Movie News

Moriarty looks at Cameron Crowe's Untitled Project!

Published at: April 16, 1999, 11:36 a.m. CST

Once again the wonderful Moriarty, reaches out and plops a really quite wonderful report on Cameron Crowe's upcoming, yet untitled, project. Word has been bopping around the circles of Hollywood that... Spielberg read this script and was heard to say it was the best script he had ever read. Now... That's just buzz, and it could be part of popular mythology or hype.... But we have our own resident genius who loves not only scripts and films.. but music as well (save for Holmes' violin solos!) As for Cameron Crowe... I am always expecting less from him than I always get. With JERRY MAGUIRE... I thought that it would be some sort of Yuppie Mantra Movie... but it was a whole lot more. With FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH... it was just supposed to be one of the pack of teenage high school flicks.... instead... it was/is a magically deliriously wonderful film. Let's see what is in store next from Cameron Crowe.... Professor... if you will....

Hey, Head Geek...

“Moriarty” here.

It’s just after 3:00 in the morning right now, and it’s quiet at the Moriarty Labs. Everyone else here is asleep, and I’ve been reading for the last hour and a half, listening to music as I read. Of all the things I do for AICN -- the interviews, the trips, the test screenings -- this is my favorite, that quiet time when it’s just me, a stack of scripts, and various CDs in random rotation. When I’m here on the page, I talk about films, but one of my favorite things in the world is that first play of a new album. Earlier today I picked up Blur’s 13 and Underworld’s BEAUCOUP FISH, and I’ve played each of them twice now. An average night might include some John Zorn, some old Miles Davis, Carter Burwell’s MILLER’S CROSSING score, and Tom Waits’ SMALL CHANGE. I love it when someone challenges my ears just as much as I love it when some filmmaker pushes me, dares me, shows me something new. I guess the thing I really respond to in art of any kind is honesty.

Forgive me if it sounds like I’m rambling. I’m not. All this talk of honesty and music and art was inspired by the script I had the pleasure of reading this evening. Right now it’s untitled, but the name of writer/director Cameron Crowe on the cover was more than enough to make it a must-read as soon as I got it. One of my henchmen was in the Labs at the time, and I read him the first 40 pages of the script before we were interrupted. I wasn’t able to pick it back up and start over, reading the whole thing, start to finish, until tonight. I’m sorry I waited. It’s an unqualified success, a home run, even in this early December 1998 draft, rich, dense, and astonishingly textured.

Small wonder. This is easily the most autobiographical thing Cameron Crowe has written so far. I’m not pretending to know the intimate details of his life, but based on what I do know, I’m sure he has drawn heavily upon his early days as a journalist to help craft the story of William Miller. Despite what the press has written about how this film was supposed to star Brad Pitt, this is not the story of the rock band. He would have thrown the film out of whack, overpowered it. First and foremost, it is the story of an exceptionally bright teenage kid whose life is complicated by his budding talent as a journalist, his advanced place in school (he’s been skipped a grade), and especially by his mother Elaine, a hell of a role for some lucky actress. She’s a teacher whose husband abandoned her with three kids. She’s eccentric, dead set against rock music and hippie culture, devotedly religious. Her oldest son is already gone, and her daughter Anita is about to explode at 16 when the film opens in 1969. There’s a really long prologue here, and it’s the section of the script that many development people would say could be cut seamlessly. I pray to God that Crowe’s in enough control of the film that he can guarantee that won’t happen. The prologue is really wonderful as Anita confronts Elaine in what seems to be a very old, very bitter argument. It starts small when Elaine catches her trying to sneak Simon & Garfunkel’s BOOKENDS into the house, but quickly spills over into other issues -- Anita’s boyfriend Darryl, kissing, . One of the many things they argue about is William and some secret about him. Anita pushes Elaine to tell him the truth about his age. William’s an outcast at school. All the other 13 year olds make fun of him because none of them know he’s skipped a grade. William’s tormented in the showers for having no pubes. He’s so much smaller than the other boys that sports aren’t an option. Elaine finally admits that she actually skipped William two grades and started him in school early. Even as he tries to absorb that he’s an 11 year old 6th grader, the fight keeps accelerating until Anita leaves, taking everything important with her. Just before she goes, she whispers something important to William. “Look under your bed. It’ll set you free.” Later, in the aftermath of the fight, William checks under his bed and finds a black leatherette bag filled with albums. From the way Crowe describes the contents of the bag, you know immediately what music means to this man. You know when he grew up, and you know so much about him based on which albums he names. It’s almost embarrassingly personal.

