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INT: Cameron Crowe

10.14.2005

It’s good to see Cameron Crowe return to his roots. Before he went all experimental with VANILLA SKY, Crowe was an expert at serving up heartfelt guilty pleasures like SAY ANYTHING and ALMOST FAMOUS, emotional films infused with hip soundtracks that found their way into the dorm rooms of sorority girls everywhere. For his new movie, ELIZABETHTOWN, Crowe mined aspects of his own Kentucky youth to craft a story about a man who finds redemption in the unlikeliest of places. Oh, and it features another quintessential Cameron Crowe soundtrack.

Last week Crowe stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to talk about ELIZABETHTOWN. A sincerely kind and gracious individual, he tempered my desire to bludgeon him for all the times I heard drunken louts scream “Show me the money!” after JERRY MAGUIRE. Check it out.

Cameron Crowe

What inspired you to make a film set in Kentucky ?

I had been working on this other project; I had been on tour with my wife and had dropped off in Kentucky and I was driving around with these first eight pages. When I hooked back up with the tour, I was like “You know that story I’ve been torturing you about? Well, I’m not thinking about that anymore; I’ve got this other thing!” Nancy was like “Oh God. Now it begins, this goes on for years.” (laughs) So I read her the first eight pages, while in Albuquerque , and she said, “Uhh, that’s pretty good, that’s pretty good. I get why you would want to do that.” She knew my dad, and she also knew that song by The Hollies, “Jesus was a Crossmaker,” and that sort of arrived, too, from the beginning. And it all sort of took off from there.

How much of you is in Orlando Bloom’s character?

Going back to Kentucky – that definitely happened. My mom definitely did deal in her own way with grief…she did take comedy lessons, she was embraced by a neighbor, who’s name – I guess we can reveal cause we’ve lost him now, time rolls on – it was Bill, Boner Bill. So you can see we really changed things around a lot. We leave no clues at all. (laughs) But all that stuff really happened. Some things in Fast Times actually happened that felt embarrassing to write – not all of them happened to me – but some people I was researching and I talked to them at the time, but oddly enough, it’s the personal stuff that I put in that people come up to me and say, “I can’t believe you put that in the movie; that happened to me. And I thank you for it.” I feel that way about things I see in movies. And the things that you make up happened to no one, so I don’t know if the next thing will be taken so directly from our experience, but this one was.

What exactly is represented by the “Spasmotica,” the shoe that Orlando ’s character creates?

It was an unwieldy dream with the best of intentions and I think in the longer version of the movie, it’s slightly explained, but it was always meant to be an enigma. What happens is that in the quest for true nobility and greatness it needed – it wasn’t quite there. And now you have to say, in the timeline of the movie, it’s after the movie ends and people start to realize if you clip the wings off, it really does give you a sensation of walking on the clouds, so it was an unfinished noble dream that they gave up on too soon at Mercury shoes.

Did you research the shoe business? Why the shoe business?

Yeah, when it’s tied to lifestyles and accessories and clothing and a huge ad campaign, you start getting into big, big money. And the billion dollars was a bit of the fable aspect of the story. But there are these maverick guys who run these shoe companies and sometimes they will say “I am not going to test market this.” That doesn’t happen in the movie business – “I am not going to test market this; this is a shoe that must come along with a pump.” And it doesn’t work. Why the shoe business? It could have been anything; what I liked, and maybe this is over explaining, I just liked the idea that there’s a guy who could learn so much from people by the shoes he’s wearing. He’s looking down at the world and what’s happening and what’s happening around him. And I just like the poetic idea of somebody who needed to come along and lift his head up to look around at the world itself and that was Kirsten’s character.

One comedic centerpiece of the film is the seemingly endless wedding of Chuck and Cindy. Is that something you’d seen before?

You should have seen the earlier cut; it was even more endless. (laughs) Yeah, and I saw it during the making of the film; we were shooting this in hotels. Crazy. We were in Lexington and we were getting ready to make this movie with “Chuck and Cindy’s Wedding” and here comes Chuck and Cindy – sometimes two or three of them – with their little photos all around as you come in.

So I would get my video recorder out and say “Your wardrobe is perfect; where did you get it? We’re making a movie.” And they’d be like, “Is that the Orlando Bloom movie?” (laughs) “Yes, it is, and there’s a wedding in it so can I just shoot your wardrobe?” And they’d say “Yeah, if you make a video tribute for us.” So I’d shoot them and their wardrobe and then I’d turn the camera around and say, “Have a great life Brad!” I’d change tapes, shoot again, because the wardrobe was based on a lot of things we saw…it does go on for days, and there is a schedule of events, and there are the cigar smokin’ dudes and they’re hangin’ over here; and then there’s the Debs and the bridesmaids who hang. You could do a movie about Chuck and Cindy.

How do you gather the music for a movie like this?

Pretty much the music in this is what survived all the different stages and worked the best. And then I took some out cause I didn’t want it to be too music-heavy. If you can believe it, there was even more music that was in there. It was always meant to be a tribute to the American singer/songwriters…cause there are so many great ones and they don’t get played…so I just wanted to use the movie to play some of these great singer/songwriters like Patty Griffin and Ryan Adams. But Nancy ’s score, I’m really proud of (it). I think it’s the best kind of score – it’s a guitar-based thing. Mark Knopfler did a score like that for Local Hero that knocked me out, so I love a good score.

These days, do any artists ever say no to you when you try to get the rights to songs?

Yeah, Sigur Ros said no but then gave us one song for Vanilla Sky. Yeah, sometimes they say no and sometimes they ask for a lot of money that we don’t have. But it’s tough now, because so many tv shows and movies are made by music lovers and so it’s like that’s the new radio, because they’re playing stuff and they’re really giving exposure to songs so you want to give them something to make it stand out a little bit. The funny thing is nowadays…it used to be the sanctity of rock that you could never let your song be used in a commercial; that was the thing, like, “Oh man, we’ll never let our music be exposed that way.” Now, they’ll call you up and say, “You gotta use this song, you gotta use this song in your movie man. It’s the new VW ad!” (laughs) “People love it! People love it!” And you realize boy, have times changed. Cause I don’t think Nick Drake began his career thinking he’d be the voice of the VW Bug. But, embrace the times.

Ideally, what do you want audiences to take away from a Cameron Crowe film?

Interesting question…I think I want them to feel like the characters are real, cause the movies I’ve loved are ones where the characters are so real to me that I feel like I know them and I miss them. And I feel like I know Fran Kubelik from The Apartment – I do, I know her, to the point that when I see Shirley MacLaine in another movie, I go, “That’s Fran!” And I love it, and I have been oddly satisfied a few times in some of the movies I’ve made that the actor has matched the character to the point where they live. And John Cusack was that guy (Lloyd Dobler) – and he is. It’s the thing that when he acted it, it came to life and that’s my favorite thing; like if Kate Hudson is able to twirl and for a moment be a character that you believe is real, Penny Lane…it’s the coolest.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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