Almost Famous (2000)

R | 122 mins | Comedy-drama | 15 September 2000

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
You may also like these titles from the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, the most authoritative documentation of the First 100 Years of American filmmaking.
Full page view
HISTORY

During most of the film's ninety-two days of production, the working title of the film was the Untitled Cameron Crowe Project . Crowe and his colleagues later used and rejected The Uncool , Something Real , My Back Pages and Stillwater , before settling on the final title, Almost Famous , a few weeks before the trailers were scheduled to play in theaters. End credits include a “special thanks” to director Lawrence Kasdan. The order of the opening cast credits, which does not list character names, differs slightly from the end credits. Actors playing members of the fictional musical group “Stillwater” are credited twice in the end credits, first, as separate cast members and later in the production credits as: “Stillwater is Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, John Fedevich, Mark Kozelek.” According to the end credits, the film A Foreign Affair (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ) appeared courtesy of Universal Studios, Inc. and the television show, The Midnight Special , courtesy of Burt Sugarman, Inc.
       Although many of the names have been changed, Almost Famous is a semi-autobiography of producer-director-writer Cameron Crowe, who carefully detailed events in his life relating to the 1970s rock music scene through the eyes of his film alter ego, “William Miller.” As depicted in the film, Crowe’s intellectual and individualistic mother Alice, a college psychology professor who raised two children alone after the death of her husband, nurtured Crowe’s precociousness, but her strong personality estranged her daughter Cindy. According to an Aug 2000 LAT article, Crowe was writing rock and roll reviews for the underground San ... More Less

During most of the film's ninety-two days of production, the working title of the film was the Untitled Cameron Crowe Project . Crowe and his colleagues later used and rejected The Uncool , Something Real , My Back Pages and Stillwater , before settling on the final title, Almost Famous , a few weeks before the trailers were scheduled to play in theaters. End credits include a “special thanks” to director Lawrence Kasdan. The order of the opening cast credits, which does not list character names, differs slightly from the end credits. Actors playing members of the fictional musical group “Stillwater” are credited twice in the end credits, first, as separate cast members and later in the production credits as: “Stillwater is Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, John Fedevich, Mark Kozelek.” According to the end credits, the film A Foreign Affair (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ) appeared courtesy of Universal Studios, Inc. and the television show, The Midnight Special , courtesy of Burt Sugarman, Inc.
       Although many of the names have been changed, Almost Famous is a semi-autobiography of producer-director-writer Cameron Crowe, who carefully detailed events in his life relating to the 1970s rock music scene through the eyes of his film alter ego, “William Miller.” As depicted in the film, Crowe’s intellectual and individualistic mother Alice, a college psychology professor who raised two children alone after the death of her husband, nurtured Crowe’s precociousness, but her strong personality estranged her daughter Cindy. According to an Aug 2000 LAT article, Crowe was writing rock and roll reviews for the underground San Diego newspaper the Door before he could drive.
       To do interviews in Los Angeles, Crowe often hitched rides with the paper’s editor, Bill Maguire, for whom he later named the title character in his 1996 film Jerry Maguire . The Time review reported that Crowe skipped three grades and graduated from high school at the age of fifteen. As depicted in the film, the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs became Crowe’s mentor after seeing Crowe’s writing samples, and gave him assignments for Creem magazine.
       As in the film, his work published in Creem attracted the interest of editors at Rolling Stone , for which he began writing in 1973, according to the HR review. At the age of eighteen, Crowe attracted attention with an autobiographical Rolling Stone story about how he learned about sex, but by the age of twenty-one, his career with the magazine had faded. He re-emerged from a career slump in the early 1980s by writing the successful book and screenplay Fast Times at Ridgemont High , which led to a career as writer-director of several films, among them the 1989 production Say Anything , Jerry Maguire (1996) and most recently, Vanilla Sky (2001), starring Tom Cruise.
       Besides Bangs, who died in 1982 at the age of 33, Ben Fong-Torres, the Rolling Stone music editor depicted in the film, is also a real person. Jann Wenner, the former Rolling Stone editor, is portrayed by actor Eion Bailey, but according to the LAT review, the real Wenner appears in the film in a cameo as a cab passenger. According to the Time review, the character “Penny Lane,” whom Crowe described as a “mythical creature,” was a composite of Shirley MacLaine’s character “Fran Kubelik” in the 1960 United Artists film The Apartment , Audrey Hepburn’s “Holly Golightly” from Paramount’s 1961 Breakfast at Tiffany’s (see entries below) and several rock band groupies. However, the main inspiration and namesake of the film character, according to a Sep 2000 Time article, was a teenager Crowe met in 1973, who adopted the alias “Pennie Lane” and led a group of band followers called “the Flying Garter Girls.” Lane, whose first name was altered slightly for the film, came to Los Angeles from Portland, OR to be with a musician in the rock band Steppenwolf. At the age of twenty-one, she left the rock music scene, later earned an M.B.A. and now, still using her former pseudonym, owns a successful marketing firm, according to an Apr 2001 LAT news item.
       In a Sep 2001 HR article, Crowe described “Stillwater” as an amalgam of the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin and The Who. In an Aug 2000 LAT article, Crowe stated that the rivalry between the film’s “Russell Hammond” and “Jeff Bebe” was based on the relationship between Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page. Most of the fifty songs heard in the film are vintage 1970s tunes. According to an Oct 2000 LAT article, rights and permissions added $3.5 million to the film’s budget. However, the handful of songs performed by Stillwater were written for the film and, according to an Aug 2000 LAT article, performed for the recording by Marti Fredericksen, Mike McCready and Ben Smith on vocals, lead guitar and drums, respectively. Legendary rock musician Peter Frampton, who served as the film’s technical advisor and appeared in a small role, wrote two of the Stillwater songs with Wayne Kirkpatrick and Gordon Kennedy. Crowe, with his wife Nancy Wilson and her sister Ann, both members of the rock group “Heart,” wrote other songs performed by Stillwater, but are credited onscreen under the pseudonym, Hammond and Bebe, the characters in the film.
       According to an Aug 2000 LAT news item and the DV and Rolling Stone reviews, Brad Pitt was originally intended for the role of “Russell Hammond.” A Dec 2000 Entertainment Weekly news item noted that Kate Hudson was originally cast as William’s sister, “Anita,” and an Aug 2000 LAT article stated that Sarah Polley was cast as “Pennie Lane,” until a filming delay caused her to leave during pre-production. Later, pleased with Hudson’s performance as the groupie, Crowe compared the actresses’ styles in the Time review, saying that Polley “is like a Bob Dylan song, more ‘60s than ‘70s,” while Hudson “is Zeppelin.” Before Frances McDormand was cast as “Elaine Miller,” Rita Wilson was considered, according to the LAT article, and the Time review reported that Meryl Streep turned down the role. Almost Famous marked the film debut of teenager Patrick Fugit, who, during production, took correspondence classes to satisfy requirements for high school graduation. Over the four-and-a-half months of shooting, his voice changed and he grew three inches, surpassing his co-star Crudup in height, who then wore platform shoes to maintain continuity in the film.
       An Aug 2000 LAT article, stated that Lee, Crudup, Kozelek and Fedevich were tutored in a nightly “rock and roll school” taught by Frampton, after each day’s shooting. Following weeks of rehearsal, according to the article, the “band” gave a concert at the San Diego Sports Arena for 200 extras, portions of which appear in the film. The scene recreating a concert in Cleveland was shot at the Hollywood Palladium.
       According to an Oct 2000 LAT article, an exact replica of the old Rolling Stone offices in San Francisco were built for the film, but Fong-Torres, who visited the set, was reported by an Oct 2000 Premiere article to have said that the real offices were not as “dark and hippie-ish.” The Beverly Hills High School gymnasium, which is the home of the swimming pool featured in Frank Capra’s 1947 RKO production It’s a Wonderful Life (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), was a location for one scene in Almost Famous , according to an Aug 1999 DV news item.
       Portions of the film were also shot in Sacramento and New York, according to an Oct 2000 ^US Weekly . The bus scene, in which the group sings Elton John’s 1971 “Tiny Dancer” along with the radio was shot in the Mojave Desert, according to US . Scenes depicting the Continental Hyatt House on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, were filmed at the actual hotel, which is now called Hyatt House Hotel, but was nicknamed “Riot House” in the 1970s because of the notorious behavior of the touring rock bands who stayed there. A real-life meeting between Crowe and Bangs was recreated almost verbatim, according to a Jun 2000 Entertainment Weekly article, in a scene shot at the Sun Café near Seventh and Ash in San Diego, around the corner from the site of the original diner, where the meeting actually took place in 1973.
