Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Cameron Crowe|
|Produced by||Cameron Crowe
|Written by||Cameron Crowe|
Philip Seymour Hoffman
|Music by||Nancy Wilson|
|Edited by||Joe Hutshing
|September 13, 2000|
Almost Famous is a 2000 comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit. It tells the fictional story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s while covering the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published. The film is semi-autobiographical, as Crowe himself was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone.
The film is based on Crowe's experiences touring with rock bands Poco, The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Crowe has discussed how during this period he lost his virginity, fell in love, and met his heroes — experiences that are shared by William Miller, the baby-faced main character of the film.
Despite being a box office failure, the film received positive reviews. It received four Oscar nominations, one of which led to an award to Crowe for his screenplay. It was also awarded the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. Roger Ebert hailed it the best film of the year. It also won two Golden Globes, for Best Picture and Kate Hudson won Best Supporting Actress.
In 1973, William Miller (Patrick Fugit), is a 15-year-old boy aspiring to be a rock journalist. His mother, Elaine (Frances McDormand), wants him to become a lawyer. Shunned by his classmates, he writes for underground papers in San Diego, sharing the love of rock music instilled in him through a gift of albums left behind on the day his sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) left home.
William listens to an interview with rock journalist Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman). William has sent Bangs copies of his work, and Bangs gives William a $35 assignment to write up a review of a Black Sabbath concert. At first reluctant to assist a journalist, the band Stillwater eventually brings William backstage after he verbally praises their work. The guitarist, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), takes a liking to William, partly because of William's friendship with a groupie he has romantic feelings for, Penny (Kate Hudson).
William goes with Penny to the "Riot House" – the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard - to meet Stillwater. Penny, feigning retirement from her rock glory days, acts as William's chauffeur, but only to get close to Russell, for whom she has genuine feelings and a past relationship.
William is called by Ben Fong-Torres (Terry Chen), editor of Rolling Stone, who wants him to do a story for their magazine. William deepens his voice on the phone, as Ben believes William is several years older than he really is. When William convinces Ben to let him do a story on Stillwater, he is instructed to go on the road with them.
On the first leg of the trip, William makes his first in an increasingly frustrating number of attempts to interview Russell. Penny watches the interaction and sympathizes with William. William experiences tensions with the band due to his role as a journalist.
In Topeka, Kansas, a t-shirt showing Russell in focus with the rest of the band out of focus sparks an argument between Jeff, the band's lead singer, and Russell.
A new manager, Dennis (Jimmy Fallon), comes on board to help steer the band, and it is revealed that Penny must leave the tour before New York, where Leslie, Russell's ex-wife/girlfriend, will join them. During a poker game he allows Dick to put up the groupies as a stake. The band loses the groupies to the band Humble Pie for $50 and a case of Heineken. When William tells Penny, she acts nonchalant but is devastated. Penny and Doris, the band's tour bus, are left behind; Dennis has piled the band into a plane for more gigs.
Penny goes to New York on her own, and as the band gathers in a restaurant with Russell's girlfriend, Penny shows up. As they celebrate making the cover of Rolling Stone, Penny makes Leslie uncomfortable and Dick asks her to leave. William chases Penny back to her hotel and finds her overdosed on quaaludes.
Believing they will die during an intense plane ride, the group confesses their secrets. When Penny is insulted by Jeff, William defends her and discloses his love. The plane lands safely, leaving everyone to ponder the changed atmosphere.
William must continue on to San Francisco to finish the story, and so he parts ways with the band in the airport. Upset about Penny, he rewrites the article, telling the truth. The Rolling Stone editors can't wait to publish it, but have to ask the band to verify it. Fearful of how the article will affect their image, the band denies everything, making William look like a liar. William is crushed and the story is dead. Sitting dejected in the airport, he sees his sister, who has become a stewardess and lives on her own terms. She tells him they should go on a trip together and, exhausted, William chooses to go home to San Diego.
