What the Hell Happened to Cameron Crowe?

Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe

Cameron Crowe started writing for Rolling Stone magazine at age 15. At 24 he went back to high school undercover and wrote a book about teen mores in the early 80s. He then adapted that book into a script for a high school comedy that helped define the genre. From there it was a short step to directing.   Crowe went on to write and direct a series of character-driven films that were popular with critics and audiences.  Then he began to fall off. His most recent film was one of the year’s biggest flops and was widely derided for a crucial piece of miscasting.

What the hell happened?

Cameron Crowe was born on July 13 1957 in Palm Springs. He spent most of his childhood in San Diego. Crowe skipped kindergarten and two grades in elementary school so he ended up graduating from high school at 15. He’d already begun writing about music for his school newspaper and for a few underground papers in the San Diego area. Not long after graduating, he met Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres. Fong-Torres hired him to write for the magazine. He soon became a contributing editor. Crowe became the youngest ever contributor to Rolling Stone.  If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because Crowe’s Almost Famous was highly autobiographical.

In 1977, Rolling Stone relocated its offices from the West Coast to New York prompting Crowe to move on from music journalism.  He would continue to contribute articles to the magazine over the years, but his interests were starting to lay elsewhere.

Specifically, Crowe was interested in going back to high school. He decided to, at the age of 22, pose undercover as a high school student to see what typical high school life was like in the 70s-early 80s.   Taking the name “Dave Cameron” (a good way of keeping his actual first name and mixing it with a common first name) he enrolled at Clairemont High in San Diego.

Crowe used his experiences as the basis of a book titled Fast Times At Ridgemont High.  Even before the book was published in 1981, Hollywood was interested in adapting it into a movie.  Crowe was asked to write a screenplay based on his book. He agreed.


Fast Times at Ridgemont High – 1982

The resulting film was Amy Heckerling’s directorial debut, Fast Times At Ridgemont High.  The cast included Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Forrest Whittaker, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Nicolas Cage.  Like the book it was based on, the movie chronicled the lives of a handful of high school students.  The movie depicted the teens engaging in sex and drug use much to the horror of the parents in the audience.

At the time, critics didn’t care for Fast Times.  In a one-star review, Roger Ebert compared the movie to Porky’s and complained that it was “so raunchy” that “the audience can’t quite believe it”.

But Fast Times had more meat on its bones than other raunchy comedies of the day. There was some real substance to the story and characters as opposed to the mindless horniness of Porky’s. So while critics may not have been able to tell the difference, Fast Times has proven to have more staying power over the years. While Porky’s is stuck in 82, Fast Times is still relevant. It’s edgier than many of the John Hughes teen films of the same era.

While Fast Times and Ridgemont High wasn’t as big of a hit at the box office as Porky’s, it ended up grossing about six times its budget over the course of its theatrical run.  Four years after its release, it was adapted into a short-lived TV series.  Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli reprised their roles but everyone else was recast.  Heckerling returned to write and direct, but Fast Times was cancelled after only seven episodes.

Crowe’s first effort as a director was the video for the Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s song, “Change of Heart” in 1983.

Next, Crowe wrote the script for another film about young people: 1984’s The Wild Life.

The Wild Life - 1984

The Wild Life – 1984

The Wild Life was another look at youth in the eighties.  Only this time, the characters are recent high school graduates.  Instead of starring Sean Penn, The Wild Life starred his brother, Chris Penn.  So obviously, it’s a totally different movie.  Eric Stoltz, who had a bit part in Fast Times, played Penn’s roommate and Lea Thompson co-starred as Stolt’z ex-girlfriend.  The cast also included Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Jenny Wright, Rick Moranis and Randy Quaid.

If critics didn’t like Fast Times, you can imagine how they felt about an obvious knock off.  The first movie overcame bad reviews, but audiences didn’t want to live Crowe’s idea of The Wild Life.  Despite a promising second-place opening, the movie quickly dropped out of theaters grossing less than half what Fast Times made.

Next: Say Anything and Singles


Posted on February 1, 2016, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Director and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 83 Comments.

  1. Thanks for this great write-up. I really enjoy the occasional WTHH Director along with the actors/actresses. It sounds like “Roadies” will be much more up his alley than “Aloha” which just plain wasn’t good. The powerhouse cast couldn’t save that vehicle. (And btw I don’t consider Bradley Cooper an acting powerhouse – he’s only as good as the material, he never is one to transform anything).
    I’ve also had it on my radar to revisit Almost Famous and Singles. Saw both back in the day but the memory is a bit hazy.


    • Should we give up on Cameron Crowe?

      He might as well have just said, Keep your expectations low on this one. A landslide of horrible reviews and a sixth-place, $10 million opening weekend later, Crowe’s new film Aloha is dead on arrival — and with good reason. It’s inarguably the worst film of his directorial career, the story of a military contractor (Bradley Cooper) heading up the launch of a satellite in Hawaii, where he ends up romantically ping-ponging between his now-married ex (Rachel McAdams) and a quarter-Chinese, quarter-Hawaiian Air Force pilot named Allison Ng (played, rather inexplicably, by Emma Stone). It’s a bizarre film, narratively incoherent at times, that makes so many herky-jerky leaps in genre and tone that it feels like three different films got tossed into a Vitamix and turned into a foul movie smoothie.

      It’s also the latest in a string of films over the past 15 years that have slowly been chipping away at Crowe’s status as the earnest, rock n’ roll cinematic voice of a generation. Given that his pedigree was earned with seminal films like Say Anything…, Almost Famous, and Jerry Maguire, it’s enough to make you wonder just what the hell’s happening.

      Aloha first started struggling to life back in 2008, under the name Deep Tiki. Back then it was going to star Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon, but the project eventually got pushed, and Crowe ended up making the Matt Damon comedy We Bought A Zoo instead. That may have been a good thing, because at the time, the script for Deep Tiki had started to develop a reputation for some rather eccentric story elements — including a human sacrifice into a volcano. However, several years later Crowe ended up reworking the script, eventually resulting in Aloha.

      While that might seem indicative of somebody that’s running thin on ideas, that kind of iterative, exploratory creative process isn’t anything new for Crowe. He’s always been very open about his process as a writer, churning through draft upon draft before finding the right way to tell a given story. Early versions of Almost Famous centered around a fake British rock band before he decided to mine his own family’s story and dreamt up Stillwater; Singles had been floating around for years before the death of Mother Love Bone’s Andy Wood inspired Crowe to center the film around the Seattle music scene. It might be messy, but it results in films — and scripts — that are utterly singular.


  2. Audience are probably sick of his light fluffy stuff he should try a dark comic book film.


    • I don’t think he has a comic book movie in him much less a dark one. Making a movie that doesn’t play to your strengths just because it is the genre of the day is a terrible idea.


    • Where Did Cameron Crowe Go Wrong?

      In this ongoing franchise of career analyses, we’ve typically focused on A-list actors who were destined for legendary greatness in their respective fields, but have significantly faltered over the last decade (or in some cases, two). Never before have we felt compelled to break down the breakdown of an Academy award-winning director, but alas, Cameron Crowe‘s (already) universally despised Aloha is out today, begging the question: where did he go wrong?

      Aloha — despite its A-list cast including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, and Bill Murray — has seen a slew of disgruntled reviews, all with a common denominator of confusion. This film follows Brian Gilcrest (Cooper), a decorated military contractor who returns home to Hawaii to reconnect with his long-lost love, Tracy (McAdams). Things get complicated, however, when his socially awkward Air Force companion (Stone) catches his eye. More like Alo-nah, amirite?

      Even the most devoted Crowe followers can’t be coaxed into seeing this mess, which makes it difficult for fans of his work to stay onboard. It only makes us wonder how this talented filmmaker screwed up so epically. How has no one close to him prevented this unravelling? It must be difficult to sit an Oscar-winning writer and director down and tell them that they’re screwing up their reputation as a filmmaker. To that point, it wasn’t always like this.

      Almost Famous is an arguably perfect feel-good film. It’s smart, sentimental, supremely cast, and incredibly acted. Its soundtrack is the ideal mix of diegetic and non, making for several overtly emotional — but never too corny — iconic scenes. It went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture, and Crowe snagged the Academy award for Best Original Screenplay — a poetic feat considering the film is based on his time as a teenage contributor to Rolling Stone. Then again, nearly all of Crowe’s writing-directing endeavors are based on his life experiences.

      Fast Times at Ridgemont High was written after Crowe published a book of the same name chronicling his days at San Diego’s Clairemont High School as undercover student Dave Cameron, hot off a fresh publishing contract with Simon & Schuster. Then came Say Anything…, followed by Singles, then perhaps his most famous film, Jerry Maguire. All three films share the same skeleton: man falls on hard times, man is “saved” by hopeful woman of his dreams, man doesn’t realize what he has, man and woman eventually get together after man succeeds professionally. Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, and Elizabethtown differ from Crowe’s go-to story arc, but are all variations of the same tale nonetheless.

      The wholly predictable Elizabethtown certainly ostracized a few Crowe fans, but had he not made We Bought a Zoo after filming the relatively respected music docs The Union and Pearl Jam Twenty, we may have been willing to look the other way. We Bought a Zoo was, to put it mildly, a joke; it is, without a doubt, Crowe’s worst film. But it seems that torch has recently been passed on to Aloha, which has garnered several complaints of the director’s inability to get out of his own way.

      It’s difficult to determine when exactly the downfall occurred — between life event X, Y, or Z. Being that Crowe’s films are often so closely related to his personal life, his rather publicized divorce form Heart singer Nancy Wilson could have something to with the vicious cycle of writer’s block. In addition to writing screenplays, Crowe directed music videos before marrying Wilson in the summer of 1986. Then, much like his male protagonists, his career took off after he met the woman of his dreams. It was three years later that his directorial debut, Say Anything…, made a star out of the young writer/director as much as it did its lead actor, John Cusack, who is eternally linked with the image of Lloyd Dobler standing below Diane Court’s bedroom window blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” through his boombox. (We Bought a Zoo hit theaters a year following Crowe and Wilson’s divorce.)


      • Cameron Crowe, or: When to give up on a director

        Things started to go downhill with Vanilla Sky (2001), which received very-mixed-but-mostly-negative reviews. Yet, it was still a hit(ish) at the box office. This downward trend continued with Elizabethtown (2005), which inspired “meh”s from critics, bombed at the box office, and included a character that is (literally) the very definition of a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” Crowe poked his head above water with the family-friendly (read: “safe”) We Bought A Zoo (2011), garnering mildly-positive reviews and a modest box office, and then followed it up with an even bigger non-risk with a Pearl Jam documentary, only to sink lower than ever with Aloha.


