Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe

Born in Palm Springs, CA, Crowe was raised in and around Southern California by his father, James, a residential real estate broker, and his mother, Alice, a sociology and English literature professor, who finally settled their family in San Diego. Recognized by his parents early on as a gifted student, Crowe skipped a couple of grades in school, but it did which lead to outsider status. An avid music fan, he was writing reviews for the underground newspaper, The San Diego Door, when he was just 13 years old. Crowe graduated from University of San Diego High School when he was 15, and soon began working as a contributing editor for Creem magazine. He shot up the ranks to become a writer for Rolling Stone in 1973, the youngest-ever contributor in the rock-n-roll magazine's history. During his stint there, Crowe interviewed the biggest names in music, including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Led Zepplin. Meanwhile, he wrote a feature article about The Who's Quadrophenia tour for Playboy at a time when he was still too young to legally buy the gentleman's magazine off the stand.Though he tried his hand at higher education by enrolling at California State University - San Diego, Crowe soon dropped out to concentrate on being a fulltime writer and editor. He landed the story of a lifetime when he was chosen by Led Zepplin - who were previously defiant about being interviewed by Rolling Stone - to travel with the band across North America during their giant 1975 tour to support Physical Graffiti. His unlikely interview became one of the magazine's best-selling issues. Following an article for Rolling Stone about him losing his virginity - which included a picture of Crowe in the nude with a strategically placed shadow - and a small appearance in "American Hot Wax" (1978), the boyish 22-year-old went undercover and returned to high school in 1979 to research a book on teen life. The result was Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story (1981), which was optioned by Universal Studios before it hit even the bookstores. Crowe was also hired to write the screenplay adaptation, which was directed by Amy Heckerling and released in 1982. Despite the critical drubbing it received at the time, "Fast Times" earned a multi-generational following while becoming known for launching the careers of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold and Sean Penn, who played the iconic stoner-surfer Jeff Spicoli.Crowe's next script, "The Wild Life" (1984), also marked his debut as a co-producer. Covering much of the same ground as "Fast Times," and even starring Sean Penn's brother, Chris Penn, "Wild Life" paled in comparison and was rightfully panned by critics and audiences alike. Crowe moved to the director's chair with "Say Anything" (1989), an assured, insightful and surprisingly mature study of teen angst finely acted by John Cusack, Ione Skye and John Mahoney, as a seemingly perfect father whose exposure as a crook shatters his daughter's world, leaving only the quirky Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) to heal her wounded heart. With several iconic moments - most famously Cusack serenading Skye with Peter Gabriel's "In Your eyes" via a boom box held over his head - "Say Anything" was long remembered as being one of the best modern romantic comedies. Crowe found similar critical and popular success with the engaging relationship dramedy, "Singles" (1992), which saw the director shift his focus to a twenty-something age group. The story focused on a group of friends - including Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon - trying to find love while coming to grips with adulthood in a grunge-era Seattle, WA. Despite winning performances, fine comic timing and a soundtrack featuring the music of Seattle's popular rock scene, "Singles" failed to find box office success but was remembered fondly by the generation it inspired.Crowe waited four years before returning to the big screen to write, direct and produce "Jerry Maguire" (1996), a mature examination of the fall and redemption of a flawed, but ultimately noble sports agent (Tom Cruise), who fights for his one and only client (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) while finding love with a single mother (Renee Zellweger). Partly inspired by the films of Billy Wilder - particularly "The Apartment" (1960) - "Jerry Maguire" opened to excellent notices and a healthy take at the box office. It also provided Cruise with one of his best screen roles, tapping a depth and vulnerability rarely seen in his other performances. The feature also made stars of Gooding Jr. and Zellweger, while inserting the line "Show me the money!" - enthusiastically repeated by Oscar-winner Gooding, Jr. - into the cultural zeitgeist. Crowe followed up with his dream project, "Almost Famous" (2000), which followed the adventures of a teenage rock journalist (Patrick Fugit), as he travels with an up-and-coming band while falling for the sweetly seductive groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). Although fictionalized, the writer-director mined his own life to create a true-to-life portrait of the world of early 1970s music, infused with an affecting tale of self-discovery, first love and disillusionment. While critically acclaimed, "Almost Famous" proved to be disappointing at the box office, though it brought the filmmaker an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and much like he did with Peter Gabriel's song in "Say Anything" - breathed new life into Elton John's early-'70s single, "Tiny Dancer."Crowe followed by reteaming with Cruise on the off-kilter, reality-questioning "Vanilla Sky" (2001), an Americanized version of the 1998 Spanish film "Open Your Eyes" that contained fine performances from Cruise, then-companion Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. But the movie proved to be too oblique and overly symbolic, especially in its New Age ending, to be embraced by a mainstream audience. Still, its stylized telling of a rich playboy (Cruise) being horribly disfigured following an accident and who comes to terms with his own mortality proved compelling enough to earn over $100 million at the box office. Returning to more "Jerry Maguire"-esque territory, Crowe wrote and directed "Elizabethtown" (2005), another romantic, humanistic fable built largely on Crowe's personal experiences. Inspired by his encounter with a ribald clan of family members in Kentucky he never knew but encountered after his father's death, Crowe crafted a story around a hotshot young shoe designer (Orlando Bloom) made suicidal by his failed multi-billion dollar effort. But he begins re-examining his despair when forced back to his hometown to claim his father's body after an unexpected death, and is warmly received by his distant kin. Though overly long and too reliant on its otherwise impeccable music, "Elizabethtown" was a welcome return to the kind of emotion-fueled, character-driven story for which he was known. Meanwhile, he remained out of the filmmaking spotlight for the remainder of the decade, save for making news when he and his longtime wife and collaborator, Nancy Wilson - one-half of the female rock duo, Heart - separated in 2008 and divorced in 2010 after 24 years of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences.