Cameron Crowe on Putting ‘the Most Colorful Life Ever,’ David Crosby’s, on Screen

The filmmaker also discusses why "Almost Famous," soon to hit the stage as a musical, isn't in danger of becoming dated.

Cameron Crowe, David Crosby in Park City
Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Cameron Crowe jokes that David Crosby is following his career path. The star’s frankness and tell-it-like-it-is demeanor has resulted in Rolling Stone magazine’s invitation to set up the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s next act as a rock Dear Abby of sorts with his new column: “Ask Croz.”

“Isn’t that great?” says Crowe, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who almost-famously began his career at Rolling Stone as a teen. “I felt like I should get a solo band together and learn how to play guitar real quick, because we’re switching careers at this point. I need to be out there with the band, while he’s the Rolling Stone journalist.”

All the candor that Crosby will be putting into his magazine column is on massive display in the new documentary “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” in which the Crosby, Stills and Nash icon doesn’t shy away from revisiting any aspects of his story. The film, directed by A.J. Eaton and co-produced by Crowe, screens this Saturday at the Paramount Theatre as part of the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival. After that, the movie will get its theatrical premiere July 19 in New York City and Los Angeles, with a nationwide rollout to follow.

Crowe knows moviegoers have already been primed in Crosby’s honesty by his Twitter account, which can be a hoot. “They love him and he’s so good at that stuff. He peels out the Twitter stuff without batting an eye,” Crowe said in an interview with Variety. “He knows the perfect words to say. He’s great.”

While Crosby had no issues being 100 percent present for the film, as he was in his memoirs (1988’s “Long Time Gone: The Autobiography of David Crosby” and 2006’s “Since Then: How I Survived Everything and Lived to Tell About It”), his wife, Jan, remained a question mark.

“She’s very private,” Crowe said, “but as we made the film, it just felt like, well, this is one of the little hidden stories within the story that people don’t really know that much about, and that’s when the whole film started to get more emotional and the stakes rose.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, on the other hand, was more than willing to open old wounds and let them bleed on film, and made himself completely accessible as he discussed his life with brutal honesty.

“Crosby’s very present in the world, as you could see from his Twitter feed. He’s relevant, and I don’t know if he has an ivory tower anymore, which is kind of the point of the film,” said Crowe. “He’s outlived everybody’s expectations of him, including himself. So he becomes like a poster child for something that we haven’t really known before, which is the aged rock star. When I first started writing, somebody said, ‘Bill Haley got to be 50 years old.’ [Haley died in 1981 at age 55.] And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, the first rock star that’s 50!’ Well, Crosby’s almost 80, and sending demos of new songs that he’s written as early as yesterday. He does not stop and it’s completely inspiring.”

The issue, he said, came in paring the film to 95 minutes with a lifetime to distill — one that included addiction, his infamous anger issues, and friction with his bandmates in Crosby, Stills and Nash (plus or minus Young).

“How much of his story we can really tell? Because in the end there’s always more story,” Crowe said. “This guy’s had the most colorful life ever. You have conversations in the editing room, like ‘Where are we going to put the liver transplant?’ You just run out of room.”

However unabashed was about reopening old wounds during filming, seeing it played out on the big screen ended up being perhaps more painful than expected for the 77-year-old musician, who was rendered “speechless” after the movie’s first showing at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January. Crowe said that as the film ended, Crosby was at a loss, saying only, “I think I’m a little embarrassed.”

Unpacking his life in front of a packed room may have been “too much,” but his inner glow returned as the audience responded.

“When you get into those close-up, really unvarnished moments where he’s talking about people who don’t like him or don’t want to play with him anymore, or watching CSN fall apart on film —that’s intense,” Crowe said. “I think that really rattles a person who lived through it and doesn’t really wallow in the past as much as you’d think he does. But I think he’s always trying to move forward. So the movie kind of cornered him and showed him his life and he couldn’t escape, and then they throw their arms around him and said, ‘We love you.’ It was amazing.”

Crosby is no longer at a loss for words, and is eager to discuss anything and everything with fans at the festival in Saturday night’s post-screening Q&A, which Crowe will moderate. Shortly after the festival, the veteran artist will head out on his solo “Sky Trails” tour for a stretch through June.

As for Crowe, the theatrical tastemaker (“Almost Famous,” “Say Anything,” “Jerry McGuire,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Singles”) has more on his plate, including a new film project and a musical theater version of “Almost Famous,” set to debut in September in San Diego.

How would a stage version of his 2000 film — based on his foray into rock writing at the tender age of 15 in a world of golden god rock stars and groupies (or Band-Aids) — hold up in the post- Me Too era of 2019? Crowe feels the subject matter is very much true to its time, set in 1973.

“They all seemed like really mature adults to me, because at the time I was 15, and you kind of see it in the movie and hopefully in the play, too,” he said. “It was a community. It was a secret community, and more than a rock cliche. I think the rock cliche lifestyle came later. It was all kind of new and fresh. And I felt like so many of the people that I was writing about were outcasts in their own school the way I felt in my school. I never felt it was a swamp of predators. To me, it was people who loved music who found each other.

“I remember when people said when the movie came out, ‘You’re looking at it through rose-colored glasses,’ and I said, ‘Well, yeah, because it’s about being 15 and you’re taken into a world that you didn’t have at school.’ You didn’t have any friends at school, but suddenly you realize in this world of rock and music, they accept you. You’re one of them. Welcome to the circus. And that’s what ‘Almost Famous’ is about. I felt taken care of by so many of those people.”