        • With lifeless ‘Aloha,’ Cameron Crowe blows it (again)

          Cameron Crowe fans — and that includes most movie critics — have cut him a lot of slack over the years.

          Our love for “Say Anything,” “Almost Famous” and “Jerry Maguire” made us embrace the big romantic gestures and faint traces of heart in “Elizabethtown,” “Vanilla Sky” and “We Bought a Zoo.”

          But “Aloha” is a breaking point, a movie that makes you start to see the guy as just, well, full of it. Whatever it was going to be — and editing has been a Crowe problem since 2005’s “Elizabethtown” — “Aloha” has been reduced to a lurching Hawaiian comedy full of big name actors making long, rushed speeches.

          And every minute or so, there’s another annoying traditional Hawaiian song or Hawaiian pop or blues or country tune. They’re meant to tie the mess together, to allow the picture to coast along on musical emotions where script coherence is lacking. Sadly, they don’t.

          Bradley Cooper plays Brian Gilcrest, a onetime Air Force space program officer who was wounded in Afghanistan. He’s now semi-disgraced and reduced to being the fixer for a space tech billionaire (Bill Murray, seemingly improvising his role). Brian is back in Hawaii at the little “Mayberry of a base” where he was once stationed to talk the natives into blessing a gate that’s being moved so big rockets can be moved from location to location.

          Rachel McAdams is the girl he left behind, a mother who’s married to a comically silent Air Force pilot husband (John Krasinski). Danny McBride plays an old comrade, now a colonel who’s more or less in charge. And Emma Stone is the eager Captain Ng, a pilot assigned to be Brian’s minder, his shadow, as he deals with the native Hawaiians.

          “Aloha” is more Hawaiian than 2011’s “The Descendants,” but the early promise of a culture clash unravels. The president of the Sovereign Nation of Hawaii (Dennis Bumpy Kanahele) just shrugs at how low his old friend has sunk: “You’re on the wrong side, bra.’ ” At least he doesn’t throw “mahalo” in there.

          The son of Brian’s ex-girlfriend is a space and Hawaiian mythology buff who insists Brian is a mythical character who has returned to set the future in motion. A little magical realism helps set the expected Brian-Captain Ng romance in motion, but it feels absurdly abrupt. There’s not a lot of chemistry between Cooper and Stone, despite Stone’s enthusiastic plunge into the part. The other performances are passable, save for Murray — who goes ham — and Alec Baldwin, as a general who goes comically nuclear. He at least leaves an impression.

          With “Aloha,” Crowe has, in essence, made his “Donovan’s Reef,” a 1963 movie director John Ford and John Wayne did to celebrate Ford’s World War II service in the Pacific and to get a studio to pay for long Hawaii vacations for the cast and crew. “Aloha” includes nods to the power of music and respect for religious traditions and the once-promising frontier of space, but it also invites speculation about the meaning of its one-word title. Sadly, in this case, “Aloha” doesn’t mean “hello” or even “welcome back, Cameron Crowe.” It feels more like good-bye, at least to Crowe’s career as a major studio film director.


  3. Say ANything you should mentioned actually flopped in the box office. It only made 5 millions more then its budget. Its amazing movie but no doubt in terms of business aspects it did nothing to enhance cusack or crowe career.


  4. But I feel Crowe has the same problem depp has audience are sick of their trademark movies. I think Depp has his career slump cause have grown tired of his oddball eccentric characters and offbeat movies. Black mass was a step in right direction it was a modest hit but it was a slight break from all his flops. Black mass was by no means a comeback but it first time in years critics did not attack his movies. I am thinking audience have grown warey of Crowes cutesy movies. A lot of directors try new stuff once in a while Although big Fish was a weird it not nearly as dark as Tim Burtons other movies Big eyes was also a standard drama with no signs of burtons trademark stuff . Looking at Crowes resume it seems box office wise he was hit and miss he was never that constant his only true box office hits are vanllia sky ,jerry maguire and We bought a zoo. Singles and say Anything although cult favorites not bombed in their orignal release.


    • Daily Reads: The Fall of Cameron Crowe’s Idealism, The Unbearable Whiteness of ‘Aloha,’ and More

      The Decline of Cameron Crowe’s Battered Idealists. Last Friday, Cameron Crowe’s new film “Aloha” opened in theaters to mostly negative reviews and prompted a full-scale reappraisal of his career. Many have said Crowe just lost his way after “Almost Famous,” others said he was never good to begin with. But what happened to Cameron Crowe? The Dissolve’s Scott Tobias argues that it’s his “battered idealist” character that has aged Crowe pre-maturely.
      Emma Stone’s Eyebrow-Raising Turn as an Asian American in “Aloha”. In “Aloha,” Emma Stone plays Allison Ng, a Chinese-Hawaiian-Swedish pilot that falls head over heels for Bradley Cooper’s character. Sounds standard, right? Here’s the problem: it’s hard to accept Stone as an Asian-American in the first place. EW’s Chris Lee claims he just can’t suspend his disbelief enough to accept “Aloha’s” race-bending.
      The Unbearable Whiteness of “Aloha”. Speaking of white-washing, it’s not just Emma Stone who falls under Crowe’s spell of turning everyone and their culture into a cultural version of himself. The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato takes down “Aloha” and Crowe’s insistence on making the film 99 percent white.
      Director Alex Ross Perry on “Aloha” and What the Animosity Aimed at it Says About the Culture. Director Alex Ross Perry released the beloved dark comedy “Listen Up Philip” last year and has made a name for himself as an indie filmmaker with a penchant for 16mm and Philip Roth. But Perry is also a fan of Cameron Crowe’s work and he feels that the vitriol leveled against “Aloha” says something negative about the culture at large. Over at The Talkhouse, where filmmakers talk film, Perry unpacks his feelings about Cameron Crowe, “Aloha,” and film culture in general.
      Glenn Kenny on Cameron Crowe, a Victim of Auteurism. Or maybe the problem with the negative reception around Crowe’s new film is that everyone’s falling into an auteurist trap. Veteran critic Glenn Kenny breaks down the problem of holding up every director to the standard of an auteurist and how that thinking affects reception.