       Although the NYT review lists the duration of the film as 202 minutes, the reviewer also explains that, before the film’s release, it was cut by forty minutes, and later reviews lists the playing time as 122 minutes.
       According to a Sep 2000 HR interview, Crowe claimed that François Truffaut’s 1969 film Stolen Kisses , and the 1967 Richard Leacock-Don Alan Pennebaker documentary about Bob Dylan titled Don’t Look Back (see entries in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ) influenced his vision of Almost Famous , and he made a passing reference to them in an early scene of the film, when Elaine and William walk past a movie theater marquee advertising them.
       Also honored in the film is director Billy Wilder, whom Crowe befriended while writing the book Conversations with Billy Wilder (New York, 1999). In an Oct 2000 Screen International article, Crowe pointed out that, during the scenes taking place on the road, a monitor on the bus is playing one of Wilder’s film, the 1948 Paramount production Foreign Affair (see entry for film in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). Crowe added that the scene in which William keeps Penny alive after she overdoses on drugs is reminiscent of a similar scene featuring the characters “Fran Kubelik” and “Calvin Baxter” in The Apartment (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1951-60 ). In addition, Crowe said that Penny’s lime green coat is an homage to Fran Kubelik’s coat, which was also lime green, according to Wilder, although it was filmed in black and white.
       Almost Famous was selected as one of AFI’s Top Ten Films of 2000, and Crowe won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Both McDormand and Hudson were nominated the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Joe Hutshing and Saar Klein were nominated as a team for Achievement in Film Editing. The film also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Musical/Comedy and a nomination for Best Screenplay. McDormand was nominated for, and Hudson won, the Golden Globe’s Best Supporting Actress award. In addition, McDormand was honored by Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the Broadcast and Film Critics Association for Best Supporting Actress.
       Despite its critical success, an Oct 2000 LAT article reported that the movie “failed to find an audience.” Several NYT and Wall Street Journal articles tried to analyze why, in the first months after its release, the film recouped less than half of the approximately $60 million that most sources reported it cost to make. A slowdown in general movie attendance, the film’s lack of major stars, marketing strategies, the public’s skepticism toward critics and the film’s many new and unknown reviewers are some of the theories considered and refuted in the articles. Another reason suggested for the film’s lack of box office success concerned the R rating, which prevented the attendance of most under-seventeen-year-olds, who might otherwise have been attracted by the young Fugit. The LAT article reported an observation of some industry members that the era and music of the 1970s appealed to a narrow demographic of over-thirty and under-fifty-year viewers and had little “emotional relevance” to other ”moviegoing sectors.” Weeks before the film opened, DreamWorks stuck a multi-film deal with Sony Pictures, terms of which gave the latter international distribution rights to Almost Famous .
       At least as early as the Sep 2000 HR interview, Crowe, with the support of DreamWorks, was planning a special DVD containing an uncut version of the film, which restored forty minutes to the film. In a Sep 2001 HR article, Crowe emphasized that the DVD is not a “director’s cut,” which he claims exists as the film’s theatrical version. Called Untitled: The Bootleg Cut , the three disk set contains the original theatrical version, the uncut version and a CD of six tunes written for the film and performed by Stillwater. Crowe said that, in the ‘Bootleg Cut,’ you feel much more like you’re on tour with the band” and that “the world of drugs and sex, a cliché of the era,” is explored. One added scene features Kyle Gass, a musician from the band “Tenacious D,” who plays a radio disc jockey high on drugs. The set, which was edited at the same time Crowe’s film Vanilla Sky was in postproduction, also contains commentary provided by Crowe and his mother. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1999.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jul 2000.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 2000
pp. 4, 60.
Entertainment Weekly
30 Jun 2000.
---
Entertainment Weekly
15 Sep 2000
pp. 42, 43.
Entertainment Weekly
22 Dec 2000.
---
Entertainment Weekly
7 Dec 2001
pp. 75, 76.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1999
p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1999.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 1999
p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 2000
pp. 10, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 2000.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 2000
pp. 14, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 2000.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Aug 2000
pp. 8, 9, 83, 84.
