Almost Famous – Chicago Citysearch

Having Words with Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe is not really of this world, as his movies would suggest. A one-of-a-kind mixture of innocence and expertise, he comes across as (simultaneously) a singularly focused fan of film/music/whatever and a seasoned industry veteran who’s been around, seen just about everything and escaped with his ideals and youth mostly intact. The 43-year-old Crowe’s films include “Jerry Maguire,” “Say Anything” and “Singles.”

His newest film, Almost Famous, is a re-creation of Crowe’s youth as a 15-year-old Rolling Stone journalist touring the country with the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers Band. The film stars Jason Lee and Billy Crudup as members of Stillwater (a fictional band Crowe created for the film), Kate Hudson as Stillwater’s biggest fan, and newcomer Patrick Fugit as William Miller, Crowe’s stand-in. Although it’s his most personal film to date, Crowe is (mostly) at ease awaiting its release.

Is the movie better when it’s something that’s happened to you?

I think so. I always loved the personal movies—when they’re not too gooey or self-glorifying, like Alvy Singer in the Woody Allen movies.

Was it harder or easier to write such a personal film?

Both. It was easier to research, harder to accept that you’ll actually make it. I’m still looking for ways to not make this movie. But it’s too late. If I’d really thought this out I probably wouldn’t have done it. The dangers of doing a movie like this are huge and the upside is pretty small. You have to hit it right or you look pretty silly. What you have to do is be raw and open and access all your memories and beware the gooey nostalgia factor. It’s not like doing X-Men. Bryan Singer was mixing that movie right next door to us and he was having a blast! He was the happiest guy in the building. That’s craft, too, making a highly polished action movie. It would be fun to try something like that eventually. I’m just babbling answers.

When you’re writing the script do you have particular songs in mind for particular scenes?

Absolutely. That’s the fun part. I’m always making mix tapes for myself and I’ll tell my wife that I’m going out to get groceries and just drive around for hours listening to these tapes. They help me write, they’re helping me on my new movie. It all comes from music.

The Lester Bangs character in the film says, “Don’t make friends with the band.” Has being interviewed instead of interviewing changed your opinion on that?

I don’t see myself as having a permanent position on the other end of the microphone. I interview too many people for research or for books or articles that I’m really not comfortable here. The goal of doing a press junket like this—they’re just the devil but you have to do them—is to make them different. The truth is that you always have a relationship with the person you’re interviewing, even if it’s only over the course of an hour. You just have to be careful that it’s not a seduction or a manipulation, which it often is… Would you like some money or booze? [Laughs].

It does have to be tempting, though.

Well, I married a rock star! [Nancy Wilson of Heart]

Did they use those strategies on you even back in your teens?

When I was really young! Alice Cooper’s publicist called me up and said, “The Los Angeles Free Press would like you to do a review of the Alice Cooper concert that’s coming to town.” I said, “Wait. You’re giving me the assignment from the paper?” He says, “Yeah, the editor’s a friend of mine.” I couldn’t make the show. So he asks, “If I gave you the set list, would you give it a good review? I’ll pay you what you would have gotten for the review and then you’ll also get paid for the review.” I couldn’t fucking believe it, it was so open! It’s never happened to me since, but it really scared me.

How did you survive in such a cutthroat business, considering how young you were at the time?

Pure ambition and love of music. If I could get backstage, I’d interview anybody I could get my hands on. When I did a story I’d interview the roadies and every band member. I was the guy who would talk to the bass player.

What do you think about the music industry today?

I think it’s better than it was in the ’80s. I’m just sorry for the sound of CDs. Neil Young had a great quote, “CDs are like a thousand tiny ice cubes hitting you in the face. Vinyl is rain.” I so buy into that.

How much of the script were you unable to shoot?

Well, the original [script] was 172 pages. That was my first dealing with [Steven] Spielberg. He called and said, “Shoot every word.” We tried but couldn’t get all of it done. When I put it all together it was just too long. That version will be on the DVD, about 2 hours, 45 minutes long, as well as this version, which is the best one.

Courtesy of Chicago City Search