      • Review: ‘Aloha’ death knell of Cameron Crowe’s career

        Dearly beloved, we gather here today to pay our final respects to the career of Cameron Crowe.

        After a steady rise from “Say Anything” (1989) to “Singles” (1992) to “Jerry Maguire” (1996) to the practically perfect “Almost Famous” (2000) and its strong follow-up “Vanilla Sky” (2001), the writer-director’s output grew ill with the 2005 release of “Elizabethtown,” a disastrous blow that sidelined him for over six years.

        Progress was made with “We Bought a Zoo” (2011), a safe yet largely uninspired work that nonetheless exhibited signs of the filmmaker’s former glory and suggested that further improvement could be made from its newly established healthy plateau.

        Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse shortly into the opening credits of his latest film “Aloha” and the once-vibrant creative force officially departed this world 100 minutes later.

        Like its opening credits, which combine archival footage of Hawaiian culture and historical events with grainy clips of NASA missions and various missile launches, this final nail in the coffin is a hodgepodge of scenes, subjects and conflicts that don’t convincingly belong together.

        The simplistic yet convoluted story line that mostly explains itself in time but is overly ambiguous in the moment centers on Brian Gilchrest (Bradley Cooper), a former military man and possibly a former astronaut who left to do contract work for mega-billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). Having screwed up on a mission in Kabul that nearly left him dead, Brian is given a second chance with an assignment back in his old stomping grounds of Hawaii.

        Upon landing, his activities involve some or all of the following at any given time: his Air Force liaison Alison Ng (an annoyingly plucky Emma Stone), old flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams), her practically mute Air Force pilot husband Woody (John Krasinski), a satellite, the Sovereign Nation of Hawai’i (leader Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele appears as himself), Hawaiian myths and fatherhood.

        In attempting to discern meaning from this gluttony of factors, Crowe’s editing decisions consistently stand in the way. Time after time, throwaway moments impede the already slowly developing plot, suggesting either an alarming number of cut scenes or an enamorment with the attractive cast that’s resulted in a desire to simply document them breathing and making faces at the expense of cogent storytelling and hands-on direction.

        As such, “Aloha” is one big collection of characters staring longingly at each another, spouting would-be witty catchphrases, the likes of which Crowe in his prime fired off with brilliant ease but that here come out as groan-inducing, rejected bumper sticker fodder (sample: “You’re not going to pick my brains. They’re unpickable”).

        This diluted version of Crowe’s lovable earnestness permeates the film and undercuts what would have been home run moments 15 years ago. And so, a scene in which Cooper and Krasinski communicate through body language accompanied by explanatory subtitles just feels sad, as does a grating instance of A/V overload that tries and fails to one-up the pop culture saturation montage in “Vanilla Sky.”

        Perhaps most detrimental of all is Crowe’s lamest romance to date, one in which convenience appears to be the driving force and in turn makes the “Garden State” knock-off in “Elizabethtown” look like “Doctor Zhivago.” Minus a convincing core relationship — the beating heart of each of his past works — “Aloha” crumbles, burying the director with it.

        Though a Lazarus moment is still in the realm of possibility for true believers, the rest of us must learn to cherish the memories of better times and move on.


        • In defense of “Aloha”, Emma Stone’s character looking white is part of her character, Bradley Cooper’s character kind of brushes her off when she talks about Hawaiian culture and stuff and makes fun of her at one point for clearly looking white, and later bonds with her partially because he starts to get that her appreciation for Hawaiian culture and myths and stuff is actually legitimate and not just from her overcompensating for her whiteness. You could argue that the film never should have had a character like that to begin with but it wasn’t as simple as taking a white actress and putting her into a role for an Asian / Hawaiian person.

          To go further, that’s how the character was written in the book as well. It’s a main source of conflict that she doesn’t look Hawaiian when she is.


    • I think Johnny Depp does well in gangster-related material, such as “Public Enemies” and “Donnie Brasco”, so I think it was a good move for him.


  5. Revisiting Cameron Crowe‘s Elizabethtown‘s-elizabethtown

    Much like his previous effort, Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown managed to split the critics down the middle (strangely enough, both hold the exact same Metacritic rating) and although it did make its money back at the box office, the numbers were nowhere near as big. Also, unlike Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown didn’t manage to find an audience in the DVD market. So what went so wrong?

    Well, firstly, we can look at the story. It is an interesting premise but somehow you just cannot connect with the characters fully enough to care about their plight. This could somewhat be blamed on the actors (I will be getting to them shortly) but the pace of the story and the dialogue and interactions just didn’t really seem to fit. Which is a shame as Crowe has written some of the most complex and interesting characters of recent time and isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to emotional dialogue. But all we really get here is a bit of a damp squid.

