Almost Famous


2h 2m 2000

Brief Synopsis

A high-school boy gets the chance to report on a rising rock band's tour.

Film Details

Also Known As
My Back Pages, Something Real, Stillwater, The Uncool
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Music
Period
Release Date
Sep 15, 2000
Premiere Information
World premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 8 Sep 2000; New York and Los Angeles openings: 13 Sep 2000
Production Company
DreamWorks Pictures; Vinyl Films
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures; DreamWorks Distribution, LLC
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA; San Diego, California, USA; Beverly Hills--Beverly Hills High School, California, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Los Angeles--Hollywood Palladium, California, United States; Los Angeles--Hyatt House Hotel, California, United States; Mojave Desert, California, United States; New York, New York, United States; New York, New York, United States; New York, California, United States; Sacramento, California, United States; San Diego--San Diego Sports Arena, California, United States; San Diego--Sun Cafe, California, United States; California, United States; California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 2m

Synopsis

In San Diego, in 1969, precocious William Miller learns that he is two years younger than his classmates. William's older sister Anita feels repressed by their widowed mother Elaine's eccentricities and decides to leave their "house of lies" to become an airline stewardess. Before going, Anita promises William that someday he will be "cool" and gives him her secret collection of rock music albums. Later, William finds a note from Anita saying, "Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future." In 1973, the fifteen-year-old William sends writing samples to Creem magazine editor and rock critic Lester Bangs and later talks with him in a café, where Lester laments the end of rock and roll. Impressed by William's talent, Lester assigns him to cover a Black Sabbath concert, but warns him to avoid becoming friends with the musicians. Although Elaine is suspicious of rock music, she drives William to the concert, but cannot refrain from yelling out, "Don't take drugs!" as she drives away. At the stage door, William is refused entrance. While he waits outside the door, he meets "Penny Lane," an engaging and worldly young woman, barely older than he is, and her circle of female music fans she calls "Band-Aids." Penny, who has renamed herself after a song, shares with him her idealistic views that their devotion to the music sets them apart from other groupies. When Stillwater, the opening band, arrives, William's encyclopedic knowledge of the band gets him in the door to interview Black Sabbath. Although he is usually level-headed, William is thrilled to be part of the backstage scene and can barely contain his excitement, something Lester warned him about, and Penny gently advises him to "be cool." After the concert, Stillwater's lead guitarist, Russell Hammond, invites William to join them at the Hyatt House, a hotel in Los Angeles. Several days later, William hitches a ride to the hotel with Penny, who mysteriously evades talking about her life, other than her relationship with the rock scene. At the hotel, William watches her work her charisma on the gathering of musicians and fans that are partying there. Despite the air of sophisticated detachment she tries to maintain, William learns that she and Russell had a casual affair during the previous tour and that they are still drawn to each other, even though he has a girlfriend. William's article about Black Sabbath gets the attention of Rolling Stone music editor Ben Fong-Torres, who, unaware that William is so young, assigns him to write a story about Stillwater's road tour. Lester, whom William calls regularly for advice, encourages him to take the job. Elaine, a college professor who wants William to aim for law school, very reluctantly gives him permission to miss his high school classes and follow the band. After joining Stillwater and company on their tour bus, William tries to interview Russell and lead singer Jeff Bebe, but they elude him, fearing that he is "the enemy" who might make them look bad in print. Unable to get an interview, William stays longer than planned, causing the worried Elaine to call William repeatedly. The assortment of people, who answer the phone and who casually mention drugs and room sharing, adds to her uneasiness. William watches the band's camaraderie dissolve when t-shirts advertising the tour are delivered. Disappointed that the shirt's photograph blurs the features of everyone except Jeff, the bandmembers quarrel, exposing latent rivalry between Russell and the singer. After the concert, William accompanies Russell to a drug party held by local fans. Later, high on acid, Russell climbs to the garage roof and exclaims to the crowd, "I am a golden god." The next day, on the bus, hostility is in the air, until someone begins singing along with the radio and the rest of the group joins in. Feeling the pressure to complete his story, William attempts to write, but is interrupted by three bored Band-Aids who decide to relieve him of his virginity. When Ben calls to demand the finished article, William quotes several intriguing phrases that he and Lester had prepared earlier, for just this sort of emergency, and convinces Ben to give him more time. During one of Elaine's calls to William, Russell takes the phone and tries to reassure her, but she stuns him with a lecture about his "world of compromised values." As the tour continues and Stillwater's fame builds, a corporate manager courts them. After abandoning the bus, the band travels by plane and is lured by the new manager to replace their counter-culture values with material ones, prompting the observant William to remember Lester's predictions about rock music's loss of innocence. After witnessing a quirky poker game, in which Russell and the boys trade the unwitting Band-Aids to another rock band, William becomes torn between loyalty and disapproval. In an uncharacteristic confrontation with Penny, who has blinded herself to Russell's ambivalence, William points out the superficiality of their situation, and in frustration, tells her that she has been sold for fifty dollars and a case of beer. Later, in New York City, Russell reunites with his girl friend Leslie, and Penny discovers she is excluded from the band's activities. After pursuing her to the hotel, William finds that she has overdosed on Quaaludes. While keeping Penny alive until a doctor pumps her stomach, William admits aloud that he loves her. Later, after surviving the ordeal, Penny tells William about her life and her real name, Lady Goodman, then returns home to San Diego. The Rolling Stone editors order William to send what he has written for the fact-checker and then meet at their San Francisco office. The next day, the band's plane is shaken by the great turbulence of an electrical storm. Fearing death, the passengers take turns confessing past sins. After revealing that he slept with Leslie, Jeff volunteers that Russell slept with Penny, but when he makes disparaging remarks about her, William heatedly accuses them all of using and discarding their biggest fan. After the plane safely lands, Russell, who has been thoughtfully quiet, tells William to "write what you want." In San Francisco, the Rolling Stone staff is unhappy with William's story, but gives him one night to finish the article. William calls Lester, who advises him to be "honest and unmerciful," and that, "like booze," the friendships he made can delude him into believing he is "cool." In consolation, Lester points out that "uncool" people make great art out of their longings. Later, William's completed article impresses his editors, until the fact-checker claims that Russell denies everything William wrote. At the airport on the journey home, the betrayed William encounters Anita, who braves a reunion with their mother to console him. Meanwhile, Russell calls Penny to apologize and offers to come see her, but she gives him William's address instead of her own, and then leaves for Morocco, a place she had often talked about with William. Penny's ploy succeeds in reconciling Russell and William, and Russell tells the Rolling Stone editors that William wrote the truth. When the magazine featuring William's article hits the stands, Stillwater is on the cover.


