Almost Famous isn’t about musicians so much as it is fans of music. Its most memorable scene, the “Tiny Dancer” singalong, revels in the unifying power of a good song. And then there’s the Topeka house party, where Billy Crudup’s glowing rocker sees himself through the eyes of his fans—buzzing on acid, he stands before them and declares himself a “golden god.” It’s yet another funny, rowdy, and touching scene in a movie filled with them.
It’s also the subject of a new oral history from the New York Times featuring interviews with Crudup and his co-star, Patrick Fugit, in addition to editor Joe Hutshing, production designer Clay Griffith, costume designer Betsy Heimann, and Cameron Crowe, the writer and director. And while there’s plenty of fun takeaways—the original extras were too “1990s,” Crudup nearly biffed his climactic jump—what’s perhaps most interesting is Crowe’s interaction with the original golden god, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
After recalling the “Zeppelin lore” of Plant declaring his deification on a balcony of the infamous Continental Hyatt House, Crowe reflects on a nerve-ridden private screening he hoped would convince Plant and Jimmy Page to license their music.
“Never have you watched two heads more than we watched their two heads watching Almost Famous. Every once in a while they would whisper something to each other. And we’d look at each other like, ‘What did that mean?’ And then comes the ‘golden god’ sequence. And Billy goes, ‘I am a golden god!’ And Robert Plant lets out the greatest laugh and claps. We could breathe now. We’re like, ‘We got a shot that they might like the movie.’ Then comes the end, where Billy Crudup is on a bench and he’s finding out that the kid has written all of it [in the article], including screaming, ‘I’m a golden god.’ I think Billy says, ‘I didn’t say that.’ And Plant shouts out, ‘I did!’ in the theater.”
The duo dug the film, so much so that Plant thought to dust off an old bottle of quaaludes. You know, like you do.
As Crowe remembers:
“We sat in the screening room with Page and Plant for a while. And one of the first things was, Robert Plant said, ‘Wow, so many memories.’ He said, ‘I have a bottle of quaaludes from the early 1970s that is ornamental on a shelf. I think I’m going to go home and open it up tonight.’ That was when I felt like ‘I’m a golden god’ found its rightful home and went back to its creator. I often think of Robert Plant himself dialoguing with the movie when I see that scene.
Years later, Crudup himself bumped into Plant on an airplane, where they pleasantly sparred over who’s the real golden god. (It’s both of them. There’s room for everybody in gold heaven.)
“Apparently, my carry-on was a piece of [garbage], because Robert Plant took the time to say, ‘Well, I guess that’s seen better days,’ to which I replied, ‘My name is Billy Crudup. I was in the film Almost Famous, and I played Russell Hammond, the guitarist.’ He goes, ‘It is you!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I had that line, ‘I’m a golden god.’’ He said, ‘That’s my line.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s my line now’ and walked off the plane, at which point the flight attendant goes, ‘Wow, the two golden gods.’ It made me so satisfied that he remembered the movie and remembered that line.”
Read the full oral history here.
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