Cameron Crowe


Cameron Crowe, wrote and directed the iconic 2000 film Almost Famous, based on his experience covering the Allman Brothers Band for Rolling Stone as a teen in the 1970s. Before the show opened on November 3, Crowe sat down with Newsweek to discuss how the musical came to be and what fans can expect from this retelling of his story.

Q _ Did you ever envision the movie becoming a stage production?

No, but my mom did. And she’s such a big part of the story. We were close and I told her when people were kind of sniffing around and asking me about it...but I never was sure it was gonna work.

Q _ Are you a fan of musicals?

Sondheim. That was the thing that we learned in our house. I mean, it was kind of taught in our house, [especially] Company. So the idea of happy-sad lyrics that are not cheesy, but are insightful and as good as Joni Mitchell, that gave me a taste for when it could be really good. And I love jukebox musicals like Jersey Boys a lot.

Your mother, on whom the character Elaine Miller is based, died when the show was opening in San Diego. Did Anika Larsen who plays Elaine get a chance to meet her?

They did meet. They met on the day my mom died.

We were up in San Diego doing the play. And Anika really had wanted to meet my mom. My mom was starting to have failing health and she was shy about being seen. And Anika wrote this beautiful card that I read to her and it sat on this desk right by her bed. And [my mom] was like, “Oh, I’m not ready to meet her yet. I’m not ready to meet her.” [My mom] had seen a tape of the workshops and she loved Anika. But she was shy about meeting her and then when my mom was in the hospital, struggling, Anika said, “Can I just meet her because sometimes people in that state are ‘on receive’ and can hear things. So I’d love to meet her.” I was like, “OK.” So I went and picked her up at the theater and took her to the hospital a couple of miles away and they met and Anika sang her songs. This is the first time I’ve been

able to talk about it without crying. And we didn’t talk about it at the time. It wasn’t really publicized, but I know the cast was like, “Let’s pull together because our writer is going through some stuff right now.”

The movie helped make stars of Billy Crudup and Kate Hudson when they were young and relatively unknown. Were you trying to repeat that when you were casting all these young actors for the show?

I think it happens naturally because there are a lot of parts and they’re young characters. So generally, you don’t have a lot of seasoned people who are playing a 17-yearold, though we got very lucky with Casey [Likes]...and he replaced the guy that bailed out six weeks before we did our performanc­e in San Diego. So it was like, “Oh, no, we’re not going to be able to do it.” But then we found Casey in Arizona.

Did you impart any wisdom to him about playing a character based on you?

Casey came up to me at one point very early on and he goes, “Give me a secret. Tell me a secret, something that Patrick Fugit from the movie didn’t know, something that only I can know.” And I was like, what a bold cool thing like a 16-year-old, 17-year-old to ask. So I told him my deepest family secret and he turned it into comedy. This guy is amazing. I don’t even know why I just answered his question, except he was so sincere about asking.

Was there anything you wanted to do differentl­y with the stage production?

More Penny [Lane]. Really just glimpses of what her backstory and family life is. That’s really fun. It’s been great to just put a few little things in there that are kind of emotional Easter eggs. Like if you know the movie or the character, you hear it and go, “Oh that’s where the coat came from.”

What would you say to people who are fans of the movie about coming to see the show?

If you’ve never been to a Broadway show, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. That’s been my pleasant surprise—seeing the kind of union between music fans and the OG theater people.

I’m here every night and so many people come up to me and say, “I’ve never been to a Broadway show before, I want to see more now, like this is cool.” Well, you got Moulin Rouge down the way, you’ve got Kimberly Akimbo.

So to me, it’s like a version of what I first loved about music and so to meet people that are having that experience now coming to see our play, it’s great and I hope it’s a portal for other shows that they want to go see.

“It’s been great to just put a few little things in there that are kind of emotional Easter eggs.”

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 ?? ?? MEET THE MILLERS (From left) Emily Schultheis, Anika Larsen and Casey Likes.
MEET THE MILLERS (From left) Emily Schultheis, Anika Larsen and Casey Likes.

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