Cast

Billy Crudup

Russell Hammond

Frances Mcdormand

Elaine Miller

Kate Hudson

Penny Lane [also known as Lady Goodman]

Jason Lee

Jeff Bebe

Patrick Fugit

William Miller

Zooey Deschanel

Anita Miller

Michael Angarano

Young William

Noah Taylor

Dick Roswell

John Fedevich

Editor Vallencourt

Mark Kozelek

Larry Fellows

Fairuza Balk

Sapphire

Anna Paquin

Polexia Aphrodisia

Olivia Rosewood

Beth from Denver

Jimmy Fallon

Dennis Hope

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Lester Bangs

Liz Stauber

Leslie

Bijou Phillips

Estrella Starr

Alice Marie Crowe

Mrs. Deegan

J. J. Cohen

Roadie Scully

Gary Douglas Kohn

Roadie Gregg

Ray Porter

Roadie Mick

Mark Pellington

Freddy

Eion Bailey

Jann Wenner

Terry Chen

Ben Fong-Torres

Rainn Wilson

David Felton

Erin Foley

Alison, the fact checker

Jesse Caron

Darryl

Charles Walker

Principal

Jay Baruchel

Vic Munoz

Pauley Perrette

Alice Wisdom

Peter Frampton

Reg

Zack Ward

The Legendary Red Dog

Mitch Hedberg

Eagles road manager

Devin Corey

The Who road manager

Pete Droge

Hyatt singer

Elaine Summers

Hyatt singer

Eric Stonestreet

Sheldon, the desk clerk

Marc Maron

Angry promoter

Shane Willard

Ticket scalper

Chris Mcelprang

Aaron Amedori

John Patrick Amedori

Himself

Kate Peckham

Quiet girl

Julia Schuler

Waving girl

Brian Vaughan

Real Topeka kid

Anthony Martelli

Poolside provocateur

Zach Clairville

Acid kid

Ian Ridgeway

Topeka partier

Isaac Curtiss

Topeka partier

Chris Lennon Davis

Topeka partier

Scott N. Stevens

Co-pilot

Kevin Sussman

Lenny

Reathel Bean

Warwick hotel clerk

Tom Riis Farrell

Plaza doctor

Laura Bastianelli

Nurse

Samuel Aaron Robertson

High school band

Brian Andreasen

High school band

Jared Hren

High school band

Mary Dragicevich

High school band

Aura Barr

High school band

Daniel Wilson

Journalism teacher

William Barillaro

Bus driver

Holly Maples

Flight attendant

Matt Griesser

PSA co-pilot

Susan Yeagley

Have a nice day stewardess

Nicole Spector

Hippie girl at airport

Patrick Irmen

Wanna get high guy

Nick Swardson

Insane Bowie fan

Cindy Weber

Shocked elevator family

Kris Weber

Shocked elevator family

Kaitlyn Weber

Shocked elevator family

Kimberly Weber

Shocked elevator family

Kristin Weber

Shocked elevator family

Samer Sourakli

Mustache boy

Michelle Moretti

Swingo's desk clerk

Ana Maria Quintana

Arizona housekeeper

Lisa Buchignani

Arizona housekeeper

John Wenner

Passenger in cab

Crew

Ruben Abarca

Drapery foreman

Rachel Aberly

Unit Publicist

Michael Abrahams

Composer

David H. Allen

Props Master

Edward Allen

Assistant accountant

Jerry Allison

Composer

Sal Alvarez

Camera loader

Ian Anderson

Composer

Jon Anderson

Composer

Audrey Anzures

Hairstylist

William Armstrong

Composer

Lori Ashcraft

Researcher

Dustin Ault

Grip

Herb Ault

Key grip

Doreen Austria

Graphic Designer

Alice S. Awad

Seamstress

Rick Ayotte

Grip

Ross Bagdasarian Sr.

Composer

Patrick Ballin

Visual Effects Editor

Ted Basso

Driver

Robert Batha

1st Assistant Sound Editor

Travis Baumann

Compositor

Jon Bayless

Addl musician

Jeffrey Bebe

Composer

Walter Becker

Composer

Rudolf Beilicke

Driver

Erik Bernstein

Assistant chief lighting tech

Elizabeth Besio

Cutter/Fitter

Johnny Beyers

Electrician

Melissa F. Binder

Costumes

Richard Blackmore

Composer

Kathryn Blondell

Department head hairstylist

Conny Boettger-marinos

Set Designer

Steve Borgese

Greens foreman

Danny Bramson

Music Supervisor

Bobby Bress

Driver

Lisa M. Brooks

Const auditor

Andrew S. Brown

Casting Associate

Ronald Brown

Driver

Mary Brunner

Prod Secretary

Ian Bryce

Producer

Lisa Buchignani

Costumes

Johnny Bundrick

Composer

Gary Burritt

Neg cutter

Lois Burwell

Department head makeup

Domingo A. Bustamante

Production Assistant

Terence Butler

Composer

Brian Callahan

Costumes

Jessica Campbell

Stand-in

Kyle Carden

Grip

Charisse Cardenas

Set Designer

Kerry Carmean

Foley Editor

Eric Carmen

Composer

John Cassella Jr.

