died from complications of esophageal cancer.