In a 1982 interview with The Washington Post, Cameron Crowe revealed the process that brought this story to life. Just like in “Almost Famous,” he grew up as a teacher’s intelligent son. As a result, Crowe skipped three grades and graduated from high school at 15, before going on to write for publications such as Rolling Stone and Creem. But even at 22, he looked like he was 17 thanks to his long hair and lanky frame, so none of his fellow students suspected that he wasn’t just a transfer student. But one question that remained for the young writer was what the book was really about.
“Until I started to fit in with the students and make friends with them, there was a different book on its way to being written, about me going back to recapture a little bit of my adolescence […] But once I started getting into groups, the more I hung out with the kids, the book started changing. I believed I could do teenagers a service because so much about them is written at arm’s length. […] I thought these kids were a lot smarter than they were being given credit for. They’re anonymous Joes who are not unwed mothers or angel dust cases; they’re just average kids slugging through life. When I saw the inner trauma in these kids’ lives, I started getting excited.”
This excitement to tell the students’ story started by letting a few people in on the secret. First, Crowe approached the principal of the school to sign off on the idea. Then after that hurdle, a total of six teachers were told his true identity during his nine-month stint at the school. And eventually, Crowe turned to the kids to sign off on his work.