Backstage at the Miami Orange Bowl on the Stillwater tour, Sapphire talks to Russell about Penny's near-suicide and how despite the warnings she received about letting people fall in love with her, one of them saved her life. Russell is curious about the person in question, but Sapphire chastises him, saying that everyone knows what the band did to William and how awful they think it is. Russell calls Penny and asks for her address, telling her he wants to meet. Unbeknown to Russell, she gives him William's address in an attempt to solve the conflict between them. Russell goes to the house, thinking it is Penny's, but finds Elaine instead. Learning who he is, she lets him in to see William as Russell realizes where he is. They reconcile and Russell reveals that he called Rolling Stone and told them William's story is true. As the film ends, Russell finally gives William a proper interview, Penny is seen purchasing a ticket to Morocco, and William's story ends up being published, with Stillwater on the cover of "Rolling Stone".
- Patrick Fugit as William Miller
- Michael Angarano as Young William
- Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond
- Frances McDormand as Elaine Miller
- Kate Hudson as Penny Lane
- Jason Lee as Jeff Bebe
- Zooey Deschanel as Anita Miller
- Anna Paquin as Polexia Aphrodisia
- Fairuza Balk as Sapphire
- Bijou Phillips as Estrella Starr
- Noah Taylor as Dick Roswell
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs
- Terry Chen as Ben Fong-Torres
- Jay Baruchel as Vic Munoz
- Jimmy Fallon as Dennis Hope
- Rainn Wilson as David Felton
- Mark Kozelek as Larry Fellows
- Liz Stauber as Leslie Hammond
- John Fedevich as Ed Vallencourt
- Eric Stonestreet as Sheldon the Desk Clerk
Digging into his most personal memories, Crowe used a composite of the bands he had known to come up with Stillwater, the emerging act that welcomes the young journalist into its sphere, then becomes wary of his intentions. Seventies rocker Peter Frampton served as a technical consultant on the film. Crowe and his then-wife, musician Nancy Wilson of Heart, co-wrote three of the five Stillwater songs in the film, and Frampton wrote the other two, with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam playing lead guitar on all of the Stillwater songs.
Crowe developed the groupie character Penny Lane as a composite of a handful of girls he saw backstage in the late 1960s and early 1970s at concerts calling themselves the "Flying Garter Girls". The girls went by the nicknames Marvelous Meg, Sexy Sandy, the Real Camille, Miss Julia and Pennie Lane. The real name of the latter is Pennie Trumbull, born in Portland, Oregon, in 1954. Though they were not in the Flying Garter Girls group, various other women have been described as Crowe's inspiration, for instance Pamela Des Barres and Bebe Buell.
The character of William Miller's mother (played by Frances McDormand) was based on Crowe's own mother, who even showed up on the set to keep an eye on him while he worked. Though he asked his mother not to bother McDormand, the two women ended up getting along well.
Crowe took a copy of the film to London for a special screening with Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. After the screening, Led Zeppelin granted Crowe the right to use one of their songs on the soundtrack — the first time they had ever consented to this since allowing Crowe to use "Kashmir" in Fast Times at Ridgemont High — and also gave him rights to four of their other songs in the movie itself, although they did not grant him the rights to "Stairway to Heaven" for an intended scene (on the special "Bootleg" edition DVD, the scene is included as an extra, sans the song, where the viewer is instructed by a watermark to begin playing it).
The Almost Famous soundtrack album was awarded the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.
- Billy Crudup ("Russell Hammond") - lead guitar
- Jason Lee ("Jeff Bebe") - lead singer
- John Fedevich ("Ed Vallencourt") - drums
- Mark Kozelek ("Larry Fellows") - bass guitar
Almost Famous had its premiere at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival. It was subsequently given a limited release on September 15, 2000, in 131 theaters where it grossed $2.3 million on its first weekend. It was given a wider release on September 22, 2000, in 1,193 theaters where it grossed $6.9 million on its opening weekend. The film went on to make $32.5 million in North America and $14.8 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $47,383,689, well below its $60 million budget.
