Earlier in the month, after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing, Cameron Crowe opened up about what it was like to film the “Uncool” scene from Almost Famous with him. Today, Rolling Stone posted a longer interview with Crowe about casting and working with Hoffman. He mentions that they auditioned a lot of people, before offering the role to Hoffman, who hadn’t auditioned. Most compelling is Crowe’s account of watching Hoffman become Lester Bangs. As Crowe tells it, he requested two days for rehearsal, to which PSH replied, “You may only need a couple of hours.” Here’s how the rehearsals went:
He was kind of dressed Lester-ish but still kind of casual. You could see he had a glint in his eye. He already knew this character. He had a leather jacket but he didn’t look like an actor — more like a rock critic. It’s a subtle difference. Instantly he was a huge presence, not unlike Lester.
He sat down and we talked about the meaning of the script and the commercialization of music and movies. And that’s where we bonded a bit… We watched a bit of Lester from a BBC interview on TV and I remember looking at Phil and feeling, “He’s putting the pieces together.” He was studying some of Lester’s movements. He had a process. Lester was talking about Bryan Ferry, and I could see Phil was soaking in the mannerisms, but even more than that, the gregarious sharpness of Lester’s wit.
We went over one of the scene and I looked at Phil, and at a certain point, he was sitting on a sofa and I was struck by this one thought: “He’s ready.” He had the character. It was like a piece had dropped into place in the conversation. If we had had a camera, we could have filmed that moment. I looked at the clock and it was two hours exactly. And he laughed and said, “Told ya.”