15 Things You Didn’t Know About Almost Famous

It's a golden god of movie trivia!

Fifteen years ago today, writer-director Cameron Crowe released the film that would become every millennial hipster’s cinematic Bible, Almost Famous. A semi-autobiographical take on Crowe’s days as a rock journalist in the ’70s, the film follows a square 15-year-old San Diego reporter (Patrick Fugit) who gets the chance of a lifetime writing a Rolling Stone cover story for up-and-coming (fictional) band Stillwater (fronted by Jason Lee and Billy Crudup, among others).

The film earned Crowe an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but it also launched the career of Kate Hudson, whose character Penny Lane has earned itself a place in cinema history, becoming just as recognizable as Holly Golightly and Norma Desmond before her.

Simply put, you’d be hard-pressed to find an ensemble period piece so quoted in tweets, and so prolific on Tumblr blogs and Pinterest pages, as Crowe’s magnum opus is today. In honor of its lasting legacy, here are 15 things you didn’t know about Almost Famous.

  • 1 Sarah Polley was originally supposed to play Penny Lane, but she dropped out to film her project, The Law of Enclosures.
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    “The part didn’t fit me. Every day, it felt less and less like something I could pull off,” Polley told the New York Times. “You just knew when you read the script that whoever played that part was going to have a certain kind of life, and it wasn’t one I was ready for.”

  • 2 Penny Lane was based on Cameron Crowe’s childhood friend and Bebe Buell, a.k.a. Liv Tyler’s mom.
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    The famous model, musician’s muse (most famously for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler), and Playboy centerfold was also the inspiration behind Jason Lee’s character name, Jeff Bebe.

  • 3 Crowe’s mom, whom Frances McDormand’s character is based on, makes a cameo as the teacher handing out diplomas.
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    Like McDormand’s potrayal, she was also a San Diego City College professor.

  • 4 Russell Hammond was written for Brad Pitt.
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    But the actor dropped out when he couldn’t trust the then-underwritten role.

  • 5 Philip Seymour Hoffman had the flu the entire time he filmed.
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    Which made him perfect to play the eccentric, perpetually disheveled, insomniac editor of Creem.

  • 6 Cameron Crowe’s experience writing a Rolling Stone cover story on the Allman Brothers inspired the movie.
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    The film’s ending mirrors an incident Crowe recalled for Todd Gilchrist: “On the eve of leaving the tour with a ton of interview tapes and research, Gregg Allman asked for my tapes back, believing that I was actually an undercover cop sent to spy on the band.”

  • 7 The famous “Tiny Dancer” scene was inspired by Crowe’s experiences with Led Zeppelin.
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    According to Crowe, they similarly vibed off the music of Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, and The Guess Who.

  • 8 The family dynamic in the film was inspired by Crowe and his mom’s relationship with his sister.
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    In fact, his mom and his sister didn’t reconcile until around the time Almost Famous came out. “When my mom and sister hugged, it looked almost exactly like Frances McDormand and Zooey Deschanel in the movie and I just thought, OK, anything can happen now,” Crowe told EW.

  • 9 Crowe features his notes from a Jethro Tull story at the end of the title sequence.
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    He wrote about the band’s live performance for the San Diego Door in June 1972.

  • 10 Crowe used lines from his former mentor Lester Bangs in the film.
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    “The one line that’s not in the movie is where he says, ‘I can’t stand here all day talking to my many fans. I’m gonna drive by the house of the girl that broke my heart. I’m gonna look at the house,’” Crowe told Philly. “And I thought, ‘Wow, the great, corrosive Lester Bangs is going to make a geeky, sentimental trip past the house of the girl who broke his heart? Fantastic. I can be like that. I am like that.’”

  • 11 Crowe’s wife, Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson, wrote the film’s score.
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    Not to mention, he and Nancy wrote Stillwater’s fictional hit “Fever Dog” together.

  • 12 Russell Hammond is based on Glenn Frey of the Eagles.
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    “I saw Glenn Frey at a dinner party recently, and I realized that so much of Russell is Glenn. He was the coolest guy I had ever met in 1972,” Crowe told Rolling Stone. “I was backstage at a concert interviewing everybody – the Eagles, King Crimson, Ballin’ Jack, Chaka Khan. In the Eagles’ dressing room, everyone’s talking about Glenn – the one guy who isn’t there.”

  • 13 Jason Lee’s singing voice is actually that of a guy named Marti Frederickson.
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    The L.A.-based musician had written and produced songs for Aerosmith and Def Leopard, among others.

  • 14 Crowe originally wrote a character named Russell DeMay, based on Beatles publicist Derek Taylor, for David Bowie to play.
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    “The publicist used to not be the buffer, the publicist used to be one of the band,” Crowe told FilmComment. “[They] were much more complex and almost Shakespearean characters, many of whom died early because they did have to party so much as part of their game.”

  • 15 Crowe was in two near-fatal plane crashes, one with The Who, the other with Heart.
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    “[The Who] let me fly with the T-shirt-merchandising: one stoned guy with a box of T-shirts. He was so eager to get to the next city to see this redhead that he flew us into a storm and went as fast as he could,” Crowe told Rolling Stone. “[With Heart] we were in a storm so terrible that you really were looking at people for the last time. We ended up landing in Tupelo, which is why Tupelo’s in the movie.”

Tara Aquino is an entertainment writer based out of L.A. She likes people, places, and things.