Below are snippets of an interview conducted on Sept. 25, 2005, by Preview editor Greg Shull and other family-friendly media with Cameron Crowe, writer/director/producer of Elizabethtown. His other films include Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky.
Q: Your movie seems like almost a love letter to America to the things that we all value no matter where you come from, something we call all connect with. Was that intentional when you were writing the script?
CC: A little bit. A love letter to my dad and Kentucky for sure. That part of the country, I thought, let’s really celebrate it and go there. I don’t think we would have made the movie if they’d have said, “You cannot go to Kentucky.”
Q: On the topic of intimacy and sex, I want to compliment you because all the way from Fast Times through Vanilla Sky and in this film, you give it the weight, and you don’t treat it flippantly. Why do you think that Hollywood films don’t do that?
CC: I have a personal theory. And I guess I put it in this movie. And it’s a little bit in Jerry Maguire. And it’s that a great kiss is as memorable and timeless as a lot of the stuff that follows it. And in a movie and I always like it in the old movies because they just couldn’t show anymore than the kiss, so they’d make the kiss great. And what was funny was there were a few actresses that we talked to play the Susan Sarandon part, and I guess I can tell you we didn’t even know if Susan was going to be available, and it was a meeting I had with Diane Keaton, who I love. And we weren’t sure whether that would work out, and she said, “Look. I’ve read your script and don’t know if it would ever work out for me to do it, but as a director I’ve got to tell you something.” She said, “You had a kiss in Jerry Maguire that was really well done and felt like a real kiss.” She goes, “I hope you do the kisses at least half as well in this movie, because I think it’s going to be really important.” And, man, I never got those words out of my head. When we were doing the kissing scenes, I was like, “Man, I want to come through and make these great,” because it is such an intimate moment, and I like honoring that part of the dance that lovers do in a movie. But sleeping together and stuff, it is often done flippantly. And unless that’s the story, it’s kind of good to give it the weight because as time goes by that stuff only becomes more important in you life, and what you’ve shared is even more indelible. So, I don’t know, be true to it in the movie.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you wanted to give Orlando Bloom’s character every reason to want to live. In this morning’s LA Times, you made a similar statement. You said, “It was a story that would start with an ending and end with a beginning and, I hoped, give a sense of what it was to be truly alive.” What do you think it means to be truly alive?
CC: To inhabit the world in a kind of a complete way cause it’s kind of a lofty goal, you know. If you ever set out to do that in a story, you probably will never get all the way there. But I did like the idea of every once in a while you get it from a piece of music or you get it from a speech, or Garrison Keillor does it to me with his stories where he finishes these stories and he ends on one word. And he says, “And that’s the news from Lake Wobegone.” It kills you. Because in that pause between him saying “and that’s the news from Lake Wobegone” and the applause of the people, are all those people going, “Wow! I feel more alive.” I know those people. And I wanted to have that feeling in the movie where you just go. It’s fun. And it’s painful. And it’s glorious. But it’s the rollercoaster of life. And hang on and enjoy the ride. And so often, we have those blinders that happen because of our job or economics or family and the need to just work, work, work, that you stay like this all the time. And if the story in the movie, like some of my favorite stories, just brings the blinders out a little bit like that for a short period of time, then that seemed like a worthy goal for the movie. And that would be feeling truly alive, looking around and going, “Damn! This feels good!”
Q: Do you think that’s the difference between success and greatness?
CC: Yeah, I do. I do think that that’s the difference. It’s a different set of goals. Success is a lot different from greatness and embracing family and friends and others, putting positivity in the world and all that stuff that’s sometimes cheesy to talk about, but I love it when a story can touch you in that way.