Stillwater rocks on once more with two 4K cuts of the film and a bounty of never-before-seen bonuses

Drawing from Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age as a teenage rock journalist, Almost Famous follows ambitious yet naive teenager William Miller (Patrick Fugit) as he tours the country with up-and-coming rock band Stillwater for a Rolling Stone feature during the whirlwind summer of 1973. The tour allows William to explore a world carefully shielded from him by his loving but overbearing mother Elaine (Frances McDormand): a world jam-packed with not just wild arena shows and wilder fans, but bitter band rivalries and fleeting road-trip romances. Always in tow are Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) and her tribe of Band Aids, the (not groupie) devotees that champion their favorite band’s passions however they can, whether as a shoulder to cry on or something far more physical. Stillwater frontman Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) is the Virgil to William’s Dante through this never-ending party–struggling with his own perceived limitations in a band Russell feels he’s surpassed, as well as his on-and-off romance with Penny Lane. But over the course of the tour, William’s love of music, writing, and now both Penny Lane and Stillwater build to a disastrous impasse–forcing William to confront hard-learned truths about love, the truth, music, and the everlasting power all of them have on our lives.

When he first finished the script for what’s essentially his cinematic coming-of-age autobiography, Cameron Crowe sent his draft to various studios and directors around Los Angeles to gather an initial response. Steven Spielberg’s response was for Crowe to “direct every word” — and even 21 years later, Almost Famous wholly endures because of the painfully personal level of specificity Crowe brings to his film. Almost Famous lovingly depicts the 1970s as an era of unfettered optimism and passion for pop culture–where music can be an escape for a mid-level band from Troy, Michigan as much as it is for a 15-year-old aspiring writer in San Diego, California.

Just past the Space Age and just before the era of Heavy Metal and Reaganism, the world of Almost Famous is one of perpetual fun, with little room for recovery from the sold-out concerts and impromptu hotel parties that last until dawn. No matter where William turns, the same ecstatic faces are there to greet him. There’s also few surprising celebrities like Bowie or Parsons & Harris that serve to remind us how exclusive this world is — but like William, we are against all odds part of the club now. It’s a realized vision that can only come from someone who’s lived it, and Crowe’s true-to-life story seems in hindsight inevitably destined for the big screen. Crowe’s skill as a writer/director, though, is in how he never lets his memories get in the way of making a good movie–and that every bit of nostalgic detail serves to drive his story along and bolster the world he creates.

For instance, Stillwater has got to sound like a band whose records you’d find today tucked away in an Uncle’s basement or in the stacks at Half-Price Books. The result, a behind-the-scenes brainchild of Crowe, Heart bandmember and Crowe’s then-partner Nancy Wilson, and rock icon Peter Frampton, is nothing short of your second-favorite rock group. “Fever Dog” and “Love Comes and Goes” are loud, in-your-face absolute bangers that you can’t help but sway your hips and bang your head to, ones you can’t believe you haven’t heard before–and as a result the audience is 100% sold on Stillwater’s half-remembered, half-imagined place in Rock History.

Crowe’s knack for creating split-second yet excruciatingly memorable characters on display from Fast Times at Ridgemont High through Jerry Maguire is utilized to perfection here in Almost Famous’ snapshots of life on the road. It’s not just how Fugit, Hudson, Crudup, and McDormand turn in career-best performances. From Stillwater drummer “Silent Ed” Vallencourt, to Sapphire, Polexia, Vic, and the rest of the devoted and carefree Band Aids, to the astonishingly cool uncoolness of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs, to a pre-fame, hilarious bit part as a hotel clerk by Eric Stonestreet, everyone in the orbit of William Miller and Stillwater feels not just alive, but endlessly vibing to their own distinct groove. The end result is a wholesomely offbeat symphony of an ensemble that feels more like a family than a cast, one that draws your love and attention in for a bear hug until you become the latest honorary member of the gang.

Almost Famous is a film that lives up to its credo of being honest and unmerciful about the people, places, and period it depicts, with love and melancholy mixed in bittersweet balance. We want the party to feel endless because it inevitably will come crashing down; we want the fans to cheer as loud as they can because the silence afterward is louder, and free from life and all of its responsibilities, the road feels more like a home than home ever can. But that’s part of growing up and committing the experience to memory–and how everything that comes after makes those brief moments of magic seem all the more legendary. Even more so when the right song cue can make the whole thing come flooding back to mind as if you never left the party.