Los Angeles Times
8 Sep 2000.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Sep 2000
pt. F, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 2000
p. 42, 43.
Los Angeles Times
22 Apr 2001.
---
New York Times
6 Jul 2000.
---
New York Times
13 Sep 2000
Section E, p. 1.
New York Times
19 Oct 2000.
---
Newsweek
18 Sep 2000
pp. 76, 77.
Premiere
Oct 2000.
---
Rolling Stone
28 Sep 2000.
---
Screen International
27 Oct 2000
p. 14.
Time
18 Sep 2000
pp. 79, 80.
US Weekly
9 Oct 2000
pp. 58-62.
Variety
23 Nov 1998.
---
Variety
11 Sep 2000.
---
Village Voice
19 Sep 2000
p. 115.
Wall Street Journal
22 Sep 2000.
---
Wall Street Journal
13 Oct 2000.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cameron Crowe Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Unit mgr/1st asst dir, Addl photog
2d asst dir, Addl photog
2d asst dir, New York City crew
2d 2d asst dir, New York City crew
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
Cam loader
Still photog
Chief lighting tech
Chief lighting tech, New York City crew
Asst chief lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Key rigging grip
Cam cranes & dollies by
2d unit dir of photog, Addl photog
Addl photog 2d unit asst dir
Key grip, New York City crew
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Set des
Graphic des
Graphic des
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
1st asst film ed
1st asst Avid ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Ed asst
Neg cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop asst
On set dresser
Prod buyer
Lead person
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Const coord
General foreman
Paint foreman
Paint foreman
Plasterer foreman
Labor foreman
Labor foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Drapery foreman
Supv sign writer
Standby painter
Greens foreman
Const auditor
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Key cost
Cost
Cost
Cutter/Fitter
Cutter/Fitter
Cutter/Fitter
Seamstress
MUSIC
Mus supv
Score
Exec in charge of mus
Rec consultant
Rec consultant
Vocals performed by
Addl musician
Addl musician
Addl musician
Addl musician
Addl musician
Orig songs prod by
"Hour of Need" and "You Had To Be There" co-prod b
Guitar coach
Mus engineer
Mus playback mixer
Mus playback op
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Prod sd mix
Boom op
Cable person
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd rec
Sd rec
Re-rec stage eng
ADR supv
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
ADR ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
1st asst sd ed
ADR asst
Digital asst
Digital asst
Addl audio
Foley artist
Foley artist
ADR mixer
Foley mixer
Foley rec
ADR voice casting
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff coord
Eff tech
Spec visual eff
Visual eff supv
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Prod coord
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
Compositor
3D supv
3D artist
3D artist
3D artist
3D artist
3D artist
3D artist
Paint/roto artist
Paint/roto artist
Paint/roto artist
Visual eff ed
Tech asst
Tech asst
Tech asst
Tech asst
Addl digital eff by
Digital eff supv
Lead digital compositor
Digital compositor
Digital paint artist
Prod exec
Imaging supv
Digital eff prod
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Dept head makeup
Key makeup artist
Makeup artist
Dept head hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Extras casting
Post prod exec
Post prod supv
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr, New York City crew
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Video asst op
Acting coach
Prod coord
Prod coord, New York City crew
Post prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod controller
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Post prod accountant
Supv loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr, New York City crew
Asst loc mgr
DGA trainee
Asst to Cameron Crowe
Asst to Ian Bryce
Asst to Billy Crudup
Exec for Vinyl Films
Unit pub
Studio teacher
Researcher
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Picture vehicle coord
Picture vehicle mechanic
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Prod secy
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
First aid
Craft service
Craft service
Catering provided by
Catering mgr
Head chef
Projectionist
Transportation capt, New York City crew
Controller
Runner
Gen mgr
STAND INS
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
Original songs written by Cameron Crowe, Nancy Wilson and Ann Wilson
“The Chipmunk Song,” written by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., performed by The Chipmunks, courtesy of EMI Records, under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
“America," written by Paul Simon, performed by Simon & Garfunkel, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
+
SONGS
Original songs written by Cameron Crowe, Nancy Wilson and Ann Wilson
“The Chipmunk Song,” written by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., performed by The Chipmunks, courtesy of EMI Records, under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
“America," written by Paul Simon, performed by Simon & Garfunkel, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Search and Destroy,” written by Iggy Pop & James Williamson, performed by The Stooges, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Paranoid,” written by Frank Iommi, William Ward, Terence Butler & John Osbourne, performed by Black Sabbath, courtesy of Downlane Limited