3D artist

Robert Chapin

3D artist

Noelle Chapin-green

Prod Coordinator

Chapman/leonard Studio Equipment, Inc.

Camera cranes & dollies by

Larry Clause

General foreman

Martin Cohen

Post prod Executive

Rich Conkling

Assistant Editor

Nicolle Cornute

Paint/roto artist

Carla Corwin

Unit Manager/1st Assistant Director, Addl Photographer

Henry Cosby

Composer

Don Coufal

Boom Operator

David Coverdale

Composer

Jill S. Coverdale

Production Assistant

Billy F. Craft Jr.

Electrician

Cameron Crowe

Producer

Cameron Crowe

Writer

Cameron Crowe

Composer

Ricky Cuevas

Assistant accountant

Burton Cummings

Composer

Kelly Curtis

Tech consultant

Renee D. Czarapata

Payroll accountant

Jerry Dablau

Chief lighting tech, New York City crew

Marcus Lewis Daniel

Composer

George Davis

Production Assistant

Michael Davis

Composer

Michael Dennison

Costume Supervisor

John Desjardin

3D Supervisor

Matt Dessero

Compositor

Maria Devane

Post prod accountant

Dhamarata G. Dhiensuwana

Key rigging grip

Dino Dimuro

Sound Effects Editor

Pete Droge

Composer

Jeff Durling

Electrician

Rose Echeverria

Driver

Carolyn L. Elias

Hairstylist

John Elliott

Const Coordinator

James Eric

Music playback op

Martin P. Ewing

Production Manager

Martin P. Ewing

Associate Producer

Donald Fagen

Composer

Daniel Fair

Editor Assistant

David Fanderlik

Propmaker foreman

Jim Fanning

Transportation capt, New York City crew

Melissa A. Feinberg

Props Assistant

Phil Feiner

Prod Executive

Jeannine Fenton

Set Dresser

Andrew Fischer

Assistant to Cameron Crowe

Don Fly

Gen Manager

Chris Flynn

Digital compositor

For Stars Catering

Catering provided by

Peter Frampton

Tech consultant

Peter Frampton

Addl musician

Peter Frampton

"Hour of Need" and "You Had To Be There" co-prod by

Peter Frampton

Composer

Lannie Franklin Iii

Production Assistant

Fortunato Frattasio

Compositor

John Frazier

Special Effects Supervisor

Marti Frederiksen

Vocals performed by

Mark Freund

Digital Effects Supervisor

Heidi Fugeman

Assistant to Ian Bryce

Robert Garcia Jr.

