If you haven’t seen it, there’s a deleted scene from the movie Almost Famous that you absolutely must see. That is, if you’re a fan of the movie Almost Famous.
Here it is:
Now, Almost Famous is in my Top 5 all-time.
As far as other “writer” movies, I like Midnight in Paris, Stranger Than Fiction, Feat and Loathing in Pas Vegas, and Wonder Boys.
In Almost Famous, writer/director Cameron Crowe works to capture the feeling of wonder we experience through the film’s protagonist William Miller where as a 15 year-old rock journalist, he sojourns backstage and everything, including the roadies, become magical for him.
I saw the flick in theaters right after my first few outings as a Hip Hop journalist.
I knew exactly how young William felt.
I’ve watched this flick compulsively. I’ve seen the director’s cut several times and, almost without exception, don’t really miss too much the stuff that didn’t make the theatrical release.
The scene I posted above being an exception.
Logically, the scene would take place early in the film, after young William’s initial interview with Stillwater but before he goes out on the road with them.
Two of William’s teachers along with sister Anita’s old boyfriend have convened alongside William to try to convince mom Elaine to allow William to take the 4-day road trip.
Predictably, Elaine says no. As a final argument, William plays a song which he argues is “inspired by the literature of Tolkien” and promises his mom “It’ll change your life.”
It’s Led Zeppelin’s seminal “Stairway to Heaven”.
It’s worth noting here that Frances McDormand, who at nearly 42 years-old, played Elaine Miller and was by far the sexiest actress in the flick.
And that’s no small feat when you consider that the movie also featured Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Anna Paquin and Bijou Phillips all at their youthful, nubile best.
Scrubbed free of make-up, not even any lipstick, hair back and mostly shown in nondescript utilitarian dresses that fit with the time frame in which the movie is supposed to take place – the early 70s – perhaps it’s how straight-laced Elaine is represented as being – that and how thick her legs and hips are – that lends immediately to the idea of repressed sexuality.
Ms. McDormand was also in Wonder Boys, released the same year, and was nowhere near as fuckable.
While “Stairway to Heaven” plays, we see Ms. McDormand playing that repression up for full effect, but we also see something else.
Maybe it’s me, but although we’re being led to believe that Elaine Miller is hearing this song for the first time, it seems pretty clear that Frances McDormand is not.
One gets the feeling almost that this song is a favorite. She can’t help but nod along at parts and even most of her reactions to her fellow listeners’ over-the-top enthusiasm to certain breaks and peaks in the music seem to be anticipatory and not reactions at all.
Also, Crowe let the whole song rock as he more or less did with “Sparks” by the Who as he used a montage to showcase the maturation of young William.
And “Stairway” itself, in fairness, is maybe like Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” for Hip Hop, the single song one might use to prove the overall value of a genre.
An embarrassment of riches Almost Famous becomes when you watch this scene and realize that it was considered expendable.
Imagine discovering it some 16 years later just when you though you knew and had enjoyed these characters as much as you possibly could.