Study Guide

Almost Famous Hero's Journey

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Hero's Journey

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

William Miller, our story's hero, is a 15 year-old kid with an epic passion for rock and roll—and a remarkable knack for writing about it. As a senior in high school (he skipped a couple grades), his life is pretty unexciting. He's still a universe away from the crazy world of the rock stars he idolizes.

Call to Adventure

When Rolling Stone magazine offers him an assignment to go on the road with Stillwater, William is presented with a chance to escape the mundane "real" world and foray into the glamorous realm of rock and roll.

Refusal of The Call

While William is eager to jump at this opportunity and accept the assignment, there are certain things holding him back. As a high-school student, he still has schoolwork to complete, exams to take, and ultimately graduation to attend. His mother makes it very clear that he must fulfill these obligations. But it's even clearer that William's passion lies in rock journalism, and he will not be denied his dream.

Meeting the Mentor

The life of a rock journalist is not without its challenges, and William often seeks the council of veteran rock critic Lester Bangs. Lester offers guidance to young William, helping him navigate the crazy world of rock and roll.

Crossing the Threshold

Elaine literally delivers William to the threshold: the back entrance to concert venue. William eventually makes it inside with the help of Stillwater, and from that moment on, there is no going back. Eventually, he decides to go up to Los Angeles with Penny Lane and meets the band on the road. He will stay in this wild new world of rock and roll until he fulfills his quest by completing his story on the band.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

William quickly realizes that attaining his interview will be no easy task. Russell Hammond, Stillwater's true superstar, proves to be an elusive catch, continually deflecting William's attempts to sit him down and get the goods. Meanwhile, William's growing infatuation with Penny—not to mention her romantic involvement with Russell—only complicates things further for the young journalist.

Approach to the Inmost Cave

After Russell condones the "sale" of Penny Lane to Humble Pie (in exchange for $50 and a case of beer), William finds himself more conflicted than ever. His feelings for Penny have never been stronger, but he's furious that she's being used and doesn't even realize it. "I am the enemy!" he shouts at Penny, making it clear that he's tired of nobody taking him seriously—and that his status as rock journalist gives him the power to take everyone down. Now he must choose whether or not he really wants to be "the enemy."


Fed up with the band's antics, William goes after Penny, who has gone to New York on her own. He eventually finds a heartbroken Penny overdosing on Quaaludes in her hotel room. Calling a doctor and keeping her conscious, William, powered by his love for Penny, ultimately saves her life.

Reward (Seizing the Sword)

After her recovery, Penny shares with William her real name—a truth not even Russell knows. Their connection solidified, William, with new-found confidence, escorts Penny to the airport, where she catches a flight home.

The Road Back

Following his near-death experience aboard an airplane with Stillwater, William is given free reign by Russell to write what he wants. As William begins to cross the threshold back into the "real world," he has a choice. He can be "honest and unmerciful," as Lester urges, or he can protect Russell, Penny, and the band that brought him along for the ride.


At the Rolling Stone offices, William completes his story: an honest, critical portrait of Stillwater. The other editors praise him for his sophistication and professionalism—until they receive a call from Russell denying the entire story. Defeated and alone, William prepares to return home. By chance, however, he meets his sister in the airport, and the two of them make the final push back together.

Return with the Elixir

Firmly back in the "real world," William is completely burnt out but forever transformed by his journey. It takes Russell's arrival, though, to make things right. Understanding that he hasn't been the greatest person recently, Russell redeems himself by fixing things with Rolling Stone and finally sitting down for an interview. Meanwhile, William helps Russell rediscover his passion and love for music. The conflict between the two of them is resolved, allowing for the cover story they both deserve.

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