Driver

Lee Garibaldi

Transportation capt

Gary George

Tech Assistant

Lowell George

Composer

Michael Germain

Key makeup artist

Nerses Gezalyan

Foley mixer

Peter Gikas

Set Dresser

Josh Gilman

Stand-in

Michele Giodarno

Prod Coordinator, New York City crew

Carmine Goglia

Standby painter

Tim Gomes

Paint foreman

Tim Gomillion

Sound Recording

Gilbert Gonzales

Paint/roto artist

Raymond Gonzales

Electrician

Jorge J. Gonzalez

Costumes

Heather Goodwin

Apprentice Editor

Rhona Gordon

Studio teacher

Tom Gorey

Imaging Supervisor

Laura Graham

ADR Editor

Nicolle Gray

Tech Assistant

Vanessa Grayson

Stand-in

Robert Greenfield

Set Decoration

Joie Gregory

Loc Manager, New York City crew

Rod Gregory

Set Dresser

Clay A. Griffith

Art Director

Chris Haarhoff

Camera Operator

Russell Hammond

Composer

Laura Harris

Dial Editor

Clayton R. Hartley

Art Director

Glen E. Hawbecker

Propmaker foreman

Maureen Healy

Digital paint artist

Kim Heath

Best boy grip

D. M. Hemphill

Re-rec mixer

Jimi Hendrix

Composer

Linda Henrikson

Key Costume

Amy Herman

Unit prod Manager, New York City crew

Betsy Hermann

Costume Design

Rob Hodgson

Visual Effects Supervisor

Buddy Holly

Composer

Todd Homme

Executive in charge of Music

Ronald Hooker

Driver

Steve Howe

Composer

Heather Hoyland

Lead digital compositor

Joe Hutshing

Editing

Cecilia Hyoun

1st Assistant Avid Editor

Frank Iommi

Composer

Danny Jacob

Guitar coach

Elmore James

Composer

Lee J. Jashinsky

Paint foreman

Daniel S. Jimenez

Dolly grip

Ofelia Jimenez

1st Assistant film Editor

Elton John

Composer

Linda Johnson

Driver

Pete Johnson

Driver

Stephen V. Johnson

DGA trainee

Jim Jolley

Effects tech

Ed Jones

Visual Effects Supervisor

John Paul Jones

Composer

Carlton Kaller

Music Editor

John Keen

Composer

Michael Kehoe

Craft service

David Kelley

2d Assistant Director

Nisa Kellner

Costumes

Gordon Kennedy

Composer

Gordon Kennedy

Addl musician

Lisa Dennis Kennedy

Post prod Supervisor

Martin Kibbee

Composer

Rich King

Extras casting

Simon Kirke

Composer

Wayne Kirkpatrick

Composer

Saar Klein

Editing

Rick Kline

Re-rec mixer

Tommy Klines

1st Assistant Camera

Danika Kohler

Prod Secretary

Paul Kossoff

Composer

Wayne Kramer

Composer

Meti Kusari

Craft service

Mark Kusy

Props Assistant

Tony Lamberti

Sound Effects Editor

Maryjane Layani

Controller

Stevie Lazo

Prod accountant

Lee Lebaigue

Digital Assistant

Dave Lee

Tech Assistant

Gail Levin

Casting

Mitch Lillian

Key grip, New York City crew

Kim Lincoln

Graphic Designer

Mark Livolsi

Associate Editor

Film Details

Also Known As
My Back Pages, Something Real, Stillwater, The Uncool
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Music
Period
Release Date
Sep 15, 2000
Premiere Information
World premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 8 Sep 2000; New York and Los Angeles openings: 13 Sep 2000
Production Company
DreamWorks Pictures; Vinyl Films
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures; DreamWorks Distribution, LLC
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA; San Diego, California, USA; Beverly Hills--Beverly Hills High School, California, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Los Angeles--Hollywood Palladium, California, United States; Los Angeles--Hyatt House Hotel, California, United States; Mojave Desert, California, United States; New York, New York, United States; New York, New York, United States; New York, California, United States; Sacramento, California, United States; San Diego--San Diego Sports Arena, California, United States; San Diego--Sun Cafe, California, United States; California, United States; California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 2m

Award Wins

Best Original Screenplay

2000

Best Picture

2000
Cameron Crowe

Best Supporting Actress

2000
Kate Hudson

Award Nominations

Best Editing

2000
Joe Hutshing

Best Editing

2000
Saar Klein

Best Supporting Actress

2000
Frances Mcdormand

Best Supporting Actress

2000
Kate Hudson

Best Screenplay Motion Pict

2000

Best Supporting Actress

2000
Frances Mcdormand

Articles

Almost Famous


Almost Famous (2000) is rock on a roll. Pushing off from filmmaker Cameron Crowe's wide-eyed experiences as an underage rock journalist too young to drink, vote, drive, or even smoke when he began writing about rock and getting paid for it in the 1970s, it's a sweetly winning pop culture feast, more valentine than expose, kept from saccharinity by an open-eyed awareness of harsh music-biz realities and the flaws of rockers who tumbled in and out of orbits, spotlights and trashed hotel rooms.

More personalized than Crowe's other films, it is polished, knowingly detailed, unashamedly heart-on-sleeve. What makes it a film for the ages, apart from its rosy but precise capture of a particular time and place, is that unlike most rock-centric films - even the good ones - it's more than a contact high. It involves us with lovingly drawn characters and their strong feelings. They care deeply and intensely about one another, and make us care with them. It was Kate Hudson's breakthrough film. It notched up the already established careers of Crowe, Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk and Zooey Deschanel.

Almost Famous is as close to a backstage pass as most of us are going to get to the more innocent-seeming, ultra-energized music scene of the '70s, making us feel the tug of the music on a nerdy kid mesmerized by his sudden proximity to cool, and soaking up everything he saw and heard in 1973. While we're right there sharing the fly-on-the-wall POV of 15-year-old embryonic rock scribe Crowe following a band on tour, tape recorder in hand, Crowe sidesteps the booby trap of nostalgia, giving us something much better - the feeling that we're watching this stuff happen for the first time.

Crowe surrogate Billy Miller (peach-fuzz-cheeked Patrick Fugit) spends a lot of time trying not to look wonderstruck. The fictionalized composite band to which he attaches himself, Stillwater, is an amalgam of Crowe's Rolling Stone subjects (The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac). Not that Almost Famous is a survey of rock 'n' roll. What gives the film its gravitational pull is its character-driven way of getting up close and personal, starting with the moth to whose flame young Billy is drawn: Billy Crudup's guitarist and driving force, Russell Hammond -- modeled, Crowe has said, on Glenn Frey of the Eagles.

He's a believable embodiment of the energies that created rock, a flawed but likeably unvarnished guy from Michigan who can't help pushing himself and others beyond their comfort zones. Aided by convenient moral myopia, he also serves notice that while Almost Famous doesn't avert its eyes from the destructive energies on the rock scene, it isn't out to give aid and comfort to the enemies of rock, either, even when Russell almost blows the tour by acid-tripping with fans in Topeka, Kansas, while in search of what he lamely sees as real experiences with real people. Or when his ego surges by ordering band t-shirts with himself in the foreground in clear focus and the others blurry in the background. His appeal lies in his ability to feel chastened - in one case on the phone by Billy's no-nonsense, across-the-board activist mother (McDormand), later by his willingness to face up to his callous and cowardly behavior toward a devotee who adores him.

He and Hudson's Penny Lane, who rejects being called a groupie and insists on being referred to as a Band-Aide, emit most of the glow in which Billy basks, amazed at his newly acquired cool via association with them. Hudson fills the screen with sweetness and -- inevitably, this being a backstage saga - heartbreak in the kind of brave performance that suggests trapeze art. You can feel her hurl herself off a high perch, relying on director Crowe to catch her. And he does. With her bedroom eyes and a look of expectant hope that lights up any space she's in, Hudson also carries the painful scenes tied to male rockers' ways of sometimes using women as a sort of adjunct to room service. Staying sweet, resilient and vulnerable throughout, especially after her true status is made joltingly clear, Hudson shines in this role that made her a star.