To say this new 4K steelbook of Almost Famous is an embarrassment of riches to old and new fans alike is an understatement. For the first time since the days of DVD, the film’s 2-hour Oscar-winning Theatrical Cut joins the beloved 2.5-hour Bootleg Cut, and also brings together every one of the past bonus features alongside never-before-seen behind-the scenes footage and a treasure trove of even more deleted and extended footage. While the debate over just which version of Almost Famous is the best one to watch–it’s literally a never-ending cycle of preference for this reviewer–the fact that we finally get both cuts in pristine 4K alongside all these bonuses feels like a piece of film history finally being rectified. After 21 years of home video releases with their own fair share of debate between formats, this steelbook is by far the definitive release of Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age classic.


Paramount presents both cuts of Almost Famous in 4K Dolby Vision UHD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, accompanied by an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel track and a French 5.1 Dolby Digital dub. English and French subtitles are majestically included for both cuts as well as the bevy of Special Features aside from audio intros, the Nancy Wilson demo, and the theatrical trailer.

Both cuts of Almost Famous have incredible scans, bringing the rich details of the films’ production design to life without sacrificing any of the nostalgic glow that’s carried through from original prints through ever-evolving media formats. Fine details from distant car license plates to period fabrics are well-represented, and shadows, color, and light are sharply contrasted and balanced especially during concert sequences. Audio tracks are bold and well-rounded during concert moments and each of Crowe’s signature deep-cut/greatest hits needle drops, but effortlessly scale back mixing when it comes time to place the dialogue front-and-center.

Special Features

Disc One: The Theatrical Cut (2 Hours, 2 Minutes)

New Special Features:

  • Filmmaker Focus: An 8-minute retrospective by Almost Famous’ writer/director recapping his biggest memories of the film’s development and production–notably the relationships with Peter Frampton, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, as well as the iconic bus at the core of the film.
  • Casting & Costumes: The film’s cast and crew discuss their memories of first coming together in pre-production testing wardrobe, set to John Toll’s shot-on-film wardrobe tests and original casting tapes intercut with the final filmed scenes.
  • Rock School: Crowe, Wilson, and Frampton guide us through re-discovered footage of original Stillwater band practice.
  • Extended Scenes: 9 minutes of rough never-before-seen extended scenes, including “Jeff Bebe’s first interview,” “Phoenix Arizona Lobby,” and “William visits the Rolling Stone offices”
  • Odds & Sods: The true treasure trove of this release, Odds & Sods collects 9 minutes of never-before-seen material not present in any cut of the film, well worth the purchase of this set alone.

Greatest Hits: Archival Special Features

  • Audio Intro by Cameron Crowe.
  • The Making of Almost Famous: 24-minute extensive making-of featurette, full of glimpses of footage elaborated upon in the newer special features.
  • Interview with Lester Bangs: 2 minutes of original Lester Bangs footage–seeing this snippet of the Creem magazine editor makes Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance seem less like a portrayal of a real person and more of an extended possession or channeling.
  • Cameron Crowe’s Top Albums of 1973: Almost Famous’ writer/director/musical creator tours us through ten albums from 1973, each with selectable audio snippets about each album and how they tie into the film’s creation.
  • Fever Dog Music Video: Assembled through extended footage of the film’s opening-act San Diego concert.
  • Love Comes and Goes: A demo of another Stillwater hit as performed by Nancy Wilson, set over making-of and rehearsal footage.
  • Rolling Stone Articles: A collection of seven of Cameron Crowe’s articles for the iconic rock magazine, spanning 1973–1979.
  • B-Sides: Fly-on-the-wall rehearsal and making-of footage shot on DV.
  • Cleveland Concert: Presented as 1973 concert footage, an extended glimpse at Stillwater’s Cleveland performance featuring “Love Comes and Goes,” “Hour of Need,” and “You Had to Be There.”
  • Small Time Blues: Extended footage of a song written and performed by Pete Droge and Elaine Summers, seen only briefly in either cut of the film.
  • Stairway: The only other deleted scene released before this set’s new collection of material, Crowe features an extended sequence of William trying to persuade his mother to let him go on tour by playing Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven–albeit muted as music licensing hadn’t been procured. However, the powers that be include a handy “sync” moment for viewers at home with their own copies.
  • Script: Cameron Crowe’s screenplay as a single-scroll page navigated via remote.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Hidden Talent: Three previously-hidden Easter eggs from the Bootleg Cut, including “Eerie Outtake” (a flubbed take featuring Lester Bangs and William), “Stolen Kisses” (an extended deleted scene between Hudson and Crudup where Penny forces herself to say Russell’s wife’s name for 4 minutes), and “Cameron Crowe’s Perfectionism” (as the Director guides Fugit and Hudson through repeated takes on a single exchange of lines).

Disc Two: The ‘Untitled’ Bootleg Cut (2 Hours, 41 Minutes)

  • Commentary with Cameron Crowe and Friends.

Almost Famous is now available on 4K Steelbook and Limited Edition Paramount Presents Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures.

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