“Almost Famous” is a classic film, but can you imagine if some of the leading roles were played by anyone other than Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup, and Kate Hudson?
As it turns out, the movie almost had an entirely different feel to it as film director Cameron Crowe considered a completely different cast at the helm of its creation.
In the first episode of “Origins: Almost Famous Turns Twenty" from RADIO.COM'S Cadence13, host James Andrew Miller reveals, “In the early stages of 'Almost Famous,' there was talk about casting her ladyship Meryl Streep as Elaine Miller, the mother of the young rock journalist, Brad Pitt as Russell Hammond, lead guitarist in the band Stillwater, and Natalie Portman in the role of band aid Penny Lane.”
Crowe explained his thinking behind considering Brad Pitt for the role of Russel Hammond. “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,” Crowe explained.
Pitt went so far as to read for the role for months alongside Natalie Portman, who was in the running to play Penny Lane. “So I called him with this to play Russell Hammond, and we spent about four months working on it. He read with Natalie Portman,” Crowe said.
Gail Levin, the casting director for the show, was also on board to have Pitt play the leading role. “He was the first choice, just the first choice. We loved that idea,” she said.
Unfortunately, Pitt ultimately decided to drop out of the film, and the change didn’t immediately sit well with Crowe.
“I wept,” he explained. “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.”
And while many speculated that money may have been an issue, Crowe asserts that it's not necessarily true. “He told me that wasn’t the case. I think it was probably half and half.” He continues, “I think he was also uncomfortable with the age difference between Russell and Penny Lane.”
Ultimately, they onboarded Billy Crudup to play the role of Russell Hammond.
For more about the film, listen to "Origins: Almost Famous Turns Twenty" on the RADIO.COM app.