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Mindhole Blowers: 20 Facts You Might Not Know About Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | April 23, 2013 | Comments ()


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Given the fact that Almost Famous is the favorite movie of at least three writers here, I’m surprised we haven’t done this yet …

1. Sarah Polley had originally been cast as Penny Lane, but she ultimately had to drop out to due to another commitment, paving the way for Kate Hudson to take the role. This may be the only time I am ever glad that Kate Hudson played a character instead of Sarah Polley.

2. Speaking of Hudson she was originally cast as William’s sister, the role that Zooey Deschanel would eventually play. It was only Deschanel’s second film role.

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3. Kristen Dunst was nearly cast in the role of Penny Lane, but Crowe chose Hudson over her, but promised Dunst that he would cast her in a later film (true to his promise, he cast her in Elizabethtown).

4. Before Polley was cast, Brittany Murphy, Mena Suvari, Anne Heche, Neve Campbell, Jenna Elfman, Bridget Moynahan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rose McGowan and Rebecca Romijn all audtioned for the role of Penny Lane.

5. Penny Lane was partially based on Geraldine Edwards, a student he met while posing undercover as a high-school student for one year, which resulted in the screenplay for Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

6. The other half of Penny Lane was based on Bebe Buell, the notorious rock groupie, 1974’s Playboy Playmate of the Month, and Liv Tyler’s mother. Penny’s dialogue was pulled from interviews that Buell made over the years.

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7. Cameron Crowe actually wrote the Russell Hammond role for Brad Pitt, who was cast in the film. Unfortunately, after months of working on the film, Pitt was man enough to admit that he just “didn’t get it” and the role was recast with Billy Crudup.

8. Those who own the bootleg director’s cut of Almost Famous already know this, but the original name of the movie was Untitled, which the movie studio refused to allow. That’s why the director’s cut is called Untitled.

9. After special screening of the film for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin granted Crowe the rights to use four songs, the first time that Zepellin had allowed one of their songs to be licensed for a movie since Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The line “I Am a Golden God.” in fact, was lifted from Robert Plant, who was sober when he yelled it.

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10. Zeppelin did not, however, grant Crowe the rights to “Stairway to Heaven,” which is why — in the director’s cut — when William plays “Stairway” in its entirety for his mother — viewers are given a prompt to start the song.

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11. Scarlett Johansson auditioned for a role in the film that was later cut; she would later, of course, star alongside Matt Damon in Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo.

“I auditioned for Almost Famous when I was probably 15,” Johansson says. “It was just a couple of scenes, but one of them, I remember, was the character describing Zeppelin’s ‘The Rain Song,’ and I remember listening to that song over and over trying to figure out what Cameron was getting at.”

12. Stillwater was essentially a composite of five bands that Crowe toured with as a journalist for Rolling Stone: Poco, The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. There was an actual band from the 1970s named Stillwater, too, and they agreed to allow Crowe to use their name. Russel Hammond himself is based on The Eagles’ Glen Frey, while the near fatal plane crash in the movie was based on an experience while traveling with The Who.

13. Early on his Crowe’s career, Eric Stoltz vowed that he’d be in every single Cameron Crowe film. Unfortunately, that streak was broken with Almost Famous, but not for lack of trying. Stoltz was nearly cast as David Bowie, and when that didn’t work out, there was a marquee in the film that said, “Coming Aug. 11, The Crazy World of Eric Stoltz.” Unfortunately, that shot was cut from the film.

14. Both Jack Black and Jon Favreau auditioned for the role of Lester Bangs, which would eventually go to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman only filmed for four days, and he had the flu the entire time (which could not have bene more perfect for the character).

15. Remember when a fan asked Billy Crudup’s character, “Are you Russell from Stillwater?” and he responeded, “Well, yeah, on my better days, I am Russell from Stillwater.” That line is basically stolen from John Cusack’s character in Say Anything, when a girl in a bar asked him, “Aren’t you Lloyd Dobler?”

16. You may recall a scene in Almost Famous in which Patrick Fugit’s character, William, is pulled into one of Stillwater’s pre-show huddles. That was actually based on a real instance in which Cameron Crowe was pulled into one of Pearl Jam’s pre-show huddles during their Lollapalooza tour (Crowe followed Pearl Jam around during their early days, and made a spectacular documentary on it, Pearl Jam: Twenty.

17. Almost Famous had one of the most expensive music budgets for a film, ever. The 50 songs in the film cost them $3.5 million in licensing fees.

18. Peter Frampton served as the music consultant on Almost Famous, he wrote two of the Stillwater songs (along with Crowe and his then wife, Nancy Wilson) and taught Billy Crudup how to play the guitar. Interestingly, an 18 year old Cameron Crowe wrote the liner notes for “Frampton Comes Alive.”

19. There are two very sweet biographical notes about Almost Famous: 1) That Cameron Crowe asked him Mom not to bother Frances McDormand, who played the fictional version of Crowe’s mom. But she did anyway, and she and McDormand became good friends. Also, 2) in the film, William’s sister, played by Zooey Deschanel, drives away at the end of the film. In fact, Crowe’s sister and Crowe’s mother were estranged for years, and only reunited upon completion of Almost Famous.

20. Because it’s fun, here’s the: Before They Were Stars portion of the Almost Famous Mindhole Blowers.

Rainn Wilson (his character was loosely based on Hunter S. Thompson)

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Noah Taylor (an awesome character actor best known at the moment for his role on “Game of Thrones,” Taylor stayed in character even when they were not filming).

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Jay Baruchel

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Jimmy Fallon (he was already known for “SNL,” but nobody every remembers he was in Almost Famous).

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Here’s Fallon’s audition reel:

Michael Angarano (he’s still not all that famous, but he’s fantastic and many of you may recognize him from his film roles. He played the Young William).

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Eric Stonestreet

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Nick Swardson

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Marc Maron

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Bonus: Almost Famous gave Cameron Crowe his only Oscar, which he on for Best Screenplay. Here’s his speech.




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  • Six_Thirty

    Also: The scene where Penny asks William if he wants to go to Morocco, and he says "Ask me again?" was not scripted. That was Patrick Fugit breaking character to ask her for another take. Crowe kept it in as filmed (it's one of my favorite moments in a near-perfect film).

  • Green Lantern

    I don't know why I resisted watching this movie for so long, but when I finally got around to seeing it...I kicked my own ass for waiting to watch it for so long. It's a perfect rock 'n roll fanboy film.

  • This movie is magical on so many levels. I so love this movie.

  • This is one of my all time favorite films and, I think, the film and performance that Kate Hudson ever has done. She is mesmerizing in this. I own the extended DVD and I watch it over and over again. Such a great film.

    Thanks for the good list.

  • I wish they would make an extended soundtrack edition. That was $3.5 million in music well spent.

  • Agent M

    Pajiba: don't know how you resisted the temptation, but THANKS for not making 20 clicks out if this!

  • Danielle

    I thought I loved this movie until I re-watched it. I cringed through most of it and Kate Hudson is a moron.

  • I disagree with you on multiple levels.

  • Danielle

    Of course you do!

  • strand0410

    I rewatch this movie every year and while we all love the Tiny Dancer bus scene, my favourite is still the plane, which is why I always remember Jimmy Fallon being in the movie and Jason Lee will aways get a free pass from me.

    "I had to live with you and now I might die with you and it's not fucking fair!"

    Like Black Hawk Down, Almost Famous has now recognisable name actors in every minor role, launching the careers of pretty much everyone even peripherally related BUT the leads (Josh Harnett and Patrick Fugit).

  • L.O.V.E.

    The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.

    (And shout out to the San Diego Sports Arena. A decrepit venue, but home to many a concert memory).

