If you look at the behind-the-scenes stories of one of Cameron Crowe’s most iconic films, it really leans into the “almost” of it all. The 2000 film starring Kate Hudson and Philip Seymour Hoffman about a young journalist who tours with a ‘70s rock band had a stacked cast as is. But according to the writer/director, there were a number of Oscar winners in the running. Brad Pitt was the filmmaker's first choice for Billy Crudup’s Russell Hammond in Almost Famous. In Crowe’s words:
Brad Pitt was on my mind because I had a really good meeting with him around the time of Say Anything, and he was just starting out, and he just really had something. So I called him with this to play Russell Hammond, and we spent about four months working on it. He read with Natalie Portman.
At the time, Brad Pitt was in his prime (but honestly, has he left his prime since?), with Fight Club and Se7en under his belt. Cameron Crowe reportedly even wrote the role with him in mind for the part. The pair had previously met while he was casting for 1989’s Say Anything, and Crowe wanted Pitt to play the lead guitarist of fictional band Stillwater for Almost Famous. But Pitt ended up turning down the opportunity. The rejection took a toll on the director, as he said on the Origin with James Andrew Miller podcast:
I wept. I knew that [Brad Pitt] had never fully fallen in love with the character. He had fallen in love with the idea of the character. But maybe there just wasn’t enough on the page.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Brad Pitt’s ties to Almost Famous. According to a previous report, the actor, who was in his mid-30s at the time, just didn’t “get it enough to do it.” Crowe echoes some of these sentiments with these recent comments, also explaining he might have had a problem with the age difference between Russell Hammond and Penny Lane.
He read with Natalie Portman, who wouldn’t have been more than 19 years old at the time. In the end, it was Kate Hudson who scored the role of Penny Lane – she is two years older than Portman and Billy Crudup, who is five years younger than Pitt. Another “almost” was for the part of William’s mother Elaine, who is played by Frances McDormand in the film. It turns out Meryl Streep was up for that role. Whoa!
It's crazy to imagine what could have been. Earlier this year, Kate Hudson and Jimmy Fallon reunited to discuss their time on the film where they met. Hudson admitted to Fallon that she “would have totally gone there” with the Tonight Show host if he had made a move. Sound familiar? Fallon had a similar encounter on his show with Nicole Kidman back in a hilarious 2015 interview.
The beauty of Almost Famous is how well it works without Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman or Meryl Streep. It’s got an incredible lineup even if Cameron Crowe felt he had to compromise. Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more behind-the-scenes news about your favorite movies.