Almost Famous – Scenario Magazine

Scenario Exclusive Interview: Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe and I sit in a hotel room in Toronto.  He is working through a number of rooms in the Delta Hotel to meet various members of the press and talk about his new film “Almost Famous.”  Earlier in the day I ran into Peter Travers, a film critic for Rolling Stone and noticed that he was a lot smaller and geekier in real life.  You’re probably wondering, “How did I manage to get this interview?”  I managed to get this interview because this story is not really for Scenario, but is for the youth section of the “Toronto Star.”  I sit across from Crowe and I look like I’m going to pass out; I’m so nervous.  He knows where I’m coming from -he’s a journalist too- and he knows how nervous I am.  He has a hang-dog look about him: large white tee with a brown over-shirt, grungy cord slacks, thin set glasses and a cup of coffee.  He smiles, and is pleasant.

“Almost Famous” is his latest film and it is a beauty.  The critical response has been ecstatic -on a slight aside, Roger Ebert began his review with “Gosh, what a lovely movie” and other critics stated it brought them to tears.  “Almost Famous” is eerily following the path of another Dreamworks picture “American Beauty”, meaning it’ll be huge at the box office, and it’ll win a truckload of awards-; in fact, it is the early favorite to win best picture and it is premiering here in Toronto at its annual film festival.  It’s an autobiographical film about his adolescence, when he wrote features for Rolling Stone when he was only 15 years old.  Basically, Crowe considers himself a journalist first; he recently wrote a book about Billy Wilder.  However, he’s a journalist who has made some very good films in his life.  He wrote “Fast Times in Ridgemont High” and directed the classic teen flick “Say Anything.”  He made the bitter sweet ode to Seattle “Singles” and the romantic Tom Cruise vehicle “Jerry Maguire.”  The buzz surrounding Cameron Crowe’s upcoming film “Almost Famous” has been high -in fact, it’s an early Oscar Contender- and his latest project “Vanilla Sky” has Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz attached to it.  After finishing my tea, I begin my interview.

The Interview:

Scenario: Hello Cameron.

Cameron Crowe: Hello…

S: The critical response to “Almost Famous” has been crazy, I don’t think an American Film has been this well received since Robert Altman’s “The Player.”  How does it feel to have made the best movie of the year?

CC: It feels great.

S: So… why did “Jerry Maguire” suck so much then?

He is taken aback

CC: Well. (Long pause.)  I think that there are things that I would want to change about “Jerry Maguire”, but the truth is it was my best film until “Almost Famous.”  People may not agree, but it was the first film where I actually felt I knew what I was doing.

S: So, technically, as in, directing as a craft, you felt…

CC: That I finally knew how to make a film.  My other films were more like cut-and-paste jobs; they somehow held together.  Look, “Jerry Maguire” is just better than “Singles”, I mean, what else can I say?

S: I loved the use of music in “Almost Famous”; how important is music to your films?  I noticed that a lot of pivotal moments in the film are pushed by music.

CC: Very important… I’ve always believed that music is capable of expressing more than dialogue… well, my dialogue at least.  I look at this film (Almost Famous) as a sort of pastiche; an amalgam of different things.  Also, the right song can really push an emotion, or an image, even a point, to a level of “rightness.”

S: Rightness?

CC: For my earlier films moments where everything just jelled perfectly were far and between… not to be overtly critical of my work.  In “Say Anything” it was when John (Cusack) played the song on his stereo outside the girl’s house, and in “Fast Times” when Phoebe (Cates) came out of the swimming pool.  Moments where what I had in mind -look, music, everything- just worked.

S: I love the “Tiny Dancer” scene.  However, aren’t you worried that people will think it’s a contrived plot device?

CC: Well, it happened.

S: So, do you want an Oscar?  Considering I think “Almost Famous” has a shot, and though the term “Oscar” in itself is sketchy and shady?

CC: I’m not going to lie… it’d be nice.  I don’t make movies to win them though… I don’t know… it’d be nice.

S: Working with Tom Cruise, and now Billy Crudup… any similarities?

CC: They’re both sexy.  (Laughing.)

S: So…

CC: I know about the “Billy as the next Tom” and all of that… that’s bullshit.  Billy is a totally different actor.

S: Better?

CC: No… different.

S: “Vanilla Sky” is already being hyped because of the names attached to it… How does it feel to be the hottest director on the planet?

CC: (Smiling) Well… It was only a matter of time… just kidding.  Um… hottest eh?  Well, I’m flattered.  I mean, “I get to work with Penelope Cruz.”  That’s a good thing for me.  I don’t know, it’s been fun, and it’s been a while.  It’s nice to see that I’ve made a splash since my last one.

S: What did you think of Tom in “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Magnolia”?

CC: I liked both performances.  He was excellent.  I’m a big Tom Cruise fan.

S: What was it like working for Rolling Stone at a young age?

CC: The movie says it all.

S: Do you still read Rolling Stone?

CC: No.

S: Not at all?

CC: Well… Rolling Stone’s changed.  So have I.  We don’t talk anymore.

Courtesy of Scenario Magazine – Sacred Samurai