    This isn’t helped by the two lead characters cast in the movie. Now, before anybody starts having a go at me, I will admit that Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst have been part of two of the biggest movie trilogies of the past decade. However, this does not mean that they are necessarily good actors.

    The trouble I have with them both is that, although they are both apparently easy on the eye, between the two of them they have the personality of dough. That is, when it is raised and baked it is good, but eat it before and you will get a stomach ache. They are both still in the unbaked stage and further attempts by the two to become serious actors since have not yet managed to change my mind. Their performances in this film are wooden and devoid of emotion and, for that reason, the movie’s heart is lost.

    Interestingly enough, Ashton Kutcher was first cast in the role of Drew and even though I thought Orlando Bloom wasn’t fantastic, if Kutcher had kept the part I fear the movie would have been unwatchable.

    The combination of these two forces makes Elizabethtown not only the worst Cameron Crowe movie to be put in front of a camera, but it also holds an unhappy place as one of the worst films I have seen.

    When the movie finished I felt a sense of slightly being robbed. I wanted the complex, interesting, emotional story that I had seen in previous films, but all I got was blanked-face Orlando Bloom trying to be depressed, which is exactly how I was feeling when the credits rolled.

    Personally, I felt this film was a bit of a blow for Crowe but I also knew in reality nobody is perfect all the time and I was sure his next movie would be great. But nothing ever came. So, what happened to Cameron Crowe after 2005?

    The answer is, not much. June 2008 saw an announcement that Crowe was attached to write and direct his seventh feature, currently untitled, but with stars Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon attached. Filming was to begin January 2009, but nothing has come of it so far. Crowe is also attached to direct a retrospective movie about grunge band Pearl Jam to celebrate their 20th anniversary; again no further details have been released.

    I, personally, would love to see Crowe back on game doing what he does best, but I am not sure how long I, and the rest of the movie going public, will have to wait.

    So, that brings me to the end of a short but sweet look back at the work of Cameron Crowe.


  6. Good read; the Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer” comment had me laughing pretty good as well. As for Cameron Crowe, he’s somebody who hasn’t had a large output, so when something misses, it looks especially bad on the ledger. Also, I agree with the thought that when he used up his life experiences to tell a story, he didn’t have anything more to say.
    Too bad “Singles” didn’t do great at theaters: I did see it at the local AMC , and my friend and I really liked it, and we had no clue about grunge music yet.


  7. Mic Owl Jacks In

    I don’t think it’s totally unfair to say that Cameron Crowe has become a one-trick pony over time.


  8. Vanilla Sky is still considered a box office hit it was a much needed hit after 4 year break from Jerry magurie when he made the wonderfully but commercial unsuccessful film almost famous. We bought zoo was a box office hit. (at least worldwide) . SO basically outisde his tom cruise films we bought a zoo was his only hit. He could always re team with tom


    • I’m not sure Tom Cruise would return Crowe’s calls these days.


    • 12 Great Directors Who Helmed Terrible Movie Remakes

      Cameron Crowe – Vanilla Sky (2001)

      Before he set about sabotaging his career, writer/director Cameron Crowe made some of the most beloved films of the ’80s and ’90s, including Say Anything, Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire… for some reason, though – and at the height of his popularity, no less – the former music critic turned filmmaker decided to go down the remake route, teaming with Tom Cruise for an American adaptation of an acclaimed Spanish thriller.

      The original film was 1997’s Open Your Eyes, which tells the story of a handsome, wealthy guy whose life takes a sudden, dramatic turn when his psychotic girlfriend tries to kill him. It’s a strange and melancholy picture, filled with odd twists and turns and scenes that have you wondering whether they’re actually even happening.

      Not at all the sort of movie that screams “remake!” – especially via Cameron Crowe, who is far better suited to movies in the dramedy vein.

      It’s no surprise that he struggled with his American version – even casting Penelope Cruz in exactly the same role as she appeared in Open Your Eyes couldn’t save the aptly-named Vanilla Sky. Crowe’s approach to the material is to be muddled and vague, and – despite an admirable performance from Cruise – it winds up feeling aimless and totally disconnected from any of its director’s trademark sensibilities.

      Crowe said that he made Vanilla Sky because he “adored” Open Your Eyes; if you really love a film, though, maybe it’s better not to stamp all over its legacy?


  9. His films are great escape. The light tone and upbeat atmosphere gives audiences a good feeling. His films are not always the best but there warm and soothing fun too. I loved Eliztbehttowen it was a cute movie. There are directors who can deliver powerful masterpieces like Martin Scorsese then directors that crowe who movies can be predictable but some audiences do not care cause their guilty pleasures.


  10. IF the right project apples to him why not. Cruise with directors that are not exactly bankable many times. NEil Jordan only had 1 hit when he directed tom in Interivew wiht vampire. Paul Thoamas Anderson was still fresh offf boggie nights when he cast tom in MAgnolia. WHich tom took pay cut for.


    • Cruise works for A-list directors or up-and-comers he believes in. He doesn’t work with guys in a slump. I don’t think he’d give Crowe the time of day right now.


  11. I assume because they had good working relationship n their 2 films he would. I did not know they where really such thing as a list directors(except maybe Spielberg) i thought people saw movies for actors not directors.


