Ready to feel old? “Almost Famous” turns twenty today! The beloved semi-autobiographical film helmed by writer/director Cameron Crowe (available for streaming here) debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8th, 2000. Yep, “it all happened” two decades ago! Besides serving as the first big break for a plethora of young actors, including Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel and Jimmy Fallon (just to name a few), the 2001 Best Original Screenplay winner chronicles Crowe’s early years writing for “Rolling Stone,” a gig he landed at the tender age of fifteen. Set in 1973, the coming-of-age story traverses New York, California and Arizona as Crowe’s onscreen alter ego, William Miller (Fugit), tags along with the burgeoning rock band Stillwater on their annual tour. Though “Band Aid” Penny Lane (Hudson) proclaims the group’s tour bus “home” for young William, his actual residence is a tiny bungalow said to be in Cameron’s hometown of San Diego. The sweet cottage, where William lives with his domineering mother, Elaine “Don’t take drugs!” Miller (Frances McDormand), and free-spirited sister, Anita (Deschanel), functions as the teen writer’s grounding point as he explores the unfettered and foreign world of 1970s rock and roll. It is no accident that “Almost Famous” both starts and ends at the small house.
In real life, Crowe grew up in the basement unit of the Antoinette Apartments (now La Maison), across from San Diego’s Balboa Park. And, while he did utilize several San Diego sites in the film, including his alma mater, the since-demolished University of San Diego High School (he even cast his former journalism teacher in a small role!), for William’s home, he chose a modest pad about 130 miles north of America’s Finest City.
Shown to be at 1047 Gardena Place in San Diego, the residence is actually located on a tree-lined corner lot in Santa Monica’s Sunset Park neighborhood. A fellow filming locations cohort tracked the place down ages ago, and I went out to see it in person in 2009. In real life, the one-story California Craftsman-style cottage, built in 1922, has four bedrooms and two baths in 1,448 square feet.
For more Dirt on the “Almost Famous” house, click over to the Gallery