Russell Hammond in “Almost Famous” is one of Billy Crudup’s career-defining roles, but there was a four-month period where writer-director Cameron Crowe worked with Brad Pitt developing the character. Pitt was Crowe and casting director Gail Levin’s first choice for the role. When young Patrick Fugit got to the screen test round of auditions to play protagonist William Miller, Brad Pitt was still attached to the role. Fugit recently spoke to Uproxx about his first meeting with Pitt.
“I went in and Cameron introduced me to Brad,” Fugit said. “He was sitting in Cameron’s office and Brad could tell I was nervous, but I was also excited to get into things. Brad started talking about PlayStation, and he was like, ‘Hey, man, I’ve been playing this game, ‘Cool Boarders.’ Do you play ‘Cool Boarders?” I, by the way, had been playing a fuck load of ‘Cool Boarders.’ So I was like, ‘Well, Mr. Pitt, I can do these tricks.’ And he was like, ‘Wow, you can land that trick? I’ve only got this one and that one.’ And he’s like, ‘You’ve got to show me how to land that trick.’ Just loosening me up and geeking out about ‘Cool Boarders,’ but really just spending the time to get to know me, make me feel comfortable and that sort of thing.”
Fugit continued, “By the way, Cameron had left the room. He sort of introduced us and he left the room and let us talk for about 15 minutes. Then he came back in and it was time to do some scene work. I remember it being a lot of fun. And then, I think by that time, Kate Hudson was being considered for Penny. I did a screen test with Kate and we did some scenes together and then I flew back to Utah.”
On an episode of the “Origins: Almost Famous Turns Twenty” podcast last year, Crowe said that he “wept” when Pitt told him he was no longer going to continue with “Almost Famous.” The director explained, “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.”
While there has been rumors over the years that Pitt left “Almost Famous” over financial reasons, Crow said he was informed by the actor himself that such rumors were not true. Crow added, “I think it was probably half and half. I think he was also uncomfortable with the age difference between Russell and Penny Lane.”
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