“He flips through the amazing, subversive cache of music. Cream’s WHEELS OF FIRE, the seminal Bob Dylan bootleg GREAT WHITE WONDER... the Rolling Stones’ GET YER YA YA’S OUT... The Beach Boys’ PET SOUNDS... ABRAXAS by Santana... Jethro Tull’s STAND UP... The Mothers of Invention’s WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY... LED ZEPPELIN... CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH... Miles Davis’ BITCHES BREW... and The Who’s TOMMY... with a note taped to it.

ANITA
Listen to TOMMY with a candle burning
and you will see your entire future.

The heady effect of all these albums registers, as we see him lighting a candle.”

And just like that, as The Who’s “Sparks” plays, it’s 1973, and William is a 15 year old who’s about to graduate from high school.

The whole script is riddled with music cues. If DreamWorks ponies up and buys all the songs Crowe’s indicated in the script, then this is going to be an amazing collection of music, the much, much hipper FORREST GUMP. And it’s not going to just be a bunch of hits tossed together because they “demo well,” either. This script is the work of a man who’s drunk on music, or at least who was at one time. It’s frankly amazing to me that Crowe didn’t find a job in music somewhere and ride it out. That he’s as good a writer as he is and as talented a director would also support the theory that William is supposed to be Crowe. In love with rock and roll, the kid has started writing articles about music. He idolized Lester Bangs, and Crowe is audacious enough to actually use Bangs as a character in the film.

For those of you who don’t know who Lester Bangs is, he’s to rock music what Pauline Kael is to film. At a time when the art form in question was at its finest, there was no more lively and passionate critic. Bangs was the editor of CREEM magazine, and a celebrity in his own right. He was an amazing writer, and there are collections of his work that are still available, still relevant today. William submits his work to Bangs, then actually meets the man. Bangs is charmed by this kid, this boy, who writes with such a clear adult voice, and he encourages him, hiring him to interview Black Sabbath at a San Diego tour stop.

It’s the opening band for Sabbath, a creation of Crowe’s named Stillwater, who become the engine that drives the rest of the film. William never gets his Sabbath interview because of his initial encounter with Stillwater and their charismatic guitarist Russell Hammond. He’s also introduced to the world of the girls who insist that they’re not groupies -- they’re “Band Aids,” there to keep the band healthy and happy. The leader of these girls is Penny Lane, a magnetic figure who provides the final corner of the film’s central triangle. William finds himself seduced by this intimate look at real rock stardom, finally starting the main plot of the film into motion.

All of this, keep in mind, is in the first 40 pages of the scripts. There’s still an entire regular length script to go at that point. There’s no denying it. The script’s long but that’s a good thing when you’re in the hands of someone this capable and this passionate about a story and a group of characters. If JERRY MAGUIRE didn’t convince you that Crowe can write great characters, nothing will. Personally, I love the way he writes now that I’ve actually read his work. The care that this story is told with is evident from the language of the script. It’s so specific, so real, that you just know this film is as much memory as it is fiction. He invests each of the characters in this big sprawling film with a complete soul, messy and rough around the edges, but alive.

William gets a chance to write a piece on Stillwater for ROLLING STONE, and must convince Elaine to let him go, even as final exams and graduation approach. More importantly, he has to actually get out there and do it -- get the story. As William joins the band on tour and starts trying to put a story together, I found myself relating in a major way. Recently, I’ve been adopting various guises and crossing over into the world of “legitimate” journalism (which somehow implies that my work here isn’t). Covering film and watching films are very different things, and in the past few months I have felt every one of the emotions that William goes through in the script. I always hate when I see journalists portrayed the way they are in Drew Barrymore’s current NEVER BEEN KISSED. In this script, Crowe has dared to lay it all out there. It’s a fearless script because it’s not afraid to portray every character with their flaws right out front. These people aren’t made worthless by their faults, though. Instead, it’s those same faults and weaknesses that make them fascinating. The dynamic of Stillwater as one member of the band clearly emerges as the media figure, leaving the others behind, is drawn with incredible specificity. The complicated nature of the relationships between the Band Aids and the band members is handled well, without any of the casual misogyny that would be so easy here. William is not some kind of wonder kid who does everything right. He’s 15. He’s in over his head. He’s awed and horrified and exhilarated and confused and hurt and moved by everything he witnesses, and he does his best to make sense of it. He genuinely tries to balance the influence of his mother, his sister, Lester Bangs, and his new friends Russell and Penny.

