BSP Episode 225: Almost Famous
Part 2 of our 5 part Rock ‘n Roll series
Release date: 9/15/2000
DreamWorks and Columbia Pictures
Directed and Written by Cameron Crowe
Produced by Cameron Crowe
Billy Crudup Russell Hammond
Frances McDormand Elaine Miller
Initial comments by the hosts:
Before discussion of the movie began, the hosts talked about how difficult it was to find Almost Famous in streaming form. It’s available for rental, and even that is limited, and the movie is also broken up into 12 parts on You Tube.
This is a semi-autobiographical movie of how Cameron Crowe got his start and you really get the sense that this movie feels a biopic, even though it’s a fictional story. Darrell points out that there are lots of little inside jokes in the movie (some of these will be listed at the end of the notes). Darrell thought it was funny that, only in the 1970’s, could a 14 year-old boy get a job with Rolling Stone Magazine, go on tour with a band and his mother does NOT completely freak out over this.
Lena (from the chat room – watcher of the You Tube version) noted that it was nice to be reminded that Kate Hudson is actually talented.
Tony thought Frances McDormand was fantastic; her character was a force in this movie. He also was impressed with the acting talent throughout the movie, not only of the main stars but also of the background/secondary characters, such as Fairuza Balk and Anna Paquin (The Band Aids), Zooey Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, to name just a few. Every character had a distinct voice and Crowe did a very good job at capturing and realizing these different people.
Billy Crudup did a very good job at portraying Russell Hammond, the lead guitarist of Stillwater, who struggles through his ascent from musician in an up and coming band to a Rock God.
Two of the favorite “quirks” of controlling single mom Elaine Miller (McDormand) was her referring to Simon and Garfunkel as the devil’s music and her making her kids celebrate Christmas in September, “when it’s not commercial.”
Jason Lee was good at portraying Jeff Bebe as the leader of Stillwater, both insecure and someone who knows what to look for, what can (and eventually does) cause a rift in the band.
Patrick Fugit, as William (Billy) Miller, was able to capture the innocence of a teenager in the 70s, the excitement of a fan travelling with a band and the eye-opening breaking through from adolescence to adulthood as he begins to see what life is really like outside of the world his mother created for him.
The critical scene, near the end of the movie, shows not only the band members crumbling under the threat of their plane crashing, but also Billy Miller’s transformation from boy to man when he confronts the band about how they treat their fans… specifically their biggest fan, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).
Trivia notes for this movie (this is only a small selection):
This film was Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical account of life as a young Rolling Stone reporter. The actual group that Crowe first toured with was The Allman Brothers Band (Gregg Allman kept asking him if he was a narc). The near-fatal plane crash happened while traveling with The Who, and the character of Russell Hammond is based on Glenn Frey (Eagles).
The roles of Russell Hammond and Penny Lane were originally offered to Brad Pitt and Sarah Polley. Polley dropped out to work on her own project, and Pitt worked with Crowe for months before finally admitting, according to Crowe, “I just don’t get it enough to do it.” Kate Hudson, who took over the role of Penny Lane, had been originally cast as William’s sister.
Crowe wrote the liner notes (at age 18) to the “Frampton Comes Alive!”, and Peter Frampton returned the favor by acting as a music consultant for the film.
Frampton taught Billy Crudup how to play the guitar for the concert scenes.
Stillwater’s songs were written by Frampton, Crowe and Nancy Wilson (Crowe’s wife and member of the band Heart). This was mentioned early in the credits, although the music acknowledgments credit Russell Hammond and Stillwater as if they were real authors/performers.
Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) provided the guitar track for Stillwater’s songs.
Not only did Patrick Fugit’s voice break during filming, but he also grew three inches, forcing Billy Crudup to wear platform shoes.
Your Producers for this episode were:
This episode was recorded: 4/4/2012
Note: Six years ago today, we released the first episode of Fanboy Smackdown… which became Back Seat Producers. Thanks for 6 great years. Let’s ROCK!