Almost Famous likes its characters, embraces them all, including McDormand's sometimes maddeningly solicitous mom, who does things like driving the underage Billy to his first assignment, only to mortify him before the crowd filing into the arena by shouting, "Don't take drugs!" The sting is taken out of her meddling as we - and even Russell, whose glib charm she demolishes on the phone - realize that Crowe is giving her credit for loving and worrying about him, rescuing her from caricature even as she shouts, "Rock stars have kidnapped my son!", after she realizes he's skipping school to hit the road. Even then, Crowe and his film refrain from ridiculing her. Overwrought though McDormand may let Ma Miller get, she's allowed a weight of moral authority and integrity. She's never just a caricature of parental obtuseness.

In fact, Crowe bookends the film with two moral arbiters. Philip Seymour Hoffman is froggy-voiced perfection as the late rock critic Lester Bangs, who becomes Billy's mentor, keeps reminding him that being uncool is a badge of integrity, and warns him to remember that the musicians he writes about are not his friends. "Of course I'm home on a Saturday night, listening to records," he says when Billy phones from the road in crisis, "I'm not cool." Sure enough, the band seduces Billy, visions of Rolling Stone covers dancing in their heads. Still, Russell comes out from under his halo of self-regard long enough to observe that the precocious Billy is "taking notes with his eyes."

Fugit is best when he acts with eyes that seem ever ready to jump-start a puppy-like smile on Billy's blank tablet of a moon face. Sometimes his glances are linked to Billy's ardent wish to put pubescent virginity behind him forever. Not that the light in Billy's eyes doesn't evaporate instantly when the phone rings and it's his editor, demanding to see copy he hasn't even begun to write. By the time he made this film, Crowe had become a writer and director of finesse, knowing what not to try and put into words. Almost Famous is tender yet confident Hollywood craftsmanship, brimming over with feeling, texture, spirit and several kinds of the keenness that transmute experience and autobiography into big pop myth. It's a sunny convergence of yes-vibes, with a heart as big as a tour bus.

Producers: Ian Bryce, Cameron Crowe
Director: Cameron Crowe
Screenplay: Cameron Crowe
Cinematography: John Toll
Art Direction: Clay A. Griffith, Clayton Hartley, Virginia L. Randolph
Music: Nancy Wilson
Film Editing: Joe Hutshing, Saar Klein
Cast: Billy Crudup (Russell Hammond), Frances McDormand (Elaine Miller), Kate Hudson (Penny Lane), Jason Lee (Jeff Bebe), Patrick Fugit (William Miller), Zooey Deschanel (Anita Miller), Michael Angarano (Young William), Fairuza Balk (Sapphire), Noah Taylor (Dick Roswell), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lester Bangs), Jimmy Fallon (Dennis Hope), Bijou Phillips (Estrella Starr).
C-123m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

