Cameron Crowe Details The Neil Young Scene Cut From Almost Famous
Almost Famous, writer-director Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film fictionalizing his experiences as a teenage rock journalist for Rolling Stone in the ’70s, turns 20 years old next month. The real-life version of the magazine is running a series of features around the anniversary, and yesterday, they published an interview with Cameron Crowe himself.
Crowe talks about a lot in the interview, sharing stories about the making of the movie and the real-life stories that inspired it. He talks about casting a stand-in for himself and how actual rock stars like Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and Glenn Frey reacted to the movie and the characters based on them. But one particularly interesting revelation is the Neil Young scene that ended up getting cut:
Neil was going to come backstage in Cleveland with a young wife. He is Harry Hammond, the estranged father of Russell Hammond. They’re complimenting the show, but the young bride is looking at Crudup, and he’s looking at her; and he realizes that the father is being played and is piggybacking on his [son’s] success. It’s a heartbreaking moment about what success does to an estranged parent. Here’s the scene. It’s right after the T-shirt scene.
[Reads] Russell walks swiftly past a happy silver-haired man who holds court with beer in hand. He dresses too young for his age. Late fifties. He is Dad.
Russell, dutifully: “Hello, Harry.”
Dad introduces a woman much younger, who eyes Russell hungrily.
“He got all the good genes, huh?” says Neil Young. “Meet Diedre. We’re getting married in July.”
There you have it. It was a cool little scene. Betsy [Heimann] had outfitted Neil Young, and he had his clothes and everything, and canceled the morning of. But he was first in line to give us the acoustic “Cortez the Killer,” and he went through his archives to find the perfect take and mixed it and gave it to us. So he giveth and he taketh.
Crowe also recalls how David Bowie drove him around when he was covering Bowie during the recording of Station To Station because Crowe didn’t drive until he was 18. “I was listening back on some of the tapes from the Bowie interview,” he says. “He writes a song in the course of this interview to show the Rolling Stone reporter how he writes a song. And there’s a song on this tape that nobody’s ever heard before that he wrote to show me how he did his craft. I will never take those moments for granted.”
In an early draft of the script for Almost Famous, called Ricky Fedora, Crowe actually wrote a role for David Bowie to play. The character didn’t end up in the final version of the film, but Crowe is still trying to do something with it. “I have that script — I just need to find who would play that David Bowie part,” he says. “That’s actually coming right up … I went back to the character and wrote a script for him. We’ll see. Maybe he’ll help us out from the beyond, send us in the right direction.”
Another fun story is Robert Plant’s reaction to a private screening of the movie:
We knew we were going to roll the dice. We had four Led Zeppelin songs in there. [Soundtrack producer] Danny Bramson made sure communication was good. We were coming to them hat in hand. We timed it to the one day of the year Jimmy and Robert got together and went over tapes and talked about Led Zeppelin business. At the end of that day, they came to watch our movie in the basement of a hotel.
It was just Joe [Hutshing] the editor, Danny, and me. We’re in the back row, and Jimmy and Robert are three rows from the front, sitting together. Watching behind, you saw their heads framed by the film, which was iconic in itself. They would lean and say things to each other, and you’d just see this outline of their heads talking privately, and we looked at each other like, “Oh, we’re fucked. They’re trying to figure out how they can leave.”
Then came the “I am a golden god“ scene, and Plant just laughs. It’s the greatest laugh, and we’re looking at each other like, “Oh, my God! We’re still OK. We’re still OK.” Then came the scene where Jeff Bebe says, “Russell, he has you high on a roof saying, ‘I am a Golden God.’ And Billy [Crudup] says, “I didn’t say that. Or did I?” And Plant goes, “I said it!” [Laughs.] We’re giving quiet high-fives.
The movie ends, and they’re both smiling. Plant walks up the aisle, so he’s in our row. He says [with a perfect Robert Plant impression], “Cameron, was your mom really like that?” I said, “That and more.” He laughed, and he looked at Jimmy, then he said, “I have a bottle of quaaludes that’s been on my shelf since the early Seventies. I think I’m going to go home and crack it open tonight.”
You can read the full interview here.