“Roundabout,” written by Jon Anderson & Steve Howe, performed by Yes, courtesy of Elektra Entertainment Group, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Feel Flows,” written by John Rieley & Carl Wilson, performed by The Beach Boys, courtesy of Capitol Records, under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
“The Oogum Boogum Song,” written by Alfred Smith, performed by Brenton Wood, exclusive owner Original Sound Records
“Sparks,” written by Pete Townshend, performed by The Who, courtesy of MCA Records & Universal International Music, B.V., under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” written & performed by Todd Rundgren, courtesy of Bearsville Records, by arrangement with Rhino Entertainment Company and Warner Special Products
“Teacher,” written by Ian Anderson, performed by Jethro Tull, courtesy of Chrysalis Records, under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
“Your Move,” written by Jon Anderson, performed by Yes, courtesy of Elektra Entertainment Group, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“River,” written & performed by Joni Mitchell, courtesy of Reprise Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Looking at You,” written by Wayne Kramer, Rob Tyner, Michael Davis, Fred Smith & Dennis Thompson, performed by MC5, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“I’m Waiting for the Man,” written by Lou Reed, performed by David Bowie, courtesy of RZO Music, Inc.
“The Wind,” written & performed by Cat Stevens, courtesy of A&M Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Peggy Sue,” words & music by Jerry Allison, Norman Petty & Buddy Holly
“Misty Mountain Hop,” written by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant & John Paul Jones, performed by Led Zeppelin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Cover of the Rolling Stone,” written by Shel Silverstein
“Colour My World,” written by James Pankow
“Fever Dog,” written by Russell Hammond, performed by Stillwater
“Every Picture Tells a Story,” written by Rod Stewart & Ron Wood, performed by Rod Stewart, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Something in the Air,” written by John Keen
“Go All the Way,” written by Eric Carmen, performed by The Raspberries, courtesy of Capitol Records, under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
“One Way Out,” written by Elmore James, Marshall Sehorn & Sonny Boy Williamson, performed by The Allman Brothers Band, courtesy of Polydor Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Albert Flasher,” written by Burton Cummings, performed by The Guess Who, courtesy of The RCA Records Label of BMG Entertainment
“That’s the Way,” written by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, performed by Led Zeppelin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” written & performed by Neil Young, courtesy of Reprise Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Burn,” written by Richard Blackmore, David Coverdale, Jon Lord & Ian Paice, performed by Deep Purple, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc. & EMI Records Ltd., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Dear Jill,” written by Michael Abrahams, performed by Blodwyn Pig, courtesy of A&M Records & EMI Records Ltd., under license from Universal Music Enterprises & EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
“Sweet Leaf,” written by Frank Iommi, William Ward, Terence Butler & John Osbourne, performed by Black Sabbath, courtesy of Downlane Limited
“Small Time Blues,” written & performed by Pete Droge
“Easy to Slip,” written by Lowell George & Martin Kibbee, performed by Little Feat, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Mr. Farmer,” written by Sky Saxon, performed by The Seeds, courtesy of GNP-Crescendo Records, by arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
“Hour of Need,” written by Peter Frampton, Wayne Kirkpatrick and Gordon Kennedy, performed by Stillwater
“Simple Man,” written by Gary Rossington & Ronnie Van Zant, performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd, courtesy of MCA Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Love Thing,” written by Russell Hammond and Jeffrey Bebe, performed by Stillwater
“Future Games,” written by Robert Welch, performed by Fleetwood Mac, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“You Had to Be There,” written by Peter Frampton, Wayne Kirkpatrick & Gordon Kennedy, performed by Stillwater
“Tiny Dancer,” written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin, performed by Elton John, courtesy of MCA Records & Universal International Music, B.V., under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Reeling in the Years,” written by Walter Becker & Donald Fagen, performed by Steely Dan
“Cortez the Killer,” written & performed by Neil Young, courtesy of Reprise Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Bron-Yr-Aur,” written by Jimmy Page, performed by Led Zeppelin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Love Comes and Goes,” written by Russell Hammond & Jeffrey Bebe, performed by Stillwater
“Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” written & performed by Jimi Hendrix, courtesy of MCA Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Slip Away,” written by William Armstrong, Marcus Lewis Daniel & Wilbur Terrell, performed by Clarence Carter, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Wishing Well,” written by Johnny Bundrick, Paul Kossoff, Simon Kirke, Tetsu Yamauchi & Paul Rodgers, performed by Free, courtesy of A&M Records/Island Records Ltd. Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin, performed by Elton John, courtesy of MCA Records & Universal International Music, B.V., under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“My Cherie Amour,” written by Stevie Wonder, Henry Cosby & Sylvia Moy, performed by Stevie Wonder, courtesy of Motown Record Company, L.P., under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“The Rain Song,” written by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, performed by Led Zeppelin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Tangerine,” written by Jimmy Page, performed by Led Zeppelin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Uncool
Something Real
My Back Pages
Stillwater
Release Date:
15 September 2000
Premiere Information:
World premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 8 September 2000
New York and Los Angeles openings: 13 September 2000
Production Date:
24 May--early October 1999
Copyright Claimant:
DreamWorks, LLC, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc
Copyright Date:
21 September 2000
Copyright Number:
PA0001002187
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Digital DTS Sound; SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) in selected theatres
Color
Eastman Film
gauge
35mm
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Lenses/Prints
Panavision
Lenses/Prints
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
122
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
37614
SYNOPSIS

In San Diego, in 1969, precocious William Miller learns that he is two years younger than his classmates. William’s older sister Anita feels repressed by their widowed mother Elaine’s eccentricities and decides to leave their “house of lies” to become an airline stewardess. Before going, Anita promises William that someday he will be “cool” and gives him her secret collection of rock music albums. Later, William finds a note from Anita saying, “Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future.” In 1973, the fifteen-year-old William sends writing samples to Creem magazine editor and rock critic Lester Bangs and later talks with him in a café, where Lester laments the end of rock and roll. Impressed by William’s talent, Lester assigns him to cover a Black Sabbath concert, but warns him to avoid becoming friends with the musicians. Although Elaine is suspicious of rock music, she drives William to the concert, but cannot refrain from yelling out, “Don’t take drugs!” as she drives away. At the stage door, William is refused entrance. While he waits outside the door, he meets “Penny Lane,” an engaging and worldly young woman, barely older than he is, and her circle of female music fans she calls “Band-Aids.” Penny, who has renamed herself after a song, shares with him her idealistic views that their devotion to the music sets them apart from other groupies. When Stillwater, the opening band, arrives, William’s encyclopedic knowledge of the band ... +


In San Diego, in 1969, precocious William Miller learns that he is two years younger than his classmates. William’s older sister Anita feels repressed by their widowed mother Elaine’s eccentricities and decides to leave their “house of lies” to become an airline stewardess. Before going, Anita promises William that someday he will be “cool” and gives him her secret collection of rock music albums. Later, William finds a note from Anita saying, “Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future.” In 1973, the fifteen-year-old William sends writing samples to Creem magazine editor and rock critic Lester Bangs and later talks with him in a café, where Lester laments the end of rock and roll. Impressed by William’s talent, Lester assigns him to cover a Black Sabbath concert, but warns him to avoid becoming friends with the musicians. Although Elaine is suspicious of rock music, she drives William to the concert, but cannot refrain from yelling out, “Don’t take drugs!” as she drives away. At the stage door, William is refused entrance. While he waits outside the door, he meets “Penny Lane,” an engaging and worldly young woman, barely older than he is, and her circle of female music fans she calls “Band-Aids.” Penny, who has renamed herself after a song, shares with him her idealistic views that their devotion to the music sets them apart from other groupies. When Stillwater, the opening band, arrives, William’s encyclopedic knowledge of the band gets him in the door to interview Black Sabbath. Although he is usually level-headed, William is thrilled to be part of the backstage scene and can barely contain his excitement, something Lester warned him about, and Penny gently advises him to “be cool.” After the concert, Stillwater’s lead guitarist, Russell Hammond, invites William to join them at the Hyatt House, a hotel in Los Angeles. Several days later, William hitches a ride to the hotel with Penny, who mysteriously evades