Twenty years ago, Cameron Crowe wrote and directed Almost Famous, a fantastic, coming-of-age rock-and-roll tale based on his teenage years as a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Rolling Stone published a new interview with Crowe in which he shares stories of screening it for Led Zeppelin, the magic of "Tiny Dancer," and the future of Stillwater. From Rolling Stone:
Did you ever think while you were conducting those interviews at Rolling Stone back in the day that it would make for a great movie?
Never. Because my dream then was to get a story in Rolling Stone, and then it was in the wildest dreams that I would be able to write a cover story. And then, everything after that was dream-come-true time, but beyond your dreams. I never thought [in scholarly voice] "One day this will become an autobiographical film, which will reflect on this very time."
I've been working on a memoir from those early days in San Diego, so I've been going back through all my stuff. I found this Day-Timer from 1973. It's packed! It's like, "Jimmy Page phone interview. John Prine, Bonnie Raitt." Every day, it felt like a kid in a candy store that I could interview these people whose music I loved.
If I got lucky enough, every day I was able to represent that fan who was also me. And sometimes they would give me shit. Some of the editors of Rolling Stone, kind as they were about it, they would often take me aside and say, "You should write about somebody you don't like. Test yourself. Go write about somebody whose music you don't care about, and practice doing a portrait like that." And I always used to say, "But why waste time with somebody you don't care about? Somebody somewhere will care about them. So send that person." That was the dialogue that went on quite a bit.[…]
The film featured several Led Zeppelin songs. You flew out to London to screen it for Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. What was their reaction?
We knew we were going to roll the dice. We had four Led Zeppelin songs in there. [Soundtrack producer] Danny Bramson made sure communication was good. We were coming to them hat in hand. We timed it to the one day of the year Jimmy and Robert got together and went over tapes and talked about Led Zeppelin business. At the end of that day, they came to watch our movie in the basement of a hotel.
It was just Joe [Hutshing] the editor, Danny, and me. We're in the back row, and Jimmy and Robert are three rows from the front, sitting together. Watching behind, you saw their heads framed by the film, which was iconic in itself. They would lean and say things to each other, and you'd just see this outline of their heads talking privately, and we looked at each other like, "Oh, we're fucked. They're trying to figure out how they can leave."
Then came the "I am a golden god" scene, and Plant just laughs. It's the greatest laugh, and we're looking at each other like, "Oh, my God! We're still OK. We're still OK." Then came the scene where Jeff Bebe says, "Russell, he has you high on a roof saying, 'I am a Golden God.' And Billy [Crudup] says, "I didn't say that. Or did I?" And Plant goes, "I said it!" [Laughs.] We're giving quiet high-fives.
The movie ends, and they're both smiling. Plant walks up the aisle, so he's in our row. He says [with a perfect Robert Plant impression], "Cameron, was your mom really like that?" I said, "That and more." He laughed, and he looked at Jimmy, then he said, "I have a bottle of quaaludes that's been on my shelf since the early Seventies. I think I'm going to go home and crack it open tonight."
"Cameron Crowe on the 20th Anniversary of 'Almost Famous': 'It's Never Been as Popular as It Is Now'" by Angie Martoccio (Rolling Stone)