    • I’m sure Tom Cruise would shake his hand and flash him a million dollar smile. But he’s not going to make another movie with Cameron Crowe just because he likes the guy. The only thing in the world that matters to Tom Cruise is being the biggest movie star in the world. If he had to bludgeon Cameron Crowe to death with his own femur to stay on the A-list, Tom Cruise wouldn’t hesitate to do it. Then he would have his Scientologist goons bury the body in that prison camp they have in Florida and no one would ever know what happened to poor Cameron Crowe.


  12. For some reason I always think of Cameron Crowe as being about ten to fifteen years younger than he actually is. That might be because I literally am too young to have seen his work from the 1980s or early 90s (Jerry Maguire is chronologically the earliest of his work I’ve seen) but it might also be because Almost Famous feels a lot like an early film – not in a bad way, just not something you’d expect from someone who had been making films for nearly two full decades by that point.

    Vanilla Sky is underrated and Crowe brought out the best in Tom Cruise. I’ll even stand up for Elizabethville as kind of a guilty pleasure.

    I can’t say I agree with Rabin. Or rather I do technically agree with him but feel far less irritation. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (urg, do I hate that term) is essentially the gender flip of the Bad Boy who opens up the world to a straightlaced heroine. Like that stock character the MPDG (bleh) can be overused or used in uniteresting ways but doesn’t have to be. It is also hard to hate a character type that Katharine Hepburn perfected. Sure you might get a Claire Colburn but who cares when you can also get a Susan Vance?


  13. maybe he could team up with ferall for a comedy


  14. Not to drag a dead horse but there are alot worse people then tom. Clint Eastwood had kids with other women during his marriage . HE forced this women to get abortion while he was married to his 1st wife then dumped her he is a notorious womanizer very difficult to work with egomaniac. Cruise is much nicer then clint.


  15. John Cusack holding his boombox up high while blasting Peter Gabriel to win back his girl has become such an iconic piece of pop culture. South Park once parodied this scene in an episode: Stan’s girlfriend breaks up with him and he’s just heartbroken. A friend suggests that Stan show up outside her house with a boom box and some Peter Gabriel, that will surely win her over. So Stan shows up outside, boom box held up high with music blasting out loud enough to get his girlfriend to come to the window….. except that it’s Peter Gabriel’s “Shock The Monkey” playing! She rolls her eyes and closes the window.


    • The other night there was a reference on a repeat of Modern Family. In high school Phil wooed Claire with Olivia Newton John instead of Peter Gabriel. Then her dad turned on the sprinklers and shorted out his boom box.


  16. It is iconic scene. But ironically the movie flopped.


  17. Lebeua when tom first work Cameron Crowe he only directed 2 films singles and Say Anything both of which flopped in box office. Yet tom still worked with him so I am sure working a director who`s only 2 films bombed was still risky. Not to mention here is quote by tom why he did Born on 4th of July it does not sound like a guy who cares about staying a list. g with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.” There’s that anxiety.
    [on Born on the Fourth of July (1989)] When I made that film people said, “This is going to ruin your career. Why are you doing this after you did Top Gun. Why not just do Top Gun 2?”. I wanted to challenge myself.


    • Crowe was an up and coming director.

      As far as the quote, most Hollywood guys are full of shit. Tom Cruise more than others. He made Born on the 4th of July because he was chasing Oscar gold and respectability. Top Gun 2 would have been a hit, but it wouldn’t have helped him reach his goals the way working with Stone did. Box office is a piece of the puzzle, not the whole thing.


  18. Exactly Crowe was up and coming director but his only 2 films he made before Jerry maguire flopped. IF Tom was concerned about box office he would say to a guy whos only movies on his resume where not hits becuase it would mean a huge risk meaning the movie he made with crowe huge risk could have been a flop if you think about it teaming up with crowe back then in 1996 was still a liability. Yes not all actors tell the truth. However before Born tom mostly did fun flicks and the only serious film he did was Rainman maybe Tom felt like doing more dramatic stuff trying different things. Tom has always balanaced drama and fun films. After born he made days of thunder. A few good men the firm. As I mentioned to you before Daniel day lewis chases oscar gold more then any other actor.


    • I am going to stop you midway through your first sentence. At no point did I say that Cruise was only concerned about box office. I said he was only concerned with being a star. There is a difference.

      Also, Say anything didn’t flop. It grossed $20 million on a $16 million dollar budget. That’s not a hit, bit it’s not a flop either. Singles grossed $18 million on a $9 million dollar budget. again, not great but not a flop. And both had a lot of buzz which attracted Cruise like a bee to honey. Now Crowe’s buzz is toxic repelling Cruise like a Scientologist from a tax collector.


  19. Say anything only made a profit of 4 mill. SOunds like a flop. Singles I was wrong its not a flop. Yes those films did create however a sign of a promising director is at leaving one hit


  20. Draft day a costner flick also made 4 million more then its budget how come you label that a flop but not say anything


    • Apples and oranges. Draft Day was a major Hollywood release from a couple years ago. Say Anything was a coming of age drama in the eighties. They aren’t remotely comparable.


    • “Draft Day” had a lot of promotional backing and the NFL (popular sport, for now) represented. “Say Anything” had John Cusack and a boombox.


  21. I know the genre is different but both films made a profit of 4 mill should`nt both be considered flops. Is it the fact draft was not an indie so its was excpeted to do better the factor.