Almost Famous was very well-received by critics who gave it predominantly positive reviews. The film has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 90 metascore on Metacritic. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and praised it for being "funny and touching in so many different ways". In his review for The New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote, "The movie's real pleasures are to be found not in its story but in its profusion of funny, offbeat scenes. It's the kind of picture that invites you to go back and savor your favorite moments like choice album cuts". Time magazine's Richard Corliss praised the film's screenplay for "giving each character his reasons, making everyone in the emotional debate charming and compelling, creating fictional people who breathe in a story with an organic life". In her review for the L.A. Weekly, Manohla Dargis wrote that "the film shimmers with the irresistible pleasures that define Hollywood at its best - it's polished like glass, funny, knowing and bright, and filled with characters whose lives are invariably sexier and more purposeful than our own". Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "Not since A Hard Day's Night has a movie caught the thrumming exuberance of going where the music takes you". In his review for Newsweek, David Ansen wrote, "Character-driven, it relies on chemistry, camaraderie, a sharp eye for detail and good casting". Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, " Every Cameron Crowe film is, in one way or another, about romance, rock & roll, and his romance with rock & roll. This power ballad of a movie, from 2000, also happens to be Crowe's greatest (and most personal) film thanks to the golden gods of Stillwater and their biggest fan, Kate Hudson's incomparable Penny Lane."
Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating and Owen Gleiberman praised Crowe for depicting the 1970s as "an era that found its purpose in having no purpose. Crowe, staying close to his memories, has gotten it, for perhaps the first time, onto the screen". In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan praised Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of Lester Bangs: "Superbly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, more and more the most gifted and inspired character actor working in film, what could have been the cliched portrait of an older mentor who speaks the straight truth blossoms into a marvelous personality". However, in his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris felt that "none of the non-musical components on the screen matched the excitement of the music. For whatever reason, too much of the dark side has been left out". Desson Howe, in his review for the Washington Post, found it "very hard to see these long-haired kids as products of the 1970s instead of dressed up actors from the Seattle-Starbucks era. I couldn't help wondering how many of these performers had to buy a CD copy of the song and study it for the first time".
Awards and nominations
- "Almost Famous (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- "Biography," The Uncool: The Official Website for Everything Cameron Crowe. Accessed Dec. 14, 2014.
- Ammann, Ana (September 7, 2012). "Will the real Penny Lane please stand up?". Oregon Music News.
- Lecaro, Lina (December 15, 2010). "Zooey Deschanel to Play Original '60s Groupie Pamela "I'm With the Band" Des Barres in HBO Series (NSFW)". LA Weekly.
- "Wild Things: Cameron Crowe and Bebe Buell". Talk. March 2001.
- Goldstein, Patrick. "This Time, It’s Personal A ’70s rock film co-starring . . . Mom? It’s Cameron Crowe’s life story, and he’s tried to tell it for years," Los Angeles Times (August 27, 2000). Archie on The Uncool.com.
- Kehr, Dave (August 25, 2000). "Organic Growth In Toronto". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- "Almost Famous". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- "Almost Famous (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- "Almost Famous Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- Ebert, Roger (September 15, 2000). "Almost Famous". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Scott, A.O (September 15, 2000). "Almost Famous". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Corliss, Richard (September 10, 2000). "Absolutely Fabulous". Time. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Dargis, Manohla (September 21, 2000). "Gonna Make You Groove". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Travers, Peter (December 10, 2000). "Almost Famous". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Ansen, David (September 18, 2000). "He's With The Band". Newsweek. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (December 11, 2009), "The 100 Greatest Movies, Tv Shows, Albums, Books, Characters, Scenes, Episodes, Songs, Dresses, Music Videos, And Trends That Entertained Us Over The Past 10 Years". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
- Gleiberman, Owen (September 15, 2000). "Almost Famous". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Turan, Kenneth (September 13, 2000). "Almost Famous". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-03-31.[dead link]
- Sarris, Andrew (September 17, 2000). "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll-Where Are the Sex and Drugs?". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
- Howe, Desson (September 22, 2000). "Almost Poignant". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
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