Cameron Crowe’s rock-and-roll odyssey “Almost Famous” about his golden days as a Rolling Stone journalist has only gotten better with time. The film turns 20 this September, and its wild shoot continues to yield fascinating stories from the crew and cast. That includes one of the movie’s breakout stars, Patrick Fugit, who plays Crowe’s surrogate character William and was only 16 at the time of filming.
In a recent Vulture interview with Fugit about the making of “Almost Famous,” one memory that stands out is his on-set dynamic with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays legendary music writer Lester Bangs. Lester becomes William’s mentor and editor, and that mentorship onscreen also carried over behind the scenes on the movie.
“Philip was only there for a few days. He was another well-known theater actor with a lot of training, and he was less accepting of me than Billy [Crudup] was,” Fugit said. “They both would give me shit. They’d ask me, like, ‘How old are you again?’ And I’d be like, ’16,’ and they’d be like, ‘Fuck you, man. You’re from Salt Lake City? Okay, great. What have you done there to earn this part?’ But Philip was also kind of like, ‘Kid, you have a big part here. You need to show up to work. Make sure you do a good job while you’re here. Don’t just throw this away. There’s actors out there who scrape, and beg, and starve for this kind of a role.'”
Fugit also recalled a diner scene where a light on set was too bright, and getting in the way of his performance. “Philip stops the take, and he’s like, ‘Hold on. Hey, Patrick, you can’t even look at me. You can’t even act right now. I feel like the light is too bright.'” Hoffman convinced cinematographer John Toll to lower the lighting, but for Fugit, the moment brought an important lesson for the rising young actor. “I realized Philip was standing up for me, but also pointing out to me that we may be pretty close to court jesters and dancing monkeys, but if something’s impeding you, you have to say something,” he said.
Fugit’s recollection of his short time with Hoffman is the latest heartfelt tribute to pour out for the late actor this year, as Jesse Plemons recently remembered Hoffman’s generosity and genius on the set of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” and Ethan Hawke also said that Hoffman gave him some of the best acting advice he’s ever received while working on Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead.”