William Miller is our central character and protagonist, the main man of Almost Famous.
Okay, maybe "man" is a strong word. When we first meet William, he's an eleven-year-old kid. For the majority of the film, he's just fifteen. As an aspiring rock journalist, he's quite precocious, but he's still totally innocent in just about every way. Nevertheless, after lying about his age to land a gig going on the road with the band Stillwater, William is forced to grow up quickly.
William is a serious rock writer—but he's also a massive rock fan. He's thrilled to have the chance to hang out with some of the world's biggest rock stars as well as with the coolest groupies—sorry, Band Aids—around. And the kid isn't even old enough to legally drive. For much of the movie, William has this look of awestruck bewilderment plastered on his face, which reads something like, "I can't believe I'm actually here." His appreciation is genuine.
Unfortunately, the actual assignment proves more challenging than he imagined. First of all, William's time frame is limited: he must return home before his high school graduation. Those pesky little academic responsibilities, we know. Second, the young journalist is repeatedly unsuccessful in his attempts to secure an interview with enigmatic guitarist Russell Hammond—the true talent of Stillwater. Third, William is falling deeper and deeper in love with the mysterious Band Aid Penny Lane, who has meanwhile rekindled a romantic relationship with Russell. We know the hormones don't exactly help, either.
As William develops a connection with Russell, Penny, and the rest of the Stillwater family, it only becomes harder for him to fulfill his professional obligation to complete the story. Now he has a choice: he can remain a friend to the band, giving in to their pressure to have him present them in a favorable light; or he can become "the enemy," as singer Jeff Bebe puts it, writing an honest, critical exposé of Stillwater.
These are the moments that separate the men from the boys. Literally. William comes of age in a major way over the course of Almost Famous, receiving a crash course in everything from love and friendship, to professionalism and what it means to be "cool." Fortunately, he has some of the best teachers in the business. Lester Bangs, Penny Lane, his mother Elaine, and even Russell Hammond show William how to stay passionate, compassionate, and true to yourself. Even if that means you're "uncool."
Ultimately, young William emerges a much wiser person than he was before. But that spark of innocence, as well as his idealism and his unadulterated love for the music, remains intact. In this sense, William also plays the role of teacher. No, he doesn't "get the girl" in the end; Penny Lane will be held down by no man. But William's love for her literally saves her life, helping her find within herself the strength she needs to rediscover her true identity and leave the world of rock and roll.
Meanwhile, Russell, Jeff, and the rest of Stillwater, in their struggle to appear cool, lose touch with their love for the music. It takes a true fan, a genuine lover of music like William—who is there for all the right reasons—to help get them back on track.
We guess he really is the man.