It's 9:45 on a Monday morning in mid-August, and the seventh floor suite of the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton hotel is abuzz with celebrities, quasi-celebrities, publicists, personal assistants and reporters as if it were back stage at a rock concert.
This is apropos, however, since the purpose of this chaos is a press junket to promote "Almost Famous," director Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical cinematic memoir about his days as a teenage prodigy rock journalist in the early 1970s.
Crowe's career began in 1973 when he was a 15-year-old self-taught cub reporter, writing with great enthusiasm about the San Diego music scene for the fanzine Creem. Based solely on his work, rock bible Rolling Stone hired him, sight unseen and without realizing his age, to write a behind-the-scenes tour story about Led Zeppelin -- a band the musically savvy Crowe worshipped like gods.
What he experienced on that trip -- not just sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, but a personal and professional coming-of-age -- is the subject of "Almost Famous," a fictionalized and fond account of Crowe's youth that is the culmination of his second career as a screenwriter ("Fast Times at Ridgemont High"), writer-director ("Say Anything," "Singles," "Jerry Maguire") and motion picture legend in the making.
"It's a love letter to rock and roll," says Patrick Fugit, the mop-topped virtual unknown plucked from Salt Lake City to play William Miller, the movie's hero and Crowe's alter ego. The lackadaisical but cheerful Fugit is currently the calm of the storm in this busy hotel room, leaning in the open doorway to the suite's vast patio, looking a little bored with the Hollywood of it all.
Posing next to the marble railing of the terrace 15 feet behind him, Kate Hudson (Goldie Hawn's daughter and a rising star in her own right) is being photographed for a magazine while overlooking the city from the hotel's hilltop perch. She co-stars in the picture as a groupie with a heart of gold who is taken for granted by the movie's fictional band, called Stillwater.
Meanwhile back inside, Crowe is in the middle of a surprise reunion with Ben Fong-Torres, the one-time Rolling Stone editor who gave him the Led Zeppelin assignment. Coincidentally, Terry Chen, the actor who plays Fong-Torres in the movie is also near by. So is Fugit's mother, who quietly reads Variety in one corner of the room.
Antsy journalists mill about waiting for their interview slots with Crowe, Fugit and Hudson, who have to be on a plane in two hours on their way to Seattle for more of the same. After a cell phone call and posing for a few photographs himself, Crowe finally sits down for a roundtable interview with a batch of us reporters.
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