Almost Famous – CNN

A Life Made Famous by “Almost Famous”

Cameron Crowe, boy on the bus

At 15, Cameron Crowe was not old enough to drive to the rock concerts he was chronicling for Rolling Stone magazine. That alone could be plot enough for a successful film — and is.

“Almost Famous,” which opened in theaters earlier this month, is based on his wonder years as a teen-aged journalist with an all-access pass to the most famous musicians of the 1970s.

Crowe profiled Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers, Fleetwood Mac and other ’70s rockers. He also wrote the liner notes for one of the best-selling discs ever, Peter Frampton’s 1976 album “Frampton Comes Alive!”

A ‘likeable guy’

Frampton still remembers the little kid with the big reputation.

“I had been told, advised that, ‘If you want to get somebody really good, new, there’s this whiz kid at ‘Rolling Stone'” Frampton recalls. “So in he comes, beaming from ear to ear — just this incredibly likeable … guy.”

“I remember loving that album,” Crowe adds. “Frampton took me into the studio and played me that album and I thought it was the greatest party album that I’d heard in a long time, and so I wrote the liner notes and the album became huge.”

A year later, Frampton got the cover of Rolling Stone, with Crowe writing the article.

The friendship they forged back then remains intact today. Frampton was a technical consultant on “Almost Famous,” along with Crowe’s wife, guitarist Nancy Wilson from the band Heart. The three wrote music for the film’s fictional group, Stillwater.

Their goal was not to produce a parody, but to create music that could get radio play, Crowe says. He thinks they penned at least one good song, “Fever Dog.”

When it comes to film, Crowe is hardly a one-hit wonder. At the age of 22, he went undercover to write the book-turned-feature, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982). He made his directorial debut with “Say Anything…” (1989) and followed with the romantic comedy “Singles” (1992). His most recent success, “Jerry Maguire” (1996), scored five Oscar nominations.

But music is always on his mind.

That ’70s mood

“I married a musician, music is everywhere I turn, thankfully.” Crowe says. “Yeah, a lot of times the ideas for a movie, or even the way I cast a movie, comes from driving around in my car and listening to tapes and thinking, ‘Kate Hudson floating on a Joni Mitchell song.’ That’s a good scene.”

On the set, Crowe played a mix of songs from the era to get actors in that ’70s mood just before the cameras rolled.

“I just think if you play it, it seeps in, it seeps into the performances, it seeps into the atmosphere of the movie,” Crowe says. “And a lot of times I used the music … while they were doing the scene.”

It worked — except once. In a scene with Frances McDormand, who plays the mom, the script called for her to be listening to Simon & Garfunkel. Crowe queued up something entirely different from the soft-voiced duo.

“For my close-up he played Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man,'” McDormand recalls. “And it’s just not the same thing.”

Critics and viewers are saying the same about “Almost Famous”: Compared to other films showing at the box office now, it’s just not the same thing.

Courtesy of – Sherri Sylvester – September 25, 2000