I don’t really need more reasons to love Cameron Crowe: He’s my generation’s Billy Wilder, and if you think that’s a laughable comparison, go ahead and stuff a gasoline soaked rag in your mouth and light your ass on fire. Wes Anderson has the whimsy; Fincher has the gritty; Soderbergh has the smarts; David O’Russell has the crazy; the Coens have the awesome, and Cameron Crowe has the earnest, hopeful, optimistic vision of the world. He’s the anti-cynic and the rare filmmaker capable of making a romantic film that’s actually romantic.
He’s returning to theaters next month with We Bought a Zoo, on the heels of his fantastic Pearl Jam documentary and, accordingly, he’s on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter this month (yes! They do still make a print edition). In the interview, he gives us a number of reasons why, despite the failure of Elizabethtown, there is every reason to believe that We Bought a Zoo will rock our collective hearts into a messy puddle and that Cameron Crowe is still one of the best directors in the business.
Here are five:
1) He sold Matt Damon on the part by promising not to make the bad “Disney version” of the movie that it could so easily be (and, OK, that the trailers misleadingly (?) portend) and suggested the tone he would be driving toward with a mix-tape he gave Damon. That mix included songs from Eddie Vedder, Wilco, Ryan Adams, Beth Orton, Cat Stevens, and Jackson Browne. So: Heartfelt, elegiac, mournful, and achy.
2) Music is one of his first considerations when making a film. “I knew … that Benjamin Mee’s real-life story had all the elements I love in storytelling: humor, great characters, love and an impossible dream. I could already hear the music too.” So you know, even if We Bought a Zoo doesn’t live up to our (my) expectation, it’s still going to sport a remarkable soundtrack. In fact, this soundrack is pure score, a first for Crowe, who hired Jonsi of Sigur Ros to create it.
3) He fired Ashton Kutcher. And he did it without making a fuss. Without aligning PR reps against Kutcher. And without insulting him. “I’ll spend months working with an actor, and I think I spent four months with Ashton,” Crowe says. “At a certain point, it’s like, ‘This is not meant to be.’ ” And though the film didn’t succeed with Bloom, Crowe says, “It felt like a noble crusade.”
4) Crowe is one of the last remaining directors of studio films that hasn’t given in to the more profitable high-concept approach. “Character comedy-drama is really hard to get made right now, and I think that’s a statement that feeds on itself,” Crowe says. “But it’s not necessarily true. It’s the nourishing thing that people crave. … People are going to go where they get characters that they remember. I don’t think people are ever going to a place where they’re like, ‘I’m over stories about character and love.’ “
5) These are his five favorite films: Quadrophenia (1979), Local Hero (1983),
Stolen Kisses (1968), The Rules of the Game (1939) and The Royal Tenebaums (2001).
For the entire amazing interview, check out The Hollywood Reporter.