JERRY MAGUIRE confirmed a number of things about Crowe, one of which is that he has a sentimental streak a mile wide. He manages to find these wonderful eccentric ways to demonstrate that part of his nature, too. SAY ANYTHING had the unforgettable image of Lloyd Dobler with his boom box held high, blaring Peter Gabriel. Only a Grinch could have remained unmoved when Dorothy shuts Jerry Maguire up with, “You had me at hello.” This film plays with some big emotions as well. Personally, I pray that Crowe and company keep a tight lid on the title of the next-to-final song indicated in the script. All the music cuts but that one are identified. In this one crucial moment, it simply reads, “Song to be chosen later.” I trust that Crowe will find the right piece of music to sum up all the ideas in that scene, all the emotion, and when we hear it in the theater, I am sure it will be crushing and unforgettable.

This is an exciting script because of the direction it seems to indicate for Cameron Crowe. He’s really carving a niche for himself. He’s quietly become one of the more profound voices in mainstream Hollywood. There’s no denying that JERRY MAGUIRE was a big budget studio picture. I mean, come on... it starred Tom Cruise, for God’s sake. It came out in 1996, too, the so-called “Year of the Indie.” Even so, it stuck out as a shining example of filmmaking for the year, no matter what the budget. As much as I’ve always liked Crowe’s work, I’d never really viewed him as world-class before. I do now, though. He seems to be genuinely growing each time out, and that kind of talent is always exciting. It creates hope that we get to savor from picture to picture. There are plenty of guys working right now -- John Sayles, Tim Burton, the Coen Brothers, John Lassiter, Paul Thomas Anderson, the in-no-way-related Wes Anderson -- who seem to be able to muster a consistent level of artistic achievement. I think it’s phenomenal that he isn’t using Brad Pitt in the film. This cast should be entirely unknown. DreamWorks will be creating an entire ensemble of stars with this picture. I have no idea what the production schedule on this film is. I doubt it’s supposed to be out this year, but if it is indeed set for Christmas, then the Oscar race just got even stickier. This script is that good. I have that much faith.

And imagine -- I wasn’t even going to write to you about this script. I was just going to read it for myself. But how could I do that? After all, this page is all about telling you when we think there’s something special coming. It’s not just my job to write these reports for you guys... it’s a pleasure. I don’t do it for money or for the attention. I do it because I am compelled. I’ve gotten hate mail from people over articles I’ve written. I’ve also gotten fan letters. One of the things I hear over and over is that we must be real geeks to spend all this time writing and thinking about movies. When it’s used like that, “geek” isn’t always a compliment. I don’t care, though. I’m proud of this work. After all, it’s like Lester Bangs says to William late in the film...

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

“Moriarty” out.

Readers Talkback

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  • April 16, 1999, 12:05 p.m. CST

    CROWE

    by JaneDoe33

    Sounds very nice. I can't wait to see it when it comes out. Jerry Maguire was very nice, too. Yes, Cameron Crowe does very nice movies.

  • April 16, 1999, 12:11 p.m. CST

    it sounds wonderful

    by Bit

    I don't know whether i was more moved by your review of cameron crowe's script or by what i think the script is about. it was nice to hear such passion when talking about a writer's work. I too, have always been pleasantly surprised by Cameron Crowe's work - and I'm putting this film on my list of must-sees for 1999, if, in fact, it comes out this year. please let us know when you hear more about the production/distribution schedule.

  • April 16, 1999, 12:45 p.m. CST

    99?

    by L'Auteur

    Will it be one of the many must-see (i hate that phrase!) films of 1999? I want to know cuz im compiling a list of cool films to see in that latter half of this year.

  • April 16, 1999, 1:16 p.m. CST

    Cameron Crowe

    by HCaulfield

    Ok right, the only film of Cameron Crowe's I liked was Fast times at Rdigemont high THEN...I was DRAGGED to my local cinema to see Jerry Maguire around august 1996 and at first I didnt like it, but i think thats because i didnt want to like it. I didnt like the premise. Then, I caught it on cable some time last year and was too lazy to change the channel. To my suprise I cried at the end. "crikey" i thought to myself "nobody died and im crying" so the next day i rented it on video to see if it wasnt just a side-effect of the watery beer i had drunk the night before. I watched it, and i cried again. So i decide to rent his entire back catalogue...i remember that i had saw 'Singles' a while back and didnt like it, i still dont. I rented 'Say Anything' and it had the delectable John Cusack in it, so of course i liked that. ANYWAY, just wanted you to know what i think about Crowe. I am SO looking forward to this film which i can NOW REVEAL TO BE...'Stillwater' thats right, i forget where i heard it but i remember hearing about the next crowe project being called stillwater...it must be this. Also, Anna Paquin is in this :( boooo!

  • April 16, 1999, 1:43 p.m. CST

    Crowe is one of my favorites

    by Lloyd Dobler

    If you can't tell by my name, I was majorly influenced by Say Anything, Crowe's first directorial effort. I thought the film, and especially the writing was brilliant. One of my favorite lines of all time is from that movie. Lloyd's friend is telling him to call this girl who broke his heart and Lloyd says "No, no I'm not gonna call her, I'm gonna be a guy." To which his friend replies, "Don't be a guy, the world is full of guys, be a man Lloyd Dobler." I love that, and I try to live like that. As a man. Whether I succeed at that is questionable, but will talk later. Anyway, I am looking foreward to this film just as much as the other big films this year. So far my list includes: This, Star Wars (Duh), Eyes Wide Shut, The Blair Witch Project, Austin Powers, and The GReen Mile.

  • April 16, 1999, 2:10 p.m. CST

    MORE CROWE

    by JaneDoe33

    Oh, my. Crowe is so nice. Oh yes...Oh, Cameron. You're so sweet and cuddly. I think you're...um...what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yes...he's "the bomb". Has anyone else heard that expression? I'm from the "streets" so I know a lot of slang that most of you people probably can't even fathom. When something's nice or cool, you say that it's "the bomb". When something's bad or unpleasent, you say it's "totally stinkified". When something's OK or somewhat mediocre, you say it's "lamey lame-o to the lameth degree". Does anyone understand what the hell I'm talking about?

  • April 16, 1999, 3:15 p.m. CST

    L'Auteur, aka William Safire

    by Bit

    Pardon me. Of course, a true Cineaste like yourself would never stoop to use a description as Common as "must-see".

  • April 16, 1999, 4:19 p.m. CST

    Who's William Safire?

    by L'Auteur

    Bit? I wasn't attacking you (I just now noticed that you used that phrase too). I just hate using a word that the media uses to instill (sp?) the idea that you ABSOLUTELY MUST SEE THIS OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE EMPTY AS A RESULT!!! I mean, seriously, NBC says that their dumbass shows are must-see. That sickens me. Certain films (and few ones at that) are good enough to say, "you should see this." But nothing, especially TV, is MUST see. Life is too short for that. I guess my point is that with all the newspaper ads with dumbass-halfass critical quotes that say "the first MUST-SEE film of the year!" in addition to NBC's insulting (it is insulting that they think my life is so empty that Suddenly Susan is a nessecity), the phrase MUST-SEE is just cliched, stupid, and flat-out wrong.

  • April 16, 1999, 5:01 p.m. CST

    Casting info

    by Ken

    I heard somewhere that Jason Lee(of Mallrats, & Chasing Amy) is supposed to be in this. Does anyone know anything about this? E-mail me at: khedge@hotmail.com

  • April 16, 1999, 6:24 p.m. CST

    GREAT ARTICLE!!!

    by C.C. Baxter

    Cameron Crowe. With FAST TIMES..., I was extremely entertained. With SAY ANYTHING, I found it to be a "sweet little film." With SINGLES, I can't really remember it, but I know I did smile. With JERRY MAGUIRE, I thought it was "good" the 1st time, but after the 4th viewing, I found myself really moved by it. Cameron Crowe is a helluva writer. A greater writer than he is a director. He gives the story a heart. And he takes from his life and real life. And he doesn't ask the basic screenwriting question of "is it profitable?" Maybe it's a good sign that Brad Pitt isn't gonna be in this movie. A guarantee that he won't become "Hollywood Crap." I can't wait to watch this movie! And I hope it's not gonna be entitled: "Stillwater."

  • April 16, 1999, 7:30 p.m. CST

    Moriarty's Review

    by mrbeaks

    All I need to know is that Moriarty likes it. I'd love to read his review, but I want to know absolutely nothing about this project. It's nice to be surprised every now and then.

  • April 16, 1999, 7:30 p.m. CST

    Moriarty's Review

    by mrbeaks

    All I need to know is that Moriarty likes it. I'd love to read his review, but I want to know absolutely nothing about this project. It's nice to be surprised every now and then.

  • April 16, 1999, 8:10 p.m. CST

    Crowe

    by Everett Robert

    sounds like a great movie from a great director*laugh*maybe i should send an auditon tape or reel of my work and see if I can get on this project*smile*just thinking outloud ignore me...what I'd like to know is who for the 15 y/o old lead?