talking about her life, other than her relationship with the rock scene. At the hotel, William watches her work her charisma on the gathering of musicians and fans that are partying there. Despite the air of sophisticated detachment she tries to maintain, William learns that she and Russell had a casual affair during the previous tour and that they are still drawn to each other, even though he has a girlfriend. William’s article about Black Sabbath gets the attention of Rolling Stone music editor Ben Fong-Torres, who, unaware that William is so young, assigns him to write a story about Stillwater’s road tour. Lester, whom William calls regularly for advice, encourages him to take the job. Elaine, a college professor who wants William to aim for law school, very reluctantly gives him permission to miss his high school classes and follow the band. After joining Stillwater and company on their tour bus, William tries to interview Russell and lead singer Jeff Bebe, but they elude him, fearing that he is “the enemy” who might make them look bad in print. Unable to get an interview, William stays longer than planned, causing the worried Elaine to call William repeatedly. The assortment of people, who answer the phone and who casually mention drugs and room sharing, adds to her uneasiness. William watches the band’s camaraderie dissolve when t-shirts advertising the tour are delivered. Disappointed that the shirt’s photograph blurs the features of everyone except Jeff, the bandmembers quarrel, exposing latent rivalry between Russell and the singer. After the concert, William accompanies Russell to a drug party held by local fans. Later, high on acid, Russell climbs to the garage roof and exclaims to the crowd, “I am a golden god.” The next day, on the bus, hostility is in the air, until someone begins singing along with the radio and the rest of the group joins in. Feeling the pressure to complete his story, William attempts to write, but is interrupted by three bored Band-Aids who decide to relieve him of his virginity. When Ben calls to demand the finished article, William quotes several intriguing phrases that he and Lester had prepared earlier, for just this sort of emergency, and convinces Ben to give him more time. During one of Elaine’s calls to William, Russell takes the phone and tries to reassure her, but she stuns him with a lecture about his “world of compromised values.” As the tour continues and Stillwater’s fame builds, a corporate manager courts them. After abandoning the bus, the band travels by plane and is lured by the new manager to replace their counter-culture values with material ones, prompting the observant William to remember Lester’s predictions about rock music’s loss of innocence. After witnessing a quirky poker game, in which Russell and the boys trade the unwitting Band-Aids to another rock band, William becomes torn between loyalty and disapproval. In an uncharacteristic confrontation with Penny, who has blinded herself to Russell’s ambivalence, William points out the superficiality of their situation, and in frustration, tells her that she has been sold for fifty dollars and a case of beer. Later, in New York City, Russell reunites with his girl friend Leslie, and Penny discovers she is excluded from the band’s activities. After pursuing her to the hotel, William finds that she has overdosed on Quaaludes. While keeping Penny alive until a doctor pumps her stomach, William admits aloud that he loves her. Later, after surviving the ordeal, Penny tells William about her life and her real name, Lady Goodman, then returns home to San Diego. The Rolling Stone editors order William to send what he has written for the fact-checker and then meet at their San Francisco office. The next day, the band’s plane is shaken by the great turbulence of an electrical storm. Fearing death, the passengers take turns confessing past sins. After revealing that he slept with Leslie, Jeff volunteers that Russell slept with Penny, but when he makes disparaging remarks about her, William heatedly accuses them all of using and discarding their biggest fan. After the plane safely lands, Russell, who has been thoughtfully quiet, tells William to “write what you want.” In San Francisco, the Rolling Stone staff is unhappy with William’s story, but gives him one night to finish the article. William calls Lester, who advises him to be “honest and unmerciful,” and that, “like booze,” the friendships he made can delude him into believing he is “cool.” In consolation, Lester points out that “uncool” people make great art out of their longings. Later, William’s completed article impresses his editors, until the fact-checker claims that Russell denies everything William wrote. At the airport on the journey home, the betrayed William encounters Anita, who braves a reunion with their mother to console him. Meanwhile, Russell calls Penny to apologize and offers to come see her, but she gives him William’s address instead of her own, and then leaves for Morocco, a place she had often talked about with William. Penny’s ploy succeeds in reconciling Russell and William, and Russell tells the Rolling Stone editors that William wrote the truth. When the magazine featuring William’s article hits the stands, Stillwater is on the cover. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.