Diablo Cody’s new EW column!
I have seen Almost Famous — both the theatrical cut and the extra-crunchy ”Bootleg” incarnation — a total of 11 1/2 times. (That last time I was only partially cognizant of my surroundings, though I probably still sang along to ”Fever Dog.”) Cameron Crowe’s gauzy valentine to arena rock and long-stemmed groupies made life on the road seem achingly sweet. The cross-country adventures of William Miller and Penny Lane have always made me long to hop on a tour bus, chemical toilets notwithstanding. (True story: Recently I was backstage at the Hollywood Awards, standing about four Maddox-lengths from Brad Pitt, when Crowe walked in. I forgot all about Pitt and began palpitating over Crowe in a fit of silent dork hysteria. I couldn’t stop staring at his head because I knew Famous had unspooled from that very braincase.)
Okay, so knowing how I feel about the ultimate tour flick, you can imagine how torqued I was when I found out I was being sent out on the road to promote the movie I’d written, Juno. (Note to cynics: Lest ye assume that this column is a shameless attempt to pimp my flick, rest assured that this ain’t no one-off. Actually, I’m EW’s newest columnist and will be contributing on a regular basis. Hi.)
But I digress. According to the studio, our press tour would take me, director Jason Reitman, and star Ellen Page all over the U.S. and to a couple of cities in Europe. We’d host screenings, field queries at Q&A’s, and do hundreds of interviews in ecru-walled hotel suites. But all I heard was the word ”tour.” This was my chance to live like a rock star! I’d be like Jason Lee in Famous, albeit with less facial hair. I was determined to make the tour as debauched as possible. Never mind that Reitman’s idea of a party is Diet Coke and Hot Tamales. I wasn’t exactly rolling with Mick and the boys.
A few weeks before departure, an itinerary circulated. My manager phoned me, worried. ”I’m looking at your schedule. It’s pretty insane.” ”Whatever, man. The only thing that’s going to be insane is my BUZZ. Hey, do you know where I can get embroidered velvet pants?” So off we went to Atlanta. Seattle. Chicago. Toronto. Elsewhere. But a few cities in, I began to notice something disheartening: We — the ostensible ”power trio” of Ellen, Jason, and myself — were actually deeply uncool. Every day we’d board a plane, disembark just in time to attend an evening screening, sleep a sensible six to eight hours, then begin another press day. We were cheerful, punctual, professional, and 100 percent groupie-free. No televisions were heaved into swimming pools; no cub reporters were deflowered. Hell, I didn’t even order any in-room porn — the idea of a studio accountant perusing the bill was too mortifying. Would you want your employer to know that you couldn’t resist the lure of Bi-Curious Moms IV? Not that I pride myself on class and discretion, but whatever.
As I had imagined it, life as a touring writer would be a soft-focus gypsy caravan, a multi-city blur of room-service Moët, artfully tousled hipsters, and intimate after-parties where everyone listens to Gram Parsons in the buttery light of dawn. Sadly, my boho-glamour fantasy wound up looking more like week 6 at Camp Winnemucca. I quickly learned that it’s hard to look attractive when you live out of a Samsonite. My neglected haircut began to resemble Javier Bardem’s man-bob in No Country for Old Men. Someone like Kate Hudson can make ”disheveled” look hot, but I looked like someone you might see queuing up at the needle-exchange van downtown.
After a while, I was reminded of ”Turn the Page,” Bob Seger’s famous ballad about the rigors of touring. I used to think the Seeg was being a whiny bitch — Ooh, it’s so grueling to camp at the Ritz! And wait, did he just complain about being mistaken for a chick? But now I was forced to confess to myself that Bob — the ultimate ramblin’ gamblin’ man — had a point. Life away from friends and family messes with your head, and traveling at warp 10 takes its toll on the body. At one point, I did press in Los Angeles, Spain, Paris, and New York within one hazy 72-hour period. (Yes, it’s possible, though I was barely ambulatory in the final stretch. You try introducing a film in Castilian Spanish while battling Buñuel-worthy hallucinations.) While I was peripherally aware of local color outside the confines of the hotel, I was always more familiar with my shower curtain than with my host city.
And yet, despite the lack of Zeppelin-era high jinks, this tour hasn’t all been Sturm und Drang. I’ll never forget the Gijón natives attempting (successfully) to keep me awake by pouring glass after glass of the potent local cider, plying me with prison-strength cigarettes, and dragging me to a disco at 5 a.m. Nor will I soon forget the two guys in Atlanta who drove 75 miles on three separate occasions to see our movie. Best of all, watching audiences on two continents enjoy the film has been the privilege of a lifetime — maybe even cooler than any rock tour. Sure, none of us has dared to pop six quaaludes, climb to a dangerous height, and declare ”I am a golden god!” But I guess we’re just more comfortable being golden geeks.