Almost Famous – MTV Asia

Director Cameron Crowe Tells All

On Sunday, director Cameron Crowe won an Oscar for his original screenplay of his semi-biography “Almost Famous.”

We take you behind the movie about the music with director Crowe, who recreates his own fast times as a teenage rock journalist.

Even Fugit, who was 16 when the movie shot, is a Zeppelin convert, although he admitted, “Before working on this movie I really wasn’t into music. I thought Led Zeppelin was a person. I wore Grateful Dead T-shirts because they looked cool. During rehearsals, Cameron asked me, ‘Do you listen to rock?’ When I said no, he gave me this huge collection of CDs and said, ‘This is rock.’ He didn’t tell me what to listen to, but he had confidence it would all sink in, and it did.”

Crowe (“Say Anything,” “Singles,” “Jerry Maguire”) said he cast Fugit as the teenage version of himself because, “I saw something in Patrick’s eyes that captured the feeling I remember so clearly from those days.” While Stillwater, the band Fugit’s character joins on the tour bus, is fictional – modeled after Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles, Zeppelin, and especially the Allman Brothers Band – much of the story is based on Crowe’s own family life and experiences as a young rock writer. “The line Billy [Crudup, who plays Stillwater lead guitarist Russell Hammond] says to William, ‘Just make us look cool,’ was actually said to me by [the Eagles'] Glenn Frey,” Crowe said. “It all happened – in slightly different order, but sometimes exactly as it was. So the actors had a tough job sometimes because they were pleasing a memory for me. And my mother still thinks I’m going to law school.”

Despite the changes in music and the music business since 1973, the year in which Almost Famous is set, Crowe believes there is still plenty of magic. “I think as long as you can be alone, you can still have that deep connection to music,” he said. “Although it has become something of TV sport now. Going to concerts in those days, with the stages dimly lit, you felt that these guys were 10 feet tall. There’s a scene in the film when everyone on the tour bus starts singing along to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” which is about a special kind of moment when everybody bonds over music, maybe they’re a little embarrassed that they know the words to a song they’re not supposed to like.”

Hoffman, whose performance as Lester Bangs is a standout, explained how he got the role of the legendary rock writer, who becomes young William’s mentor and the film’s conscience: “I was on a rant about the industry on the day I met with Cameron. I had just seen someone I really admired was in an American Express ad and it was really freaking me out.”

Jason Lee, who plays Stillwater’s lead singer, talked about preparing for his role: “At first, I didn’t know how to move. I was thinking too much to look like the lead singer of a band in 1973. But one night when we were shooting, and I was about to go onstage in front of 2,000 screaming extras I thought to myself, I’m going to rock these motherfuckers. And, frankly, I rocked.”

Crowe added that the DVD version of “Almost Famous” will contain plenty of extra material, such as cut scenes and additional music from Stillwater. The band’s songs, incidentally, were written by Heart’s Nancy Wilson, who happens to be married to Crowe and has contributed music to his earlier films. The soundtrack to “Almost Famous” is now available on Dreamworks Records; along with a Stillwater original, it features some truly classic rock tracks, including Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story,” the Allman Brothers’ “One Way Out,” Yes’ “I’ve Seen All Good People,” Led Zeppelin’s “That’s The Way,” and Thunderclap Newman’s terrific one hit wonder, “Something in the Air.”

Courtesy of MTV Asia – Jennie Punter – March, 2001