Cameron Crowe Says He "Wept" After Brad Pitt Walked Away From Almost Famous

Famed director Cameron Crowe opens up about Brad Pitt's audition process for Almost Famous!

By Alyssa Ray Jul 08, 2020 11:44 PMTags
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Can you imagine Brad Pitt screaming, "I am a golden God"? If yes, then you'll be happy to know that the Hollywood A-lister was this close to playing the role of Russell Hammond in Almost Famous.

For the first episode of Origins: Almost Famous Turns Twenty, host James Andrew Miller revealed that the beloved cast, made up of Frances McDormand, Billy Crudup, and Kate Hudson, almost featured a different array of actors.

Namely, "in the early stages" of the film, Meryl Streep was considered for Elaine Miller, Natalie Portman auditioned for Penny Lane and, as we mentioned above, Pitt was in the running for Russell Hammond.

"Brad Pitt was on my mind because I had a really good meeting with him around the time of Say Anything," the film's director Cameron Crowe shared. "And he was just starting out, and he just really had something."

According to Crowe, after Jerry Maguire came out, Pitt gave him a call and expressed a desire to work with him.

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He added, "I was like, 'Well, I'll call you with the next thing.' So, I called him with this to play Russell Hammond and we spent about four months working on it. He read with Natalie Portman."

During the podcast, casting director Gail Levin made it clear that Pitt was "the first choice" for the part.

"We loved that idea and he was Brad Pitt," Levin explained. "I mean, he was funny and handsome and talented. I mean, that kind of charisma and screen presence would've been really, really great for that part."

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Not to mention, Pitt had quite the rapport with Crowe, who thought the Hollywood heartthrob was insanely funny.

"We kind of geeked out about music and everything and he was slowly kind of putting on the Russell Hammond persona. Really funny, really, really, funny," the famed director recalled.

Case in point: After reading the "Your mom kind of freaked me out" scene, Crowe said he "couldn't breathe" he was "laughing so hard."

Crowe continued, "I'm just, literally, rolling on the floor. Like, dying and he's like, ‘What did I say that was so funny?' And I'm like, ‘That! That is what you're doing that's so funny. You're hilarious.'"

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Although Pitt was attached to the project for a while, even reading with lead Patrick Fugit, he ultimately dropped out of the film. Losing Pitt wasn't any easy moment for the film or Crowe, who said he "wept" after learning the news.

"But I think in the back of my brain, I knew that he had never fully fallen in love with the character," Crowe noted on Pitt's departure from the film. "He had fallen in love with the idea of the character. But, maybe there just wasn't enough on the page."

While casting director Levin suspected that he dropped out "over the deal," Crowe claimed that wasn't the situation.

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"He told me that wasn't the case," Crowe defended. "Some of my friends told me, ‘Don't be a fool! Of course, it was the case.' I think it was probably half and half."

Crowe went on to speculate that Pitt was "uncomfortable with the age difference between Russell and Penny Lane."

Nonetheless, the director and actor didn't part ways on bad terms.

"But then, I think six or seven months later, he just walked in the door one day at our office, said he was driving by, just wanted to come in and say that we'd always been on his mind and good luck," Crowe concluded. "And I loved him for it!"

Crudup went on to land the part and made it his own.

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Origins is written and hosted by Miller. Executive producers include Chris Corcoran, Chief Content Officer, Cadence13 and Miller.

You can catch all of the episodes of Origins: Almost Famous Turns Twenty here.