Offering a little bit of revisionist history, the film’s director Cameron Crowe revealed in a new interview that the cast for the classic flick — which is about one high school music fan’s gig of a lifetime, covering an up-and-coming band for Rolling Stone magazine — was almost completely different than the finalized band of players who would ultimately make the 2000 movie.
“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,” James Andrew Miller said during the first episode of “Origins: Almost Famous Turns Twenty.”
Crowe would explain on the show that the idea behind Pitt playing the role of Hammond – which cast Billy Crudup – was simply a feeling he had when he and Pitt met while the actor was just starting out.
“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 said of the part which Pitt actually ended up reading for alongside Natalie Portman who was also being tapped 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,” added Crowe.
The part Portman was in the running for would end up going to Kate Hudson instead.
It appeared Pitt was a shoo-in for the part because Gail Levin, the casting director for the film, was also game for him to star as the lead, explaining, “He was the first choice, just the first choice. We loved that idea.”
However, Pitt would pass on the film entirely in a move that Crowe said he lamented for a short while.
“I wept,” admitted Crowe. “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.”
Crowe inquired about Pitt’s decision to forego the opportunity, asking about rumors Pitt elected to bow out due to financial reasons.
“He told me that wasn’t the case. I think it was probably half and half,” said Crowe. “I think he was also uncomfortable with the age difference between Russell and Penny Lane.”