  • PDamian

    Good grief, I love this film, and I love this post. However, I have a minor bone to pick. According to Cameron Crowe's website, the character of Penny Lane, while incorporating aspects of many women (including Buell), is based primarily on Pennie Trumbull. Here's an article about her with links to Crowe's blog and Trumbull's website: http://oregonmusicnews.com/201....

    I think Almost Famous was set mostly in 1974, when I was 10 years old. So William Miller (Patrick Fugit) would have been five years older than I. But I have cousins who are about that much older than I, and I remember that time of my life through the music they played when they came to visit my family. One of my cousins was seriously into prog-rock, and hearing anything by Yes, Todd Rundgren, Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Genesis (the early stuff, not the Phil Collins-inflected crap) can take me back to that time in my life instantly. This film is so very evocative for me, which is why I love it so.

  • Mr_Zito

    This is not my favorite film, but it's the film I'm most likely to watch at any given moment when it's on. It's perfect, it's fun, and it's touching, and everytime I watch it I love it a little more.

  • $27019454

    It's a puff piece."

  • dannyexplosion

    Can't we just go get some BBQ or something?

  • BWeaves

    I'm sorry, I still hate this film.

  • Javier

    I was watching this on Sunday. such a great film

  • KZoeT

    Mitch Hedberg was also in it and I tear up just a little bit each time I see him in it.

  • Arran

    You forgot NCIS's Pauley Perrette, who plays the DJ when we first see Lester Bangs.

    Sure, I know NCIS sucks, but she's pretty well known.

  • Snowman

    NCIS is awesome!
    I say that in all sincerity, and with absolutely no shame. Watching NCIS makes me happy.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Are you absolutely certain your Pajibanym shouldn't be "Snowbird"?

  • MrsAtaxxia

    I could watch Kate Hudson dance in that empty hall forever. I love this movie.

  • APOCooter

    This is my all time favorite movie. I don't know why. I can't put into words what makes it great and why I love it so much. I'm fairly certain that it's a de facto deal breaker with any significant other I'll have; in none of my failed relationships has she liked this movie.

    All that being said, my jaw hit the damn floor when you pointed out Jimmy Fallon was in this movie.

  • princessdi81

    "The song Fever Dog. The band Stillwater. Watch with your minds as they materialize."

    You forgot Kyle Glass and Pauly Perette.

  • Arran

    To be fair, Gass is only in the extended version.

  • A. Perfect. Film.

  • Guest

    Yup. Need to re-watch.

  • pissant

    Almost. Perfect.

    I cringe every time that guy shouts, "Fuck it, I'm gay!" when they think the plane is going down.

  • AudioSuede

    I'm fine with that part, it's all the Rolling Stone scenes that make me cringe. The acting is so ridiculous, it completely pulls me out of the emotions of the scene.

  • brad newman

    Other actors were considered for roles that went to other actors?! MIND. FUCKING. BLOWN!!!!!!!!!

  • Matt Roney

    Thank you for this! Very possibly my favorite movie of all time.

  • cgthegeek

    They aren't groupies. They are band dates.

  • pajiba

    Band-AIDS.

  • cgthegeek

    Really? Band-aids? That... makes no sense...

  • Aratweth

    Band-AIDES. As in congressional/home health/someone who helps with things. The girls "help" the band emotionally. Hope this clarifies.

  • cgthegeek

    It clarifies but I still like my version better. ;-)

  • BWeaves

    I know Penny said they were Band-aids, but band dates works, too.

  • cgthegeek

    What kinda sense does band-aids make?! Why would anyone say that?!?

  • BWeaves

    She's a groupie. She's on drugs. Watch the movie with the subtitles on. Nothing she says really makes any sense.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Maybe that's why the movie bugged me. I knew druggies in the old days that would spout crap like that thinking they were philosophers and then give out that creaky pothead laugh. I hate that creaky pothead laugh.

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