‘Almost Famous’: The Oral History of a Golden God’s Acid Trip

Cameron Crowe held a screening for Led Zeppelin to get the musicians to license their music, something they didn’t do much at the time.

JOE HUTSHING Cameron and I had to fly to London to show [Jimmy] Page and Plant the movie and hopefully get their blessing. After the lights came up, Robert Plant immediately said, “So Cameron, is your mum really like that?” There was a pause, and we all burst out laughing. She was exactly like that, and Frances McDormand had played her perfectly.

CROWE 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.

CRUDUP Cameron told me afterward, “Robert Plant said, ‘Yeah, I liked it a lot. That Russell character, I know that guy.’” And Cameron was like, “You know Billy?” And he goes, “No, no, no, I know Russell.”

CROWE 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 after “Almost Famous” was released, the two “golden gods” had an unexpected encounter.

CRUDUP I actually saw Robert Plant [in] the airport, carrying his guitar, and I was thinking, “God, I wish I could just have the guts to ask him if it was true that Cameron witnessed him saying that.” Of course, the moment passed, and I go to board my plane, and he’s sitting catty-corner to me and it’s a five-hour flight back to New York. I spent five hours paralyzed, trying to imagine some way to introduce myself. Nothing comes to me, the plane lands, and I go to get my carry-on. 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.

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