Nothing sounds nearly as cool as traveling the country with a rock band and writer and director Cameron Crowe actually does know what that is like from following Led Zeppelin for a Rolling Stone cover article in his teens. That journey would inspire 2000’s Almost Famous, an instant classic about a young aspiring journalist who joins fictional up-and-coming musicians on tour in the 1970s, with a Grammy-winning soundtrack as stellar as its cast.
The Academy Award-winning period piece would be a breakout hit for some (such as Kate Hudson), yet another glowing resume entry for others (like Philip Seymour Hoffman), or might be one movie you forgot Jimmy Fallon was in years before hosting The Tonight Show. However, every member from the cast of Almost Famous would bring something memorable to the story and most would go on to live up to the film’s title, even if some were already pretty close to fame to being with.
In celebration of two decades since the release of Almost Famous, we look back on the legacy it has led through the legacies it helped to create. The following are 14 of its main cast members, who they are they portrayed and how they have made a name for themselves since.
Patrick Fugit (William Miller)
After making his big screen debut as Cameron Crowe’s onscreen counterpart in Almost Famous, Patrick Fugit reunited with the filmmaker for 2011’s We Bought a Zoo and would additionally show up in other notable films (Saved!, First Man) and TV shows (Jason Bourne spin-off Treadstone, Robert Kirkman comic book adaptation Outcast on which he played the lead). He more recently voiced the character Owen in the hit video game The Last of Us: Part II and will star in the pilot for Thirtysomething(else), which focuses on the grown-up children of characters from the late 1980s drama Thirtysomething.
Kate Hudson (Penny Lane)
Other than being known as the grown-up child of Goldie Hawn and stepdaughter of Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson won a Golden Globe for playing a free-spirited, fictionalized version of band promoter Pennie Lane (with the spelling altered) in Almost Famous.
She has also been known to associate with musicians in real life, too, having once wed The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson and later dated Muse frontman Matt Bellamy amongst other rock star romances. The How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days star has led an eclectic acting career that will next include Music, the directorial debut of Sia, fantasy thriller Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, and Michael Shannon-led comedy Shriver, which is still currently filming.
Billy Crudup (Russell Hammond)
He has lent his voice to music onscreen twice as Stillwater’s lead guitarist in Almost Famous and alongside the late Anton Yelchin in Rudderless in 2014. You might also recognize Billy Crudup’s voice from those “priceless” Mastercard ads years ago. He also starred in two DC movies (Dr. Manhattan in 2009’s Watchmen and The Flash’s dad in 2017’s Justice League), portrayed lawyer Eric MacLeish in the 2016 Best Picture winner Spotlight, played the captain of a doomed colony vessel in Alien: Covenant, and recently scored an Emmy nomination for playing a slimy network executive in the Apple TV+ original The Morning Show.
Jason Lee (Jeff Bebe)
You might also recognize Jason Lee’s voice as Syndrome in The Incredibles or his face from his Golden Globe-nominated title role on sitcom My Name is Earl. Before playing Stillwater’s lead singer Jeff Bebe in Almost Famous, the skateboarder turned actor broke out as Brodie in 1995’s Mallrats by Kevin Smith, for whom Lee reprised his Chasing Amy character, Banky Edwards, a third time in 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. He also recently voiced a Sasquatch named Charlie on the Cartoon Network original We Bare Bears and its 2020 feature-length TV movie, which you could argue is a step up from playing Dave in the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, and he also moonlights as a restauranteur in Denton, Texas.
Anna Paquin (Polexia Aphrodisia)
Her role as Flora McGrath in The Piano made her the youngest Best Supporting Actress Oscar recipient in history at 11 years old in 1994 and, in 2000, Anna Paquin had a tremendous year, both starring in Almost Famous as Polexia Aphrodisia and debuting as Rogue in X-Men. The Canadian actress also has a Golden Globe for the hit HBO vampire series True Blood and her most celebrated performance recently was as Robert DeNiro’s estranged daughter in The Irishman, despite having one line of dialogue. She has also appeared on the acclaimed Showtime drama The Affair and as a publicist for troubled celebrities in the Pop TV original series Flack.
Fairuza Balk (Sapphire)
Prior to playing Stillwater groupie Sapphire in Almost Famous, Fairuza Balk also had a notable child acting career, making her film debut as Dorothy in the twisted Return to Oz and later landing a scene-stealing role as teenage witch Nancy in The Craft. One of her more recent notable characters was a sex worker named Ginger on the third season of Ray Donovan and she will make her return to the world of the music business (on screen, at least) in Paradise City, a series spin-off of the 2018 film American Satan, which is now in post-production.
