When Cameron Crowe was 15, he became the youngest journalist to write for Rolling Stone Magazine. Throughout his adolescence, he interviewed many iconic musicians of the '70s, including Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, and Elton John. In 1981, he adapted his book "Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story" into a screenplay, and seven years later, he added Hollywood director to his resume with the release of "Say Anything."
The writer has a natural affection for "the little guy" and a seemingly never-ending ability to create unlikely heroes with universal appeal. Before he fell in love with music, Crowe told Rolling Stone he was a precocious boy who was sheltered by a mother who thought rock and roll was "s*** disguised as candy." In typical teenage fashion, he rebelled against her beliefs by secretly reading Creem, Rolling Stone, and the San Diego Door, and carved his own path in life through writing and music.
With the creation of lovable dark horses like Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and Janet Livermore (Bridget Fonda), Crowe quickly distinguished himself in Hollywood as an auteur of the uncool. Unsurprisingly, Crowe decided to bring his own coming-of-age, underdog story to the big screen, but he told The Guardian in 2001 that he wanted it to be as real as possible. To do this, Crowe cast another unknown, precocious, sheltered teenager as his younger self, and introduced him to rock and roll, and "band aids."
Similarly to John Hughes, Cameron Crowe captures the awkwardness and confusion of life in a way that is both relatable and real. Throughout his career, Crowe has embraced authenticity in his films, but with "Almost Famous," he wanted to make it even more tangible. Instead of casting an experienced performer who could fake naivety and innocence, Crowe hired an unknown actor named Patrick Fugit.
Before playing William Miller, 16-year-old Fugit had extremely limited acting experience, and no interest in rock and roll. "Before this, I had one Chumbawamba CD – that was it," Fugit told Rolling Stone in 2000. "I actually thought Led Zeppelin was the name of one guy. Same thing with Jethro Tull." It was Fugit's genuine innocence and ignorance that won him the role because it reminded Crowe of himself as a kid. In 2021, Fugit told ScreenRant that Crowe made rules to protect those qualities on set:
"[Crowe] was like, 'Nobody is going to be offering him drinks or to smoke pot or anything.' He was just, like, 'We'll let all the first time things happen while we're filming. On camera.' There were other castmates who had kind of a side-mission to corrupt me and to get me out into those environments, but between my mom, who was there, and the hawk crew that was the set teacher, Rhona Gordon, and the set acting coach, Belita Moreno, and Cameron, it just was not going to happen!"
When Fugit wasn't filming, he was stuck in a trailer with the set tutor while the rest of the cast hung out and played music. "That was kind of lame for me as a 16-year-old," Fugit recalled, "but in hindsight, probably a good thing. It kept me feeling like the outsider that William really was."
A Nervous Deflowering
Although Cameron Crowe limited Patrick Fugit's life experiences on set, the director helped the teen overcome his inexperience as an actor. According to Variety, Crowe and Belita Moreno spent months of pre-production rehearsing scenes with Fugit to improve his technique. "When it came time to film things, I felt I was ready," Fugit recalled. "They set me up for success." Throughout the shoot, Fugit was able to rely on the rehearsals and his own innocence to authentically pull off a scene, but the actor wasn't always comforted by his inexperience.
Fugit grew up in Salt Lake City, which had a big impact on the actor's encounters with the opposite sex. "80 percent of the people are Mormon, so that can be a big thing when you're in high school and want to date girls," Fugit explained to The Guardian in 2001. "You get the girl who's allowed to date and you meet her dad who has the gun behind his back, saying, 'Have her back by nine.'" So when the teen had to act out losing his virginity to three "Band Aids" — a group of girls who follow famous musicians around the country — he was utterly unprepared. In his interview with Variety, Fugit recalled discussing his concerns with co-star Kate Hudson:
"When she asked if I was nervous, I said, 'Look I'm 16, Fairuza [Balk], Anna [Paquin], and Olivia [Rosewood] are all beautiful. What happens if I get a certain physiological response to what's happening?' Kate laughed and said, 'If it does happen, that's what's supposed to happen in nature, so you shouldn't feel too ashamed.'"
In spite of his insecurities, Fugit's natural nervousness elevates the scene from a cheap hookup to a tender rite of passage filled with blushing cheeks, wide eyes, and silk scarves.
A Celebration Of Youth
Cameron Crowe told Rolling Stone that "Almost Famous" is a "love letter" to the rock and roll of his youth. Crowe's affection for music is found in Stillwater's heartfelt rendition of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," William's final interview with Russel Hammond (Billy Crudup), and Patrick Fugit's wide-eyed innocence. The film was quick to become a critical darling despite bombing at the box office and would even inspire a Broadway stage musical adaptation two decades after its release (you can read /Film's review of the musical here).
Many teenagers struggle through insecurities, inadequacies, and expectations, which often leads to a search for a meaningful connection. A lot of young people find comfort and meaning in music and idealize those who create it. But if you're really lucky, like Crowe and William, the music and musicians eventually teach you to accept and love yourself … no matter how awkward and uncool you might be.
Read this next: The 14 Greatest Biopics Of The 21st Century
The post Even Kate Hudson Couldn't Prepare Patrick Fugit For Almost Famous' Hotel Room Scene appeared first on /Film.