by Jay Carr
Almost Famous

Almost Famous

Almost Famous (2000) is rock on a roll. Pushing off from filmmaker Cameron Crowe's wide-eyed experiences as an underage rock journalist too young to drink, vote, drive, or even smoke when he began writing about rock and getting paid for it in the 1970s, it's a sweetly winning pop culture feast, more valentine than expose, kept from saccharinity by an open-eyed awareness of harsh music-biz realities and the flaws of rockers who tumbled in and out of orbits, spotlights and trashed hotel rooms. More personalized than Crowe's other films, it is polished, knowingly detailed, unashamedly heart-on-sleeve. What makes it a film for the ages, apart from its rosy but precise capture of a particular time and place, is that unlike most rock-centric films - even the good ones - it's more than a contact high. It involves us with lovingly drawn characters and their strong feelings. They care deeply and intensely about one another, and make us care with them. It was Kate Hudson's breakthrough film. It notched up the already established careers of Crowe, Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk and Zooey Deschanel. Almost Famous is as close to a backstage pass as most of us are going to get to the more innocent-seeming, ultra-energized music scene of the '70s, making us feel the tug of the music on a nerdy kid mesmerized by his sudden proximity to cool, and soaking up everything he saw and heard in 1973. While we're right there sharing the fly-on-the-wall POV of 15-year-old embryonic rock scribe Crowe following a band on tour, tape recorder in hand, Crowe sidesteps the booby trap of nostalgia, giving us something much better - the feeling that we're watching this stuff happen for the first time. Crowe surrogate Billy Miller (peach-fuzz-cheeked Patrick Fugit) spends a lot of time trying not to look wonderstruck. The fictionalized composite band to which he attaches himself, Stillwater, is an amalgam of Crowe's Rolling Stone subjects (The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac). Not that Almost Famous is a survey of rock 'n' roll. What gives the film its gravitational pull is its character-driven way of getting up close and personal, starting with the moth to whose flame young Billy is drawn: Billy Crudup's guitarist and driving force, Russell Hammond -- modeled, Crowe has said, on Glenn Frey of the Eagles. He's a believable embodiment of the energies that created rock, a flawed but likeably unvarnished guy from Michigan who can't help pushing himself and others beyond their comfort zones. Aided by convenient moral myopia, he also serves notice that while Almost Famous doesn't avert its eyes from the destructive energies on the rock scene, it isn't out to give aid and comfort to the enemies of rock, either, even when Russell almost blows the tour by acid-tripping with fans in Topeka, Kansas, while in search of what he lamely sees as real experiences with real people. Or when his ego surges by ordering band t-shirts with himself in the foreground in clear focus and the others blurry in the background. His appeal lies in his ability to feel chastened - in one case on the phone by Billy's no-nonsense, across-the-board activist mother (McDormand), later by his willingness to face up to his callous and cowardly behavior toward a devotee who adores him. He and Hudson's Penny Lane, who rejects being called a groupie and insists on being referred to as a Band-Aide, emit most of the glow in which Billy basks, amazed at his newly acquired cool via association with them. Hudson fills the screen with sweetness and -- inevitably, this being a backstage saga - heartbreak in the kind of brave performance that suggests trapeze art. You can feel her hurl herself off a high perch, relying on director Crowe to catch her. And he does. With her bedroom eyes and a look of expectant hope that lights up any space she's in, Hudson also carries the painful scenes tied to male rockers' ways of sometimes using women as a sort of adjunct to room service. Staying sweet, resilient and vulnerable throughout, especially after her true status is made joltingly clear, Hudson shines in this role that made her a star. Almost Famous likes its characters, embraces them all, including McDormand's sometimes maddeningly solicitous mom, who does things like driving the underage Billy to his first assignment, only to mortify him before the crowd filing into the arena by shouting, "Don't take drugs!" The sting is taken out of her meddling as we - and even Russell, whose glib charm she demolishes on the phone - realize that Crowe is giving her credit for loving and worrying about him, rescuing her from caricature even as she shouts, "Rock stars have kidnapped my son!", after she realizes he's skipping school to hit the road. Even then, Crowe and his film refrain from ridiculing her. Overwrought though McDormand may let Ma Miller get, she's allowed a weight of moral authority and integrity. She's never just a caricature of parental obtuseness. In fact, Crowe bookends the film with two moral arbiters. Philip Seymour Hoffman is froggy-voiced perfection as the late rock critic Lester Bangs, who becomes Billy's mentor, keeps reminding him that being uncool is a badge of integrity, and warns him to remember that the musicians he writes about are not his friends. "Of course I'm home on a Saturday night, listening to records," he says when Billy phones from the road in crisis, "I'm not cool." Sure enough, the band seduces Billy, visions of Rolling Stone covers dancing in their heads. Still, Russell comes out from under his halo of self-regard long enough to observe that the precocious Billy is "taking notes with his eyes." Fugit is best when he acts with eyes that seem ever ready to jump-start a puppy-like smile on Billy's blank tablet of a moon face. Sometimes his glances are linked to Billy's ardent wish to put pubescent virginity behind him forever. Not that the light in Billy's eyes doesn't evaporate instantly when the phone rings and it's his editor, demanding to see copy he hasn't even begun to write. By the time he made this film, Crowe had become a writer and director of finesse, knowing what not to try and put into words. Almost Famous is tender yet confident Hollywood craftsmanship, brimming over with feeling, texture, spirit and several kinds of the keenness that transmute experience and autobiography into big pop myth. It's a sunny convergence of yes-vibes, with a heart as big as a tour bus. Producers: Ian Bryce, Cameron Crowe Director: Cameron Crowe Screenplay: Cameron Crowe Cinematography: John Toll Art Direction: Clay A. Griffith, Clayton Hartley, Virginia L. Randolph Music: Nancy Wilson Film Editing: Joe Hutshing, Saar Klein Cast: Billy Crudup (Russell Hammond), Frances McDormand (Elaine Miller), Kate Hudson (Penny Lane), Jason Lee (Jeff Bebe), Patrick Fugit (William Miller), Zooey Deschanel (Anita Miller), Michael Angarano (Young William), Fairuza Balk (Sapphire), Noah Taylor (Dick Roswell), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lester Bangs), Jimmy Fallon (Dennis Hope), Bijou Phillips (Estrella Starr). C-123m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. by Jay Carr

