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ALMOST FAMOUS

About The Production (Continued)

Kate Hudson had originally read for another role in the film, but the director later recognized that the role of Penny Lane was made for her. "Kate was a revelation," Crowe states. "She possesses this great combination of sexiness, charm, great confidence, and even greater vulnerability, which could just as easily describe Penny Lane. And just like Penny, Kate lights up a room just by entering it. As a director, you put the camera on her and you never want to cut away. You just want to watch her."

At the same time, the director notes that Hudson also captured the quiet longing of a girl in love with the up-and-coming rock star Russell Hammond, who, for all his charisma, could also be extremely selfish.

For Kate Hudson those conflicting emotions made her character all the more fascinating. "There's an innocence to Penny even though she's seen and done a lot," Hudson comments. 'l think she does have a sense that she's got something special, that she can make it a party just by walking into a room. But then there's the part of her that is trying to latch onto something that really isn't there for her. The problem is that Penny found her home and family in the music world. Her downfall comes when it's not about the music anymore.

That feeling of family is echoed by Fairuza Balk and Anna Paquin, who play Sapphire and Polexia, two of Penny Lane's fellow band aids." "Every band had their set of fans who were truly devoted to them, but Cameron wanted to make sure we got across that these girls really cared about each other as much as the band. It was very much a family feeling," Balk says.

However, Paquin points out, 'There is a big difference between a groupie and a 'band aid.' A band aid' is there because they're passionate about the music and want to support the band. They're more like muses. I'm not sure that the guys understand the subtle difference," she smiles, "but it's very real to the girls."

Despite being drawn into the family dynamics of the Stillwater tour, William does have a real family of his own. His sister Anita, played by Zooey Deschanel, provides the catalyst for William's passion for music in the form of her record collection. But it is his mother, Elaine, who remains an inescapable presence in his life, even in her absence.

Elaine has serious misgivings about her teenage son being on the road with a rock band and makes no secret of her suspicions about the corrupting cliche of sex, drugs and rock n' roll. As the generation gap between Elaine and William widens, the results are often comic and poignant, a difficult balance to achieve and one that required an exceptionally accomplished and astute actress. Crowe found the perfect combination in Frances McDormand.

"I was so thrilled to have an actress of Frances' caliber in this part because in many ways this movie is a tribute to my mom, too. My mother was and is a warrior for knowledge and Frances created a character who is very much like that for William. Elaine discovers that while sex, drugs and rock n' roll is a cliche that is often true, it is also possible to pass through that world as an observer, having learned from it but not having been consumed by it. Likewise, my mom saw the pitfalls of rock and roll, but later saw the value in it, and now she's a big rock fan," Crowe reveals.

If McDormand lent Elaine a certain veracity, it was because the actress viewed her quirks as something beyond eccentric."I didn't think of Elaine as eccentric. Maybe it's because I'm eccentric, or at least people think I am. Rather, I think she is an original. Other people might think of her as a little too rigid or too preoccupied with her children, but my take on her is that she is a woman who is raising her kid

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