    • You can’t just compare dollar amounts for a whole variety of reasons. Expectations are key. The expectations of a movie like Say Anything are completely different from the expectations of a movie like Draft Day. Also, obviously, $4 million dollar was worth a lot more in the late eighties than it was when Draft Day came out. You also have to look at return on investment. $4 million dollars on a $16 million dollar investment is a better ROI than $4 million dollars on a $25 million dollar investment.

      Bottom line, you can’t just match up grosses dollar for dollar. It’s always going to be much more complicated than that. Draft Day flopped. Say Anything, while not exactly a hit, didn’t flop.


  22. Or is because back in the 80s marketing cost where nonexistence so only thing movies back then had to do was cover budget.


  23. thanks lebeau . Box office was different in 80s some movie that would be considered modest hits or decent profits where considered hits back then Maybe if say anything was released today it would be considerd flop.


  24. WOuld devils own be considerd a flop


    • I’d say no, but I don’t really know what its box office was in the states (it’s budget was 90mil, while it grossed 140 worldwide). Personally, I thought it was a bust, since I didn’t really like it. However, I haven’t viewed it since 1997, so maybe my opinion would change with another viewing.


  25. MAny websites deemed it as a failures. But a lot of websites tend to take domestic box office in consideration more then worldwide. It bombed domestically like the saint. I would call both films more disappointment then flops.


  26. Devils own made 60 mill domestically. Not sure if it really made back its budget worldwide. FIght club and meet job black another one pitts movies under performed.


  27. I tried getting my buddy to watch Say anything he even some promos for it heard he though it sounded good. He ended up hating it due it having more dramatic elements then being the typical romantic comedy. Which is why i think the film did not do as well as it did.


    • Huh, I wasn’t aware that some people viewed “Say Anything” as a romantic comedy. It has romantic (I once knew someone who had a thing for Ione Skye) and comedic elements, but I see it more as a coming of age underdog story that was grounded in reality.


  28. People where upset it was not the typical rom .


  29. People i talk to view it as one. AFI ranks it as one of the great movies romantic movies of all time. The movie is also kind of depressing this sounds werid to say but i felt so bad for the father in the end.


    • I mean, I guess it fits under the romantic comedy umbrella, but I’d still see it more as a pure drama then anything (since coming of age underdog story isn’t a category anyway:-). I think Cusack’s “High Fidelity” (love it) is more of a romantic comedy though. Then again, some films lack categorization, and this may be a case here.
      As for the ending of “Say Anything…”, yeah, it was difficult and awkward scene at the end for John Mahoney’s character. I guess the lesson for him is to not be so judgmental, and practice what you preach. He had a mighty fall for sure.


  30. His character did not even change he was still judgmental bitter. But of course he was obviously an overachiever he wanted the best for his daughter he saw Lyod as an immature slacker goofball and expected her to be with someone who has a future more career goal orientated. I guess every father wanted someone for their Daughter that has ambitions who can support her. I am not condone her father but I guess i can kind of see why he was overprotected of her. Llyod was sweet charming lovable but he is not husband material he was still immature himself. He did not seem care about his future.


    • I can understand how overprotective Mr. Court was over his daughter and his view of Lloyd, but in the end it was he himself who collapsed under the weight of his own expectations.


  31. Its more romantic comedy drama as wikipedia describes it.


  32. Yes mr court should have been slightly less judgmental and being happy that he is nice guy treats Diane right. But in his defense Daines mother and other people at the table seemed less then thrilled when they asked llyod what his intentions are for a career and LLyods response. Mr court should have also taken account llyd was 18 and had time to decide was still young but I guess he views himself as perfect overachiever like his daughter and thought no one was perfect enough for her daughter. He could have helped Lloyd encouraged him he could think little harder about his future . Since no father wants a guy that their daughter supports


  33. Think about it would you be upset if your daughter was dating a guy who had no prospects for a job.


    • At Lloyd’s age, no. I’m sure he’d get a job if he had to anyway, maybe as a grifter, a hitman, or the eventual owner of a record store.
      Seriously though, I understand Mr. Court’s concerns, to a point. My bug is that he should’ve showed as much concern for what was going on in his life. It doesn’t exactly do his daughter justice if her dad is sent to the fed pen either.


  34. Like the references I get what your saying he should be concerned about his actions could affect his daughter. He did not think he could get caught he saved the money for his daughter his excuse was i treated them better then their families not a way to justify something. . He reminded of the dad in the movie vow very rude the guy their daughter is with yet harbors a secret of his own his little less extreme say anything dad. He is getting what ten years in prison well if this was real he would be out by know .


    • Not thinking he’d get caught ties in with creating expectations that even he cannot live up to without taking an illegal route, and that’s not someone who should be giving out advice. It’s like what is said that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.


  35. Exactly . In a way the moral odf the movie could be you should not judge a person based on their social class or job for that matter but what kind of person they are. LLyod did not seem to have a care about his future but he seemed genuinely more sweet was all around a good person. WHo knows though down the road if him and Diane get more serious maybe he takes more consideration about his future and goes to college. Ironic thing about that movie LLYOD says MMA fighting will be the future it turns out to be true since UFC is huge.


  36. Cameron Crowe’s Roadies gets a trailer and a premiere date

    The hourlong Showtime comedy about a rock band’s road crew starring Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino debuts June 26.


  37. Good day sir, hope it’s ok to request here in the comments…how about a Corey Haim entry? We missed his birthday this year but (not to be morbid) the 6th anniversary of his death is March 10 (RIP), would be so cool to get your thoughts/memories on him in time for that.

