Study Guide

Almost Famous

Almost Famous Introduction


Release Year: 2000

Genre: Drama, Music, Romance

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Stars: Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit


It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you want to build a time machine and book it straight for the '70s to soak in rock and roll until your ears bleed.

At the very least, it will make you want to download the soundtrack.

Almost Famous tells the story of a fifteen-year-old aspiring rock journalist who lands a gig covering an up-and-coming band called Stillwater in 1973. The young writer goes on tour with the band, befriends a feisty groupie—sorry, Band Aid—named Penny Lane, and has the coming-of-age experience of a lifetime. "Jealous" probably doesn't come close to how his classmates back in high school must feel.

The story is all the more remarkable in that it's semi-autobiographical. Yep, filmmaker Cameron Crowe actually got his start as a teenaged rock journalist covering legendary rock-and-roll bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who for Rolling Stone magazine.  It's almost not even fair that he went on to become an Oscar-winning filmmaker on top of that.

Some of us just have the gift. 

The rest of us write for Shmoop.

Anyway, while Stillwater is fictitious, the band—in its appearance, attitude, and yes, its music—totally nails the energy and atmosphere of the time. Consider Almost Famous a crash course in the rock-and-roll scene of the early '70s. But above all else, consider it a love letter to the music itself.

So, if the whole thing feels a little sugarcoated, just remember this: our protagonist William, just like teenaged Cameron, is totally innocent. He's a kid in a candy shop. Of course, instead of candy, it's sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But it's through William's idealistic, naïve eyes that this story is told. In this sense, Almost Famous gives us the excuse to be starry-eyed music lovers all over again—just like William and Cameron.

This is a movie from the heart. It's personal. It's emotional. Yeah, it's a little sentimental, but it's so genuine and soulful that we couldn't care less. Heck, we all love great music, and we all love a great story. Fortunately for us, Almost Famous has all of the above. 

So go ahead and press play already—"set you free."

  

What is Almost Famous About and Why Should I Care?

Who doesn't love music?

Almost Famous captures a turning point in the music industry. Rock and roll in 1973 was at a crossroads, as corporate America began to see profit potential in the genre. Folks like Lester Bangs believed that the commercialization of rock and roll had horrific consequences for the integrity of the music. "They're trying to buy respectability for a form that is gloriously and righteously dumb," Bangs argues, referring to this trend. (Let's be real, though: with dance moves like these, it's pretty clear that Lester is all about the dumb.)

In many ways, Lester Bangs predicted the future: the corporate presence is totally apparent in the music scene of today. Almost Famous, on the other hand, celebrates genuine expression, and music for music's sake—the spirit of rock and roll that will never be suppressed or exploited for material gain.

At the end of the day, Almost Famous is a love letter to music, a tribute to the unique and profound power this art form has to transform, connect, and inspire us. The movie itself is beautifully composed, passionate, and heartfelt—just like the rock and roll it venerates. "Music, you know, true music—not just rock n roll," Lester Bangs explains, "—it chooses you." So turn up the stereo. Rock out. Soak it in. Get inspired. Enjoy yourself. And go ahead and fall in love with music all over again.

Trivia

Actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman completed filming for his role of Lester Bangs in four days. He had the flu the entire time. (Source.)

Patrick Fugit, who played William, actually had a massive crush on Kate Hudson—who played Penny Lane—during production. When Penny asks William if he wants to go to Morocco with her, Patrick actually steps out of character, asking Kate to repeat her line. "Yes!… Ask me again." (Source.)

In real life, Cameron Crowe's mother and sister did not speak for years before the completion of Almost Famous. Crowe explained to Rolling Stone that "in his wildest dreams," he hoped the movie would help them reopen communication. Sure enough, it did. (Source.)

Almost Famous Resources

Websites

The Uncool
"The Uncool" is Cameron Crowe's official website, featuring tons of background information, scripts, interviews, and fun facts about all of his films—including Almost Famous.

Scripts, Anyone?
This website has a heck of a lot of full screenplays from a heck of a lot of films—including Cameron Crowe's original completed script for Untitled. Untitled would be edited down to become Almost Famous as we know it today.

Articles and Interviews

The Cover of Rolling Stone
Cameron Crowe's career came full circle when Almost Famous made the cover of Rolling Stone: read the interview with him here.

Why the Legacy of Almost Famous Will Never Die
Check out this humorous blog focusing on the legendary style of Almost Famous.

Creative Loafing
Here's an interview with Cameron Crowe in which he provides some insight into the personal significance of Almost Famous.

Video

Almost Famous Deleted Scene: The Radio Interview
The Almost Famous director's cut includes this totally unnecessary but totally hilarious scene of the band at a radio interview—featuring a cameo from Kyle Gass of comedy-rock duo Tenacious D.

Behind the Scenes
Check out this quick video from behind the scenes, showing the actors in their natural, non-1970s habitat.

Audio

The Complete Soundtrack—in YouTube Playlist Form
In case you're interested in hearing every song from the movie in order of appearance, this generous YouTube user created a playlist that can make your wildest dreams come true.