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

During most of the film's ninety-two days of production, the working title of the film was the Untitled Cameron Crowe Project. Crowe and his colleagues later used and rejected The Uncool, Something Real, My Back Pages and Stillwater, before settling on the final title, Almost Famous, a few weeks before the trailers were scheduled to play in theaters. End credits include a "special thanks" to director Lawrence Kasdan. The order of the opening cast credits, which does not list character names, differs slightly from the end credits. Actors playing members of the fictional musical group "Stillwater" are credited twice in the end credits, first, as separate cast members and later in the production credits as: "Stillwater is Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, John Fedevich, Mark Kozelek." According to the end credits, the film A Foreign Affair (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50) appeared courtesy of Universal Studios, Inc. and the television show, The Midnight Special, courtesy of Burt Sugarman, Inc.
       Although many of the names have been changed, Almost Famous is a semi-autobiography of producer-director-writer Cameron Crowe, who carefully detailed events in his life relating to the 1970s rock music scene through the eyes of his film alter ego, "William Miller." As depicted in the film, Crowe's intellectual and individualistic mother Alice, a college psychology professor who raised two children alone after the death of her husband, nurtured Crowe's precociousness, but her strong personality estranged her daughter Cindy. According to an August 2000 Los Angeles Times article, Crowe was writing rock and roll reviews for the underground San Diego newspaper the Door before he could drive.
       To do interviews in Los Angeles, Crowe often hitched rides with the paper's editor, Bill Maguire, for whom he later named the title character in his 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The Time review reported that Crowe skipped three grades and graduated from high school at the age of fifteen. As depicted in the film, the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs became Crowe's mentor after seeing Crowe's writing samples, and gave him assignments for Creem magazine.
       As in the film, his work published in Creem attracted the interest of editors at Rolling Stone, for which he began writing in 1973, according to the Hollywood Reporter review. At the age of eighteen, Crowe attracted attention with an autobiographical Rolling Stone story about how he learned about sex, but by the age of twenty-one, his career with the magazine had faded. He re-emerged from a career slump in the early 1980s by writing the successful book and screenplay Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which led to a career as writer-director of several films, among them the 1989 production Say Anything, Jerry Maguire (1996) and most recently, Vanilla Sky (2001), starring Tom Cruise.
       Besides Bangs, who died in 1982 at the age of 33, Ben Fong-Torres, the Rolling Stone music editor depicted in the film, is also a real person. Jann Wenner, the former Rolling Stone editor, is portrayed by actor Eion Bailey, but according to the Los Angeles Times review, the real Wenner appears in the film in a cameo as a cab passenger. According to the Time review, the character "Penny Lane," whom Crowe described as a "mythical creature," was a composite of Shirley MacLaine's character "Fran Kubelik" in the 1960 United Artists film The Apartment, Audrey Hepburn's "Holly Golightly" from Paramount's 1961 Breakfast at Tiffany's (see entries below) and several rock band groupies. However, the main inspiration and namesake of the film character, according to a September 2000 Time article, was a teenager Crowe met in 1973, who adopted the alias "Pennie Lane" and led a group of band followers called "the Flying Garter Girls." Lane, whose first name was altered slightly for the film, came to Los Angeles from Portland, OR to be with a musician in the rock band Steppenwolf. At the age of twenty-one, she left the rock music scene, later earned an M.B.A. and now, still using her former pseudonym, owns a successful marketing firm, according to an April 2001 Los Angeles Times news item.
       In a September 2001 Hollywood Reporter article, Crowe described "Stillwater" as an amalgam of the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin and The Who. In an August 2000 Los Angeles Times article, Crowe stated that the rivalry between the film's "Russell Hammond" and "Jeff Bebe" was based on the relationship between Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page. Most of the fifty songs heard in the film are vintage 1970s tunes. According to an October 2000 Los Angeles Times article, rights and permissions added $3.5 million to the film's budget. However, the handful of songs performed by Stillwater were written for the film and, according to an August 2000 Los Angeles Times article, performed for the recording by Marti Fredericksen, Mike McCready and Ben Smith on vocals, lead guitar and drums, respectively. Legendary rock musician Peter Frampton, who served as the film's technical advisor and appeared in a small role, wrote two of the Stillwater songs with Wayne Kirkpatrick and Gordon Kennedy. Crowe, with his wife Nancy Wilson and her sister Ann, both members of the rock group "Heart," wrote other songs performed by Stillwater, but are credited onscreen under the pseudonym, Hammond and Bebe, the characters in the film.
       According to an August 2000 Los Angeles Times news item and the Daily Variety and Rolling Stone reviews, Brad Pitt was originally intended for the role of "Russell Hammond." A December 2000 Entertainment Weekly news item noted that Kate Hudson was originally cast as William's sister, "Anita," and an August 2000 Los Angeles Times article stated that Sarah Polley was cast as "Pennie Lane," until a filming delay caused her to leave during pre-production. Later, pleased with Hudson's performance as the groupie, Crowe compared the actresses' styles in the Time review, saying that Polley "is like a Bob Dylan song, more `60s than `70s," while Hudson "is Zeppelin." Before Frances McDormand was cast as "Elaine Miller," Rita Wilson was considered, according to the Los Angeles Times article, and the Time review reported that Meryl Streep turned down the role. Almost Famous marked the film debut of teenager Patrick Fugit, who, during production, took correspondence classes to satisfy requirements for high school graduation. Over the four-and-a-half months of shooting, his voice changed and he grew three inches, surpassing his co-star Crudup in height, who then wore platform shoes to maintain continuity in the film.
       An August 2000 Los Angeles Times article, stated that Lee, Crudup, Kozelek and Fedevich were tutored in a nightly "rock and roll school" taught by Frampton, after each day's shooting. Following weeks of rehearsal, according to the article, the "band" gave a concert at the San Diego Sports Arena for 200 extras, portions of which appear in the film. The scene recreating a concert in Cleveland was shot at the Hollywood Palladium.
       According to an October 2000 Los Angeles Times article, an exact replica of the old Rolling Stone offices in San Francisco were built for the film, but Fong-Torres, who visited the set, was reported by an October 2000 Premiere article to have said that the real offices were not as "dark and hippie-ish." The Beverly Hills High School gymnasium, which is the home of the swimming pool featured in Frank Capra's 1947 RKO production It's a Wonderful Life (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50), was a location for one scene in Almost Famous, according to an August 1999 Daily Variety news item.
       Portions of the film were also shot in Sacramento and New York, according to an October 2000 ^US Weekly . The bus scene, in which the group sings Elton John's 1971 "Tiny Dancer" along with the radio was shot in the Mojave Desert, according to US. Scenes depicting the Continental Hyatt House on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, were filmed at the actual hotel, which is now called Hyatt House Hotel, but was nicknamed "Riot House" in the 1970s because of the notorious behavior of the touring rock bands who stayed there. A real-life meeting between Crowe and Bangs was recreated almost verbatim, according to a June 2000 Entertainment Weekly article, in a scene shot at the Sun Café near Seventh and Ash in San Diego, around the corner from the site of the original diner, where the meeting actually took place in 1973.
       Although the New York Times review lists the duration of the film as 202 minutes, the reviewer also explains that, before the film's release, it was cut by forty minutes, and later reviews lists the playing time as 122 minutes.
       According to a September 2000 Hollywood Reporter interview, Crowe claimed that François Truffaut's 1969 film Stolen Kisses, and the 1967 Richard Leacock-Don Alan Pennebaker documentary about Bob Dylan titled Don't Look Back (see entries in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70) influenced his vision of Almost Famous, and he made a passing reference to them in an early scene of the film, when Elaine and William walk past a movie theater marquee advertising them.
       Also honored in the film is director Billy Wilder, whom Crowe befriended while writing the book Conversations with Billy Wilder (New York, 1999). In an October 2000 Screen International article, Crowe pointed out that, during the scenes taking place on the road, a monitor on the bus is playing one of Wilder's film, the 1948 Paramount production Foreign Affair (see entry for film in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Crowe added that the scene in which William keeps Penny alive after she overdoses on drugs is reminiscent of a similar scene featuring the characters "Fran Kubelik" and "Calvin Baxter" in The Apartment (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1951-60). In addition, Crowe said that Penny's lime green coat is an homage to Fran Kubelik's coat, which was also lime green, according to Wilder, although it was filmed in black and white.
       Almost Famous was selected as one of AFI's Top Ten Films of 2000, and Crowe won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Both McDormand and Hudson were nominated the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Joe Hutshing and Saar Klein were nominated as a team for Achievement in Film Editing. The film also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Musical/Comedy and a nomination for Best Screenplay. McDormand was nominated for, and Hudson won, the Golden Globe's Best Supporting Actress award. In addition, McDormand was honored by Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Broadcast and Film Critics Association for Best Supporting Actress.
       Despite its critical success, an October 2000 Los Angeles Times article reported that the movie "failed to find an audience." Several New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles tried to analyze why, in the first months after its release, the film recouped less than half of the approximately $60 million that most sources reported it cost to make. A slowdown in general movie attendance, the film's lack of major stars, marketing strategies, the public's skepticism toward critics and the film's many new and unknown reviewers are some of the theories considered and refuted in the articles. Another reason suggested for the film's lack of box office success concerned the R rating, which prevented the attendance of most under-seventeen-year-olds, who might otherwise have been attracted by the young Fugit. The Los Angeles Times article reported an observation of some industry members that the era and music of the 1970s appealed to a narrow demographic of over-thirty and under-fifty-year viewers and had little "emotional relevance" to other "moviegoing sectors." Weeks before the film opened, DreamWorks stuck a multi-film deal with Sony Pictures, terms of which gave the latter international distribution rights to Almost Famous.
       At least as early as the September 2000 Hollywood Reporter interview, Crowe, with the support of DreamWorks, was planning a special DVD containing an uncut version of the film, which restored forty minutes to the film. In a September 2001 Hollywood Reporter article, Crowe emphasized that the DVD is not a "director's cut," which he claims exists as the film's theatrical version. Called Untitled: The Bootleg Cut, the three disk set contains the original theatrical version, the uncut version and a CD of six tunes written for the film and performed by Stillwater. Crowe said that, in the `Bootleg Cut,' you feel much more like you're on tour with the band" and that "the world of drugs and sex, a cliché of the era," is explored. One added scene features Kyle Gass, a musician from the band "Tenacious D," who plays a radio disc jockey high on drugs. The set, which was edited at the same time Crowe's film Vanilla Sky was in postproduction, also contains commentary provided by Crowe and his mother.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall September 13, 2000