Noah Taylor (Dick Roswell)
Some modern audiences may recognize English actor Noah Taylor, who played Stillwater’s manager Dick Roswell in Almost Famous, as Mr. Bucket in Tim Buton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or as Phibs in Paddington 2. However, most people would more likely recognize him from his remarkable television as of late, which includes playing Locke on Game of Thrones, Daryl Sabini on period crime drama Peaky Blinders, and, most recently, on AMC’s DC Vertigo comic book adaptation Preacher, which is, believe or not, the second time he has portrayed Adolf Hitler.
Mark Kozelek (Larry Fellows)
Making his feature film debut in Almost Famous was Mark Kozelek, who played Stillwater bassist Larry Fellows - a very fitting role for him a he has made a career out out it. The musician only has four total acting credits to his name, including Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, leader of a band called Hot Tears in the Steve Martin-penned drama Shopgirl, and an appearing as himself against Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in 2015’s Youth. Any other contribution of his to entertainment has been in the music department on various and films and TV shows or rocking out onstage or a recording studio.
John Fedevich (Ed Vallencourt)
It was actually per Mark Kozelek’s suggestion that John Fedevich, a studio session drummer since the late 1980s, got the part of Ed Vallencourt, Stillwater’s drummer. In fact, the musician has never been in a movie that did not also star his bass player friend Kozelek, including Almost Famous, a wordless reprisal of the Vallencourt role in Vanilla Sky, and playing the drummer for Hot Tears in Shopgirl. Fedevich is still active in the music business touring with various artists, including Billy Joel, to name one.
Michael Angarano (Young William Miller)
Michael Angarano’s career as a promising child actor was already on the up-and-up when he was cast as a younger version of William Miller and his career has since continued to evolve with no sign of stopping. He played the super-powered son of his Almost Famous co-star Kate Husdon’s stepfather, Kurt Russell, in Sky High, reprised his role as Eliot, Jack’s (Sean Hayes) son, on NBC’s reboot of Will & Grace more recently, and his stint as Jack Pearson’s younger brother on This Is Us earned him an Emmy nomination in 2019. He also appears in the second season of Hulu’s PEN15 and is pre-production for a CBS sitcom pilot called To Whom It May Concern.
Zooey Deschanel (Anita Miller)
Like her onscreen younger brother, Zooey Deschanel would become a sitcom star after playing Anita Miller in Almost Famous, after appearing in several other high-profile films, of course. The 40-year-old star of Elf, 500 Days of Summer, and M. Night Shyamalan’s infamous The Happening, who is also a singer for indie duo She and Him, retired her role as Jessica Day on New Girl after seven seasons in 2018 and recently reprised the voice of Bridget in Trolls World Tour. Otherwise, Deschanel has spent much of 2020 in quarantine with her beau, Property Brothers’ Jonathan Scott.
Frances McDormand (Elaine Miller)
Playing the overprotective Elaine Miller in Almost Famous was just one of the many stages of Frances McDormand’s portrayal of many kinds of mothers, including her Oscar-winning roles in 1996’s Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in 2017, among others. The 63-year-old actress will appear next as an free-spirited cross-country traveler in Nomadland, a trailblazing journalist in Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and as Lady MacBeth opposite Denzel Washington in the title role of her husband, Joel Coen’s, interpretation of Shakespeare’s 17th Century tragedy.
Jimmy Fallon (Dennis Hope)
Few remember Jimmy Fallon having the most successful career outside of his Saturday Night Live stint and eventually becoming a leading late night talk show host, but those are also the same people who might not have recognized him in his feature film debut as professional touring manager Dennis Hope in Almost Famous. While his acting career was, admittedly, underwhelming to most (from 2004’s Taxi and Fever Pitch the following year) before taking over Late Night from Conan O’Brien and later The Tonight Show from Jay Leno, he has done quite well lately by making cameos as himself, such as in Jurassic World, Amazon Prime’s darkly funny superhero satire The Boys, and the upcoming comedy Marry Me, starring Jennifer Lopez, which is expected for release in 2021.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lester Bangs)
Never one to underwhelm on screen was the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, who played real life music critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous as well as countless other scene-stealers since the late 1980s, including Brandt in The Big Lebowski, Scotty J. in Boogie Nights, and his Oscar-winning performance in the title character of Capote. His final role was as undercover resistance leader Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games franchise, which he was mostly able to finish before he passed away of a heroin overdose in 2014. Hoffman was 46.
What do you think? Did the cast of Almost Famous indeed live up to the film’s title or do you believe they deserved better? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the Cameron Crowe classic, as well as even more inside looks at the cast members of your favorite movies and TV shows, here on CinemaBlend.