Cameron Crowe is the director behind memorable movies from Almost Famous to Jerry Maguire, but this holiday season, he took on a new challenge with the family-friendly We Bought a Zoo. We caught up with Cameron at the recent junket for the movie in NYC, where we talked about why he felt it was time to put out a feel-good film, the unique and musical method he used to inspire performances from his cast, and why leading man Matt Damon made the movie happen. Check out our interview with Cameron and catch We Bought a Zoo in theaters this weekend!View Transcript »
What if there was a movie that was like a shot of oxygen in a good way? It's such a short list of actors who'd do that well. Tell me, how you came across this incredible story in the first place. I've read the book and and fell for the story. I just thought it was, I wouldn't have made it up. Yeah. But I sure could relate to it, and now is the road in. Before I knew it, I was thinking about what kind of music we could use, and who could play the parts. And I was hooked. What was it about Matts, specifically, that made the role unique? I tend to write these male leading guys, who are romantic and funny and dramatic and like all the stuff like probably I wish that I could be, and you find that it's such a short list of of actors who do that well. Right. And Matt was a guy that could do it all. So I thought if Matt would do the movie we could do the movie. I don't know if he'd said no that the movie would exist. You actually made playlists for a lot of the scenes in the movie. How does that help you write a scene or get the emotion from the actors that you need? It's kind of crazy when I hear you ask the question I think like, "How does that work? Why does music help what they do?" But it does. And what it does, I think, most of all is it sets your movie apart from the other stuff that the actors might have done. So they get into a different frame of mind, like "Wow, this guy plays music while I'm acting." So I'm going to adapt differently than I might have done in the last movie. Right. Then you're off and running into new territory. And I've always loved music. Music does nothing but give gifts, I think. And that's the gift to a director. That music sets a tone that can set the actor free. You said your goal with this movie was really to put some joy into the world. Yeah. So was there something about the place where you are in your career, or the place where the world is at large right now that inspired that in you? I just felt like, gee, it's a really strong time for cynical stories about grimness and the gravity of life. What if there was a movie that was like a shot of oxygen? In a good way. And not in a overly sentimental way, but just a movie that made you feel kind of like, like when Springsteen would play these concerts where he would tell stories and Roy Bittan would be playing piano and you'd just feel like part of the human experience. Right. And I thought it was time to do something like that. And it was destined to be this movie I guess. What presented the biggest challenge? Was there a specific animal that was the most difficult? Yeah, the tigers are pretty epic. The tigers can give you a feeling of primitive violence. And so your kind of grateful when they are chill. Sure. The other one they tell you about is the ostriches. The ostriches are really angry animals. Yeah. They can be aggressive. Yeah. You probably know much more about animals than I. You seem to be very knowledgeable. I like animals. Yeah. I think we all do, and everybody else will have seen this movie that's for sure. Thanks, even the ostriches!