HAVING CONDUCTED many interviews on both sides of the tape deck, writer-turned-director Cameron Crowe knows how to put a subject at ease. His friendly, genuine demeanor helped get him on the Led Zep tour bus as a teenage contributor to Rolling Stone, but also masks the considerable drive it took to succeed in both journalism and Hollywood. (He also found time last year to author a lovely book on Billy Wilder, Conversations With Wilder.) Discussing his fourth film during a recent stop here (his part-time home), Crowe was well-aware of the stigma associated with the '70s classic-rock era of Almost Famous.
"That perception pissed me off enough to want to do the movie," he declares. "I saw a lot of movies and TV shows that trafficked in the clich鳠of the '70s, made fun of them, made sport of them, made the one guy in the crowd with the mullet [represent] everybody that existed in the '70s. I thought it was too easy—and not my experience."
"But where is the Truffaut version of that era?" he asks. "I saw a lot of stuff that felt like a glorious '60s hangover, and a passionate commitment to the music and to an idealism that was pretty angst-free. I liked the idea of doing a movie that was about the timeless aspects of that decade." Moreover, he adds, our perceptions of those years are mainly based on the disco "mirror ball-ization" of that decade—but Saturday Night Fever didn't come out until 1977.
"Any period piece has elements of nostalgia," Crowe concedes of his take on the '70s, which "puts that golden haze over everything." Yet, he notes, his protagonist observes the ineluctable influence of money and corporatization that affected both '70s music and movies—making it harder for smaller bands and personal films to find an audience.
Still, his picture doesn't provide an easy resolution to the commercial pressures of the decade—or to the life pressures felt by his characters. "Nobody really gets what they wanted," he concludes. "There's hope. But it's not a fairy tale."