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REVIEW // Origins: It’s All (Still) Happening

EDITORIAL

REVIEW // Origins: It’s All (Still) Happening

In honor of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous turning 20, James Andrew Miller devoted the most recent chapter of his podcast Origins to exploring the film. Currently, the podcast features six chapters, previously covering Curb Your Enthusiasm, ESPN, Nick Saban, SNL, and Sex and the City. Now, over five episodes, Miller interviews the people who were there, creating one of the most quotable American music films of the last two decades.

If you’re going to make a podcast about something as beloved as Almost Famous, it helps if you can actually speak to the people who were there. From the first episode of this chapter, Miller interviews Crowe along with Gail Levin who cast the film. We get to peek behind the curtain at what might have been, as names like Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman are floated. The first episode is a strong exploration of how important casting is, and how it can forever alter the path of the final piece.

The film was also a deeply personal creation for director Crowe, for whom it is semi-autobiographical. Creating a work that tells now only your own career story but also sheds light into your upbringing and spotlights your parents can be an emotional process. In episode 2, Cameron shares stories like that of his mother’s relationship with Frances McDormand, who played Elaine, the main character’s mother, in the film. 

For a work like this one, music is as important as the acting performances. Crowe’s then-wife Nancy Wilson teamed up with Peter Frampton to teach actors like Billy Crudup and Jason Lee to play guitar and sing for the film. But they also had to write new songs for the fictional band Stillwater to perform during shots of concerts. Miller’s interviews with Nancy and Peter provide the listener with such a sense of dedication and energy, it’s easy to see why the actors worked so hard to perfect their skills.

Shooting the film itself creates an interesting story in episode 4, as Crowe explains that everything was shot on location and in the order the scenes would appear in the film. Actors like Patrick Fugit and Kate Hudson tell Miller about the experience of knowing there won’t be another chance to get a shot, and how they worked through their feelings when a scene wasn’t going well.

Finally, in episode 5, Miller asks his guests to consider why we’re still talking about Almost Famous twenty years later. What makes this film not only highly quotable, but so beloved by fans? We rewatch it year after year, finding comfort in the coming-of-age story of a young man falling in love with rock and roll. Happy 20th anniversary, man. And don’t take drugs!

 

Check out Origins, Chapter 6: Almost Famous Turns 20 on Spotify and everywhere you enjoy podcasts. For more on the show and previous chapters, visit their website and follow James Andrew Miller on Twitter.

 

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