Almost Famous – Billboard Magazine (Bootleg Cut DVD)

‘Almost Famous’ Revamped for New DreamWorks DVD

NEW YORK–Oscar-winning screenwriter/director Cameron Crowe still knows what it feels like to be in awe of his favorite artists. Part of being a rabid fan, he says, is collecting bootlegs. With that in mind, the filmmaker and DreamWorks Home Entertainment have teamed up for Almost Famous/Untitled–The Bootleg Cut, a special-edition double-disc DVD-Video set for release Dec. 4 and priced at $26.95.

“Part of the experience of appreciating a bootleg is feeling like you have something that’s slightly contraband,” Crowe notes. “With this official release, we wanted to capture that feeling.”

Crowe’s Almost Famous–one of the most critically acclaimed films of last year–is based on his real-life experiences in the early ’70s as a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone and going on tour with rock bands. The film garnered a best original screenplay Oscar for Crowe, as well as Golden Globe awards for best picture (comedy or musical) and best supporting actress (comedy or musical) for Kate Hudson.

When Almost Famous was first released on DVD in March, it contained a behind-the-scenes documentary and other extras. But it didn’t have what most DVD consumers have come to expect: the director’s commentary. The reason for the omission was that Crowe was directing his next film, Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise. To satisfy fans, DreamWorks announced that a more in-depth Almost Famous DVD would be released after Crowe had more time to work on it.

In addition to the director’s commentary, the original theatrical release and an extended version are included on the new DVD. Other extra features include the Academy Award-winning script; previously unreleased songs by Stillwater, the film’s fictional band; deleted scenes; original music exclusive to the DVD from Nancy Wilson (Crowe’s wife, who did the film score); new behind-the-scenes footage; Rolling Stone articles written by Crowe; the filmmaker’s top 10 album picks of 1973; production notes; a movie trailer; and cast/crew bios.

In keeping with the bootleg theme, the DVD’s cover art resembles an old album. Crowe says that he is currently involved in compiling an Almost Famous double-album that will be released on vinyl and will have songs from Stillwater on one record and more Almost Famous songs on the other.

With the inclusion of the Almost Famous script on the DVD, viewers can see the original ending Crowe envisioned. The final frames were supposed to be a montage of scenes of William Miller (the character based on Crowe who is played by Patrick Fugit) being played a song from the record collection of his mother, who initially disapproved of his love of rock music but later came to understand it. In addition, the ending had a scene of Stillwater playing in concert and the Rolling Stone issue with Miller’s first cover story being delivered to news stands.

Crowe explains, “The original ending as written is not the ending of the bootleg cut. It felt right in the script, but I didn’t shoot it right. Sometimes the stars align against you, and you don’t have the money to go back and fix scenes. We had a lot of fun finishing this DVD. But we felt like we never want to finish making the movie.

While fans have been waiting for Crowe to finish the special edition, repromoting the title so soon after its initial release creates a marketing challenge for DreamWorks. When Almost Famous was released in the home video market in March, it ranked No. 2 on the Top DVD Sales chart.

“There has been a pent-up demand for this DVD,” says Kelly Sooter, domestic head of DreamWorks Home Entertainment. “A lot of the marketing will be getting our retail base, particularly our music and specialty accounts, to promote it.”

A major part of DreamWorks’ campaign will involve Crowe, who is enthusiastic about promoting the product. Sooter says that other elements will involve advertising on music-based Web sites and a mail campaign to fans of the director.

“The entire reason for this [special-edition] DVD,” Crowe adds, “is to show appreciation to the people who connected to Almost Famous.”

The filmmaker says that beyond the critical accolades and awards Almost Famous received, one of the most meaningful results of the film was that it helped end the estrangement between his mother and his sister, whose relationship was depicted in it.

“Almost Famous did bring my sister and my mom back together,” Crowe says. “I may never do anything again that has a ripple effect that’s so important. If anybody wonders what the true payoff of doing movies is, it’s to have people who see the movie really get what it’s about.”

Courtesy of Billboard – Carla Hay – October 27, 2000