Limited Release in United States September 15, 2000

Expanded Release in United States September 22, 2000

Expanded Release in United States September 29, 2000

Released in United States on Video March 13, 2001

Released in United States November 2000 (Shown at London Film Festival (Opening night) November 1-16, 2000.)

Nominated for the 2000 Award for Best Production Design in a Feature Film - Contemporary from the Society of Motion Picture & Television Art Directors/ Art Directors Guild (ADG).

Nominated for the 2000 award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen from the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Nominated for the 2000 award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America (DGA).

Nominated for the 2000 Golden Laurel Award for Best Motion Picture from the Producers Guild of America (PGA).

Nominated for three 2000 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, including Best Supporting Actress (Kate Hudson), Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand) and Best Ensemble Cast.

Voted one of the 10 best films of 2000 by the American Film Institute (AFI).

Winner of five 2000 awards, including Best Film, Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Kate Hudson), Best Screenplay, and co-winner of Best Ensemble along with "State and Main" (2000/USA) from the Online Film Critics Society.

Winner of four 2000 awards, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Kate Hudson) and Most Promising Actor (Patrick Fugit), from the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Winner of the 2000 Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature - Comedy or Musical, from the American Cinema Editors (ACE).

Winner of the 2000 Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing for Music in a Musical Feature Film by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).

Winner of the 2000 Golden Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress - Comedy or Musical (Kate Hudson), from the International Press Academy.

Winner of three 2000 awards, including Best Film, Best Director and co-winner of Best Screenplay with "Wonder Boys" (USA/2000), from the Boston Society of Film Critics.

Winner of three 2000 awards, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Breakthrough Performance (Kate Hudson) and co-winner of Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand) together with her performance in "Wonder Boys" (USA/2000), from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Also nominated for the award for Best Picture.

Released in United States Fall September 13, 2000

Limited Release in United States September 15, 2000

Expanded Release in United States September 22, 2000

Expanded Release in United States September 29, 2000

Released in United States on Video March 13, 2001

Released in United States November 2000

Shown at London Film Festival (Opening night) November 1-16, 2000.

Project based on Cameron Crowe's experiences as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone magazine.

Project previously in development at 20th Century Fox.

Began shooting May 24, 1999.

Completed shooting October 5, 1999.

Songs featured have been written by Peter Frampton and Nancy Wilson of the rock band Heart.

Nominated for the 2000 Award for Best Costume Design in a Feature Film - Period/Fantasy from the Costume Designers Guild (CDG).