    He had the usual rise/fall story of 80’s kid stars, nothing new there, but he for sure had talent and shone in a fair few roles, even if we didn’t see much of that by the end. I think he could have gone far further than Teen Beat/schlock comedy were it not for the drugs and demons. He was headed the Colin Farrell/Liam Neeson route of ‘avenging’ roles in True Crime flicks back in 09, but my two cents, I always thought he could have had a fine revival in ensemble and caper movies a la Oceans 11 or some such (in comedic or darkly offbeat B-roles).

    He was a sweet dude when sober too, very kind and humble and warm hearted to everyone in his later years. I am a fan but one of the more realistic (and sometimes lapsed) ones, and I’ve only got nice things to say about him these days (respect for the dead and all that).

    so how aboot one fer Canada’s favorite Son, eh? 😉

    Of course I would also enjoy your writing on both Coreys if you feel inclined to a Double Bubble feature..but I have the feeling comments on that could create ugly drama, as always when both Coreys are involved (le sigh). I’m sorry about spamming Cameron’s entry too, idk where to send requests…but I can be a total dope about this blog stuff so it’s probably me..

    Just wanna say too that I’m a big fan of this feature and I’ve been reading for years, thank you for all the laughs man! It’s a little late but Peace to you for 2016 buddy.


  38. Chicago’s Infamous ‘Aloha’ Billboard Has Finally Been Taken Down


  39. Well, they can’t all be aces. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies That Ruined The Directors Reputation.


  40. 10 Directors Who Need a Redemption Movie ASAP

    Cameron Crowe

    The Trademark: Cameron Crowe is a former journalist for Rolling Stone magazine/director/writer/producer/actor (He worked on a Spielberg movie, check it out) who took Billy Wilder as his greatest role model (Check also their series of interviews), and it paid off.

    His movies are timeless, always pleasant to watch, colorful, funny and warmhearted, filled with recognizable ordinary people, and great soundtrack. He can authorize himself remaking an obscure dark Spanish movie and make it bankable (Vanilla Sky) and even a semi-autobiographic filmed story that offered both his actresses (Frances McDormand and the revelation Kate Hudson) Oscar nominations in the same category (a rarity). Everything smiled to that all American prodigy.

    The Crisis: For many, Elizabeth Town used too many formulas from the Crowe playbook, the movie appeared like a washed out version of his earlier movies, and making it worse, Orlando Bloom wasn’t the actor who could fill Tom Cruise or John Cusack’s big shoes. The lapse between his two next projects (About 6 years for We Bought a Zoo and 4 for Aloha) also distanced public from him.

    The Matt Damon/Scarlett Johansson adaptation was a small commercial success but hasn’t had the same impact as its earlier work, the KO came with Aloha: a mess of a love story in a heavenly locations with a great cast (the polemic about white washing the character of Emma Stone didn’t help either).

    We are pretty sure, Crowe will bounce back, he announced a sequel for Say Anything and he is working as producer and director for his TV Show Roadies. The other perk of any Cameron Crowe movie is that exquisite taste of music that always enchants the pictures on screen.


  41. 20 years after Jerry Maguire, the classic Cameron Crowe 90s fairy tale


  42. Episode #196 – Aloha

    Will Cameron Crowe ever rebound from his Elizabethtown slump? Probably not with the even-worse Aloha. Meanwhile, Dan calls out famed painter Leonardo Da Vinci, Elliott can’t remember the rich Bazooka Joe cast of characters, and Stu engages in something that’s definitely a bit.


  43. THE GOSSIP LIFE 02/03

    After an overwhelmingly negative experience on his last big production, this formerly A list director has no interest in directing motion pictures again. ‘He’s adamant about staying away right now,’ says a staff member. ‘He’s not opposed to directing as a practice, but he is opposed to taking a project like that again.’ I guess he’s saying ‘A hui hou’ to that part of his life. Cameron Crowe (“Aloha”)


  44. Get outta here, 10 Things I Hate About You: 10 movies that embody the ’90s

    Gwen Ihnat

    For the ’90s-iest movie, I’m stuck between Singles and Reality Bites, which have a lot in common: a burgeoning auteur director (Cameron Crowe vs. Ben Stiller), a group of close slacker pals, an urban area, various levels of joblessness, and friends who can’t decide if they should hook up or not. Both movies even used similar marketing campaigns in their trailers, with all-black frames around vague white words like “friends,” “sex,” “jobs,” and “companionship” highlighting the aimless plight of the ’90s twentysomething. But just from a soundtrack standpoint, I have to go with Singles. Reality Bites was happy to highlight its nostalgic looks back (at Good Times trivia, “Conjunction Junction,” a pronounced Shaun Cassidy poster) with songs from Squeeze, The Knack, and Violent Femmes. But Singles offers a capsule depiction of the then-vital Seattle grunge scene, with Alice In Chains in a club, Chris Cornell checking out some speakers, and the members of Pearl Jam backing up Matt Dillon’s character in his band, Citizen Dick. Also, Singles’ self-absorbed characters are just slightly less annoying than the players in Reality Bites, especially Ethan Hawke’s greasy, whiny Troy. It’s a close call, but Singles for the win (but the less said about Paul Westerberg’s lame songs in that movie, the better).


  45. ‘Fast Times’ at 35: Cameron Crowe, Amy Heckerling on Courting David Lynch, Sean Penn’s Method Acting, Genital Equality


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: