Almost Famous

Last updated
Almost Famous
Almost famous poster1.jpg
North American theatrical release poster
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Produced byCameron Crowe
Ian Bryce
Written byCameron Crowe
Starring
Music by Nancy Wilson
Cinematography John Toll
Edited by Joe Hutshing
Saar Klein
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
  • September 8, 2000 (2000-09-08)(TIFF)
  • September 22, 2000 (2000-09-22)(United States)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$60 million [1]
Box office$47.4 million [1]

Almost Famous is a 2000 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit. It tells the story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone in the early 1970s, his touring with the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published.

Contents

The film is semi-autobiographical, as Crowe himself was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. It is based on his 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 musical heroes—these events represented in the film as happening to William Miller (Fugit), the boyish main character. [2]

The film received widespread acclaim from critics and received four Academy Awards nominations, including a win for Best Original 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 as well as the ninth-best film of the 2000s. It also won two Golden Globe Awards, for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (Hudson). In a 2016 international poll conducted by BBC, Almost Famous was ranked the 79th greatest film since 2000. [3] In a Hollywood Reporter 2014 list voted on by "studio chiefs, Oscar winners and TV royalty", Almost Famous was ranked the 71st greatest film of all time. [4]

Plot

In 1969, child prodigy William Miller struggles to fit in. His life is further complicated after learning that his widowed college-professor mother Elaine has falsely led him to believe he is twelve years old. William is actually eleven, having started the first grade at five years old, and skipping fifth grade. Strong-willed Elaine's strict ban on rock music and her fear of pop culture have a negative effect on her children finally drives William's eighteen-year-old sister Anita to move to San Francisco and become a flight attendant.

In 1973, William, now fifteen, influenced by Anita's secret cache of rock albums, aspires to be a rock journalist, writing freelance articles for underground papers in San Diego. Rock journalist Lester Bangs, impressed with William's writing, gives him a $35 assignment to review a Black Sabbath concert. William is barred from backstage until the opening band Stillwater arrives and William flatters his way in. Lead guitarist Russell Hammond takes a liking to him and his new acquaintance, veteran groupie Penny Lane, who has taken William under her wing. Despite behaving as stereotypical groupies, Penny Lane insists she and her friends are "band aids", a term she invented to describe female fans that are there more for the music than for the rock stars themselves.

Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres, believing William is older, hires him sight unseen to write an article about Stillwater and sends William on the road with the band. William interviews the other band members, but Russell repeatedly puts him off. Tensions between Russell and lead singer Jeff Bebe soon become evident and not helped at all by the band's first tee shirt, a full band shot that pictures Russell in full view while the rest of the band is virtually in shadows. William is jokingly called "the enemy" by the band because he is a journalist, but all the same begins to lose his objectivity as he becomes integrated into their inner circle.

The band's record company hires Dennis, a professional manager, to handle problems with venues and promoters. Penny has to leave before the band reaches New York, where Russell's girlfriend Leslie will join them. Penny and her three protégée band aids are gambled away to another band in a poker game; Penny acts nonchalant but is devastated. Meanwhile, Dennis charters a small plane so the band can play more gigs.

Penny shows up uninvited at the New York restaurant where the band is celebrating the news that they are to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. Penny is asked to leave after Leslie notices her attempts to get Russell's attention. William chases her to her hotel, where he saves her from overdosing on quaaludes.

While flying to another gig the following day, the band's plane encounters severe weather. Believing the plane will crash, everyone confesses their secrets, while Jeff and Russell's long-simmering conflicts erupt. William confesses his love for Penny after Jeff insults her. The plane lands safely in Tupelo, leaving everyone to ponder the changed atmosphere.

William arrives at the Rolling Stone office in San Francisco but has difficulty finishing the article. Seeking help, he calls Lester Bangs who says William got caught up in being part of the band. He says William's perceived friendships with them are not real and advises him to "be honest...and unmerciful." Rolling Stone's editors rave over William's completed article, but when the magazine's fact checker calls the band, Russell lies to protect Stillwater's image and claims most of it is false. Rolling Stone kills the article, crushing William. Anita encounters a dejected William in the airport and offers to take him anywhere; he chooses for them to go to their home in San Diego.

"Band aid" Sapphire chastises Russell for betraying William. Russell calls Penny at her home and wants to meet with her, but she tricks him by giving him William's address. He arrives and finds himself face-to-face with William's mother, who earlier during the tour scolded him over the phone for his behavior. Russell apologizes to William and finally gives him an interview. Russell has verified William's article to Rolling Stone, which runs it as a cover feature. Penny fulfills her long-standing fantasy to go to Morocco while Stillwater tours again by bus.

Cast

Production

Crowe used a composite of the bands he had known to create Stillwater, the emerging group that welcomes the young journalist into its sphere, then becomes wary of his intentions. "Stillwater" was the name of a real band signed to Macon, Georgia's Capricorn Records label, which required the film's producers to obtain permission to use the name. In an interview, real Stillwater guitarist Bobby Golden said, "They could have probably done it without permission but they probably would have had a bunch of different lawsuits. Our lawyer got in touch with them. They wanted us to do it for free and I said, 'No we're not doing it for free.' So we got a little bit of change out of it." [5] 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.

The character of Russell Hammond was originally set to be played by Brad Pitt. But during rehearsal prior to filming, Crowe and Pitt mutually decided that it was “not the right fit”, and Pitt dropped out of the project. The line “I am a Golden God!” in the pool-jumping sequence, as well as numerous references to Russell Hammond being unusually good looking, were written for Pitt, but remained in the script after Billy Crudup was cast. [6] [7]

Crowe based the character of Penny Lane on the real-life Pennie Lane Trumbull and her group of female promoters who called themselves the "Flying Garter Girls Group". [8] 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 [9] and Bebe Buell. [10]

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. [11]

Alice in Chains' guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell was Crowe's first choice for the role of Stillwater bass player Larry Fellows. Cantrell is friends with Crowe and had previously appeared in two films directed by him, Singles (1992) and Jerry Maguire (1996). Cantrell was busy writing the songs for his solo album Degradation Trip and had to turn the role down. Mark Kozelek was cast instead. [12]

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).

In his 2012 memoir My Cross to Bear, Gregg Allman confirms that several aspects of the movie are directly based on Crowe's time spent with the Allman Brothers Band. The scene in which Russell jumps from the top of the Topeka party house into a pool was based on something Duane Allman did: "the jumping off the roof into the pool, that was Duane—from the third floor of a place called the Travelodge in San Francisco. My brother wanted to do it again, but the cat who owned the place came out shaking his fist, yelling at him. We told that story all the time, and I have no doubt that Cameron was around for it." He also confirms that he and Dickey Betts played a joke on Crowe by claiming clauses in their contract did not allow his story to be published—just before he was to deliver it to Rolling Stone. [13]

The airplane malfunction "near Tupelo, Mississippi" that occurred in the film is a thinly veiled reference to the Lynyrd Skynyrd airplane crash on October 20, 1977.

Soundtrack

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.

Personnel

"Stillwater"

Other personnel

Reception

Box office

Almost Famous had its premiere at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival. [14] 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 $31.7 million in North America and $14.8 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $47.4 million against a $60 million budget. [15]

Critical response

Almost Famous received widespread critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes it holds an 89% approval rating, based on 169 reviews, with an average rating of 7.93/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Almost Famous, with its great ensemble performances and story, is a well-crafted, warm-hearted movie that successfully draws you into its era." [16] On Metacritic it has a score of 90 out of 100, based on 38 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim." [17]

Kate Hudson (8033413872) (cropped).jpg
Frances McDormand 2015 (cropped).jpg
The performances of Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand garnered critical acclaim and were nominated for Academy Awards.

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and described it as "funny and touching in so many different ways." [18] 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." [19] Richard Corliss of Time 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." [20] 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." [21] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "Not since A Hard Day's Night has a movie caught the thrumming exuberance of going where the music takes you." [22] In his review for Newsweek , David Ansen wrote, "Character-driven, it relies on chemistry, camaraderie, a sharp eye for detail and good casting." [23] 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." [24]

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." [25] 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 clichéd portrait of an older mentor who speaks the straight truth blossoms into a marvelous personality." [26] 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." [27] 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." [28]

Accolades

Related Research Articles

The Allman Brothers Band American rock band

The Allman Brothers Band were an American rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1969 by brothers Duane Allman and Gregg Allman, as well as Dickey Betts, Berry Oakley, Butch Trucks (drums), and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums). Subsequently, based in Macon, Georgia, the band incorporated elements of blues, jazz, and country music, and their live shows featured jam band-style improvisation and instrumentals.

Southern rock is a subgenre of rock music and a genre of Americana. It developed in the Southern United States from rock and roll, country music, and blues and is focused generally on electric guitars and vocals. Author Scott B. Bomar speculates the term "southern rock" may have been coined in 1972 by Mo Slotin, writing for Atlanta's underground paper, The Great Speckled Bird, in a review of an Allman Brothers Band concert.

Derek and the Dominos English–American blues-rock band 1970–1971

Derek and the Dominos was an English–American blues-rock band formed in the spring of 1970 by guitarist and singer Eric Clapton, keyboardist and singer Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon. All four members had previously played together in Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, during and after Clapton's brief tenure with Blind Faith. Dave Mason supplied additional lead guitar on early studio sessions and played at their first live gig. Another participant at their first session as a band was George Harrison, the recording for whose album All Things Must Pass marked the formation of Derek and the Dominos.

Cameron Crowe American writer and film director

Cameron Bruce Crowe is an American director, producer, screenwriter, journalist, author, and actor. Before moving into the film industry, Crowe was a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine, for which he still frequently writes.

Gregg Allman American musician

Gregory LeNoir Allman was an American musician, singer and songwriter. He was known for performing in the Allman Brothers Band. Allman grew up with an interest in rhythm and blues music, and the Allman Brothers Band fused it with rock music, jazz, and country at times. He wrote several of the band's biggest songs, including "Whipping Post", "Melissa", and "Midnight Rider". Allman also had a successful solo career, releasing seven studio albums. He was born and spent much of his childhood in Nashville, Tennessee, before relocating to Daytona Beach, Florida and then Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Layla Song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon

"Layla" is a song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, originally recorded by Derek and the Dominos, as the thirteenth track from their only studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Its contrasting movements were reportedly composed separately by Clapton and Gordon. The piano part has also been controversially credited to Rita Coolidge, Gordon's girlfriend at the time.

Nancy Wilson (rock musician) American rock musician

Nancy Lamoureaux Wilson is an American musician, singer, songwriter, producer, and film composer. She rose to fame alongside her older sister, singer Ann Wilson, as a guitarist and backing vocalist in the rock band Heart.

Billy Crudup American actor

William Gaither Crudup is an American actor. He is a four-time Tony Award nominee, winning once for his performance in Tom Stoppard's play The Coast of Utopia in 2007. He has starred in numerous high-profile films, including Without Limits, Princess Mononoke, Almost Famous, Big Fish, Mission: Impossible III, Watchmen, Public Enemies, Spotlight, Jackie, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Justice League, and Alien: Covenant, in both lead and supporting roles. He has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead for his performance in Jesus' Son, and received two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations as part of an ensemble cast for Almost Famous and Spotlight, winning for the latter.

<i>The Quick and the Dead</i> (1995 film) 1995 film by Sam Raimi

The Quick and the Dead is a 1995 American revisionist Western film directed by Sam Raimi, and starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. The screenplay was written by Simon Moore but includes contributions from Joss Whedon. The story focuses on "The Lady" (Stone), a gunfighter who rides into the frontier town of Redemption, controlled by John Herod (Hackman). The Lady joins a deadly dueling competition in an attempt to exact revenge for her father's death.

Bebe Buell American singer, former fashion model

Beverle Lorence "Bebe" Buell is an American singer and former fashion model. She was Playboy magazine's November 1974 Playmate of the Month. Buell moved to New York in 1972 after signing a modeling contract with Eileen Ford, and garnered notoriety after her publicized relationship with musician Todd Rundgren from 1972 until 1978, as well as her liaisons with several rock musicians over the following four decades. She is the mother of actress Liv Tyler, whose biological father is Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler. Todd Rundgren is Liv's legally adoptive father.

Pamela Des Barres is a rock and roll groupie, writer, musician, and actress. She is best known for her bestselling 1987 memoir, I'm with the Band, which details her experiences in the Los Angeles rock music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. She is also a former member of the experimental Frank Zappa-produced music group the GTOs.

Derek Trucks American guitarist, bandleader and songwriter

Derek Trucks is an American guitarist, songwriter, and founder of the Grammy Award-winning The Derek Trucks Band. He became an official member of The Allman Brothers Band in 1999. In 2010, he formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife, blues singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi. His musical style encompasses several genres and he has twice appeared on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He is the nephew of the late Butch Trucks, drummer for the Allman Brothers.

Dickey Betts American guitarist, singer and songwriter

Forrest Richard "Dickey" Betts is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, and composer best known as a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band.

<i>Burnin Sky</i> 1977 studio album by Bad Company

Burnin' Sky is the fourth studio album by the English rock band Bad Company. It was released on March 3, 1977. Burnin' Sky was recorded in France at Château d'Hérouville in July and August 1976 with future The Rolling Stones engineer Chris Kimsey but its release was delayed until March 1977 as to not compete with the band's then-current album Run with the Pack.

Jessica (instrumental) 1973 single by the Allman Brothers Band

"Jessica" is an instrumental piece by American rock band the Allman Brothers Band, released in December 1973 as the second single from the group's fourth studio album, Brothers and Sisters (1973). Written by guitarist Dickey Betts, the song is a tribute to Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, in that it was designed to be played using only two fingers on the left hand.

The 5th San Diego Film Critics Society Awards, given by the San Diego Film Critics Society on December 20, 2000, honored the best in film for 2000.

The 6th Critics' Choice Awards were presented on January 22, 2001, honoring the finest achievements of 2000 filmmaking.

Beacon Theatre (New York City)

The Beacon Theatre is a historic theater at 2124 Broadway on Broadway in Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City. The 2,894-seat, three-tiered theatre was designed by Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager and opened in 1929 as a movie palace for motion pictures and vaudeville. Today it is one of New York's leading live music and entertainment venues, under the management of the Madison Square Garden Company. The theater was the site of the 2011, 2012, and 2016 Tony Awards.

<i>Almost Famous</i> (soundtrack) 2000 soundtrack album from Almost Famous by Various Artists

Almost Famous is a soundtrack album to the film of the same name, released in 2000. It was awarded the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.

Pennie Ann Trumbull, also known as Pennie Lane, is an American socialite, philanthropist, businesswoman, and entrepreneur. During the 1970s she formed the group The Flying Garter Girls, which traveled around the country as the promoters for famous rock bands. Her time as a band promoter was chronicled in the 2000 film Almost Famous, and she was portrayed by actress Kate Hudson.

References

  1. 1 2 "Almost Famous (2000)". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved September 10, 2009.
  2. "Biography," The Uncool: The Official Website for Everything Cameron Crowe. Accessed Dec. 14, 2014.
  3. "The 21st century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  4. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/100-best-films-ever-hollywood-favorites-818512/item/almost-famous-hollywoods-100-favorite-818448
  5. Golden, Bobby. "Stillwater Interview," Phantom Photography. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  6. https://collider.com/almost-famous-brad-pitt-meryl-streep-natalie-portman-cast/
  7. The "I am a Golden God!" line is likely inspired by a real-life 1975 incident involving Led Zeppelin's lead singer Robert Plant. See https://www.petersimon.com/musicians/robert-plant-golden-god (referenced 1 April 2021).
  8. Ammann, Ana (September 7, 2012). "Will the real Penny Lane please stand up?". Oregon Music News. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015.
  9. 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 .
  10. "Wild Things: Cameron Crowe and Bebe Buell". Talk. March 2001.
  11. 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.
  12. "Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell almost starred in the movie 'Almost Famous'". YouTube. November 12, 2017. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  13. Allman, Gregg; Light, Alan (2012). My Cross to Bear . William Morrow. pp.  242–43. ISBN   978-0062112033.
  14. Kehr, Dave (August 25, 2000). "Organic Growth In Toronto". The New York Times . Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  15. "Almost Famous". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  16. "Almost Famous (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes . Fandango Media . Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  17. "Almost Famous Reviews". Metacritic . CBS Interactive . Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  18. Ebert, Roger (September 15, 2000). "Almost Famous". Chicago Sun-Times . Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  19. Scott, A.O (September 15, 2000). "Almost Famous". The New York Times . Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  20. Corliss, Richard (September 10, 2000). "Absolutely Fabulous". Time . Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  21. Dargis, Manohla (September 21, 2000). "Gonna Make You Groove". L.A. Weekly . Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  22. Travers, Peter (December 10, 2000). "Almost Famous". Rolling Stone . Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  23. Ansen, David (September 18, 2000). "He's With The Band". Newsweek . Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  24. 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
  25. Gleiberman, Owen (September 15, 2000). "Almost Famous". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  26. Turan, Kenneth (September 13, 2000). "Almost Famous". Los Angeles Times . Archived from the original on September 11, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  27. Sarris, Andrew (September 17, 2000). "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll-Where Are the Sex and Drugs?". The New York Observer . Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-31.
  28. Howe, Desson (September 22, 2000). "Almost Poignant". The Washington Post . Retrieved 2009-03-31.