Cameron Crowe on his Pearl Jam obsession
It's no secret the ''Almost Famous'' director is seriously into music. But now, with his documentary ''Pearl Jam Twenty,'' he's lovingly crafted a fan's note celebrating two decades of one of his favorite bands
You’ve characterized this as a movie for fans. What kind of Pearl Jam fan do you consider yourself?
God, probably like an obsessive, an obsessive with a front-row seat. That’s how I tried to do the movie, actually.
What was the hardest footage to track down?
A piece that was rumored to exist for a long time: Kurt Cobain’s slow dance with Eddie Vedder at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Eric Clapton is playing ”Tears in Heaven” above them, so they’re below the stage together, and Dave Grohl is in the footage and so is Courtney Love. People remembered cameras being around, but nobody knew if the footage actually existed anywhere. Eric Erlandson from Hole had it and rightfully was laying low with it so as to not exploit it. I think he decided the time was finally right to let it out. Eddie looks like a teenager, he’s just so happy that he’s had this moment with Kurt. It’s amazing that’s on film.
You cast Pearl Jam in your Seattle-music-scene rom-com Singles (1992), which almost didn’t get released. Then came the grunge explosion…
I think Singles was viewed suspiciously in the day because it came out on the heels of the explosion. I was telling people, ”We really filmed it a year ago!” Nobody quite understood you really can’t make a movie overnight. You really can’t go in because Nevermind is huge and film a movie and have it out in a week. It really doesn’t work like that. It was one of those things that got swept up in the zeitgeist.
Both you and Eddie Vedder are big Who fans. Elements of Pearl Jam Twenty seem to pay homage to Jeff Stein’s classic Who documentary, The Kids Are Alright. Was that influence intentional?
Totally intentional. We wanted to do our version of The Kids Are Alright. We didn’t go with as much archival stuff, and we used newer interviews, too. But there’s a version that’s almost purely performance that we’re going to put out along with the DVD of PJ20 called The Kids Are Twenty, which is our full-on Kids Are Alright version. We loved that you could watch a movie and get the feeling of loving a band. That’s always the thing that’s great. Like in Scorsese’s tremendous film No Direction Home, you get the feeling of Bob Dylan. He starts at the roots, he gives you everything. The movie feels like a Bob Dylan experience, and that’s what we wanted with PJ20.
This is already your second music documentary this year, after the one on Elton John, The Union, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Do you have any more you’re hiding?
I don’t have any more! They sort of happen organically. The Elton John film I sort of fell into. The Pearl Jam thing is something we talked about for a really long time.
Lastly, your favorite Pearl Jam song?
I always love ”Release.” It was the first song I heard them play live, and we all go back to our definitive listening experience with a song we love.