  • April 16, 1999, 10:08 p.m. CST

    cswolfe@yahoo.com

    by Sterling Wolfe

    In my copy(s) of the script, I have about 100% of the December revision, and perhaps 50% of the new revision (and no kids ... I worked like a dog to get my copies, so please ... no e-mails to get copies. ALL my pages are security marked, and I don't want to burn the source of the original leak). Strangley enough, my copy(s) have a vast majority of the scenes that Moriarty describes. Cool. If Mr. M. had said "WOW, THIS IS THE BEST SCRIPT I'VE EVER READ," I'd be really concerned, because this would be just one more script who's "greatness" I don't *fully* get. But yeh, very cool ... it's a nice strong script for reasons that Moriarty so well set forth. But man ... anybody who thinks it's the "best script they've ever read" just has not seen anywhere enough scripts (e.g., The Green Mile, Steinbeck's POV). I look forward to seeing it. By the way, it's my understanding that Billy Crudup plays the lead singer, who's name I don't recall right now -- NOT russel. But Russell is just so much more suited to tour de force first lead material -- so can anybody please confirm for me which part passed from Brad Pitt to Billy Crudiup? Thanks. sterling

  • April 16, 1999, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung

    by Black Angus

    ...is the name of probably the best Lester Bangs book around. A compilation of his essay's and writings for Cream and various other music magazines in the 1970's, it should be mandatory reading for all writers, regardless of subject matter. Incredibly passionate writing that you rarely see in today's music criticism. Thanks for another great report Moriarty.

  • April 17, 1999, 10:34 a.m. CST

    CFH - Good article Moriarty...

    by Corran Fox Horn

    ...now I just hope this baby will turn up at Un-Official's The Daily Script or Drew's Script-o-rama, so we can all enjoy it. Harry, ever thought of adding a script section to AICN?

  • April 17, 1999, 12:02 p.m. CST

    MORIARTY,BLUR SUCKS!!!!!!

    by bombay

    How the hell can anyone like BLUR?.Everything about them sucks,their image is middle class,college boy indie rock.This isn't rock n' roll,a couple years ago,there was a big duel between them and OASIS,and OASIS competely destroyed them.DAMON ALBURN ended up escaping to ICELAND for a long time,cos he couldn't take the shame.Go listen to MANIC STREET PREACHERS,they're easily one of the best rock groups of the 90's.And also since you've been to INDIA,you should listen to INDIAN movie soundtracks,the most popular of all time being KUTCH KUTCH HOTA HAI,this movie as broken INDIA'S all time boxoffice record,it'll soon be available on video worldwide.Why do you think MADONNA has started doing INDIAN music,she knows it's gonna soon conquer AMERICA.Harry,i think it's time you started covering the indian movieworld,BOLLYWOOD,there's non stop singing,dancing and fighting .

  • April 17, 1999, 1:42 p.m. CST

    L'Auteur 2

    by Bit

    When you put it that way I see your point. But the term, although overused, is still the easiest way to sum my feelings up. I say we come up with a term that hasn't already been exploited by NBC and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. Though I can't think of one.

  • April 19, 1999, 1:45 a.m. CST

    Leaving your address online, Mo?

    by seker

    *The Lord of the Storm boggles at the concept* I'm watching Say Anything now, oddly enough. I look forward to a title so I can know to look for this new flick.

  • Aug. 17, 1999, 11:30 p.m. CST

    Cameron Crowe's new movie

    by mstralwind

    I had the honor of meeting Cameron's wife Nancy backstage at a Heart concert last week. I know a few things. One, Nancy is scoring the movie. She and Ann Wilson, her sister and partner in Heart, co wrote a song WITH CAMERON, I believe it's called Needle in the Haystack and it will be in the new movie. One last note. I told Nancy what I had read about Speilberg saying it was the best script he'd ever read. Nancy nodded her head proudly and said, "Yep. He did say that!" And they are looking at a spring 2000 release! Take Heart, Andrea

  • May 31, 2001, 6:58 a.m. CST

    Oscar-winning script as well...

    by Lionel Cosgrove

    I liked Almost Famous a hell of a lot more than I thought I would. Damn, that means I probably have feelings, somewhere inside. Emotional ones, that is, not just wanting to do Kate Hudson. About Blur... sorry, but they piss over Oasis, who only sold more records due to the fact that your mother liked "Wonderwall". "13" is a shitty album though. An hour of crying that your girlfriend's left you can be rather alienating to a listener. Manic Street Preachers are better than both of tham anyway. I just hope nobody does a Richey Edwards biopic at some point: I can't say I want to see someone carving "4 REAL" into his arm with a razor.

  • May 31, 2001, 7:01 a.m. CST

    Blur/MSP

    by Lionel Cosgrove

    Get "Modern Life Is Rubbish" by Blur and "The Holy Bible" by the Manics. Then you'll know great music...

  • July 20, 2006, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Dude! It is SO passed right now!

    by Wolfpack