Fifteen years after rocking the role of Russell Hammond, Billy Crudup has one memory that stands out in his mind when it comes to filming Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous.
“We spent five or six weeks rehearsing together,” Crudup said. “We would rehearse during the day, and then every night, we would have band practice and the four of us who were in Stillwater would go to this soundstage near Century City in Los Angeles, and Cameron Crowe and Peter Frampton and Nancy Wilson would teach us how to be a rock band. That was a pretty extraordinary experience.”
The No. 1 lesson Crudup had to learn? To relax. “I had never played guitar before so it was really difficult for me to fake it well and this character, Russell, wasn’t meant to be just okay, he was meant to be great, so one of the primary challenges for me was just finding some flexibility and relaxation in a very uncomfortable and new environment. So a lot of their encouragement was, ‘Billy, move around!’ Which I learned to do after a while.”
And once he had that down, Crudup got to experience firsthand what life could be like for a musician. “There was one moment when we were shooting at the Palladium in Los Angeles where we had a conversation with the group just before we went out and I was telling Patrick Fugit’s character that his mom really freaked me out and then we turn around and walk out onto the stage and there’s like 1800 people screaming their heads off,” he said. “It is absolutely pitch black and the lights come on and I hit the guitar, and I became very aware of how intoxicating that experience must be for people who perform music.”
Even now, Crudup hasn’t forgotten that experience. He also never tires of hearing anyone say his signature line from the film. When asked if hearing “I am a Golden God” gets old, he responded, “Oh God, no.”
But if you want to hear him say it, it might cost you. “I only say it for money. That’s the crucial part. You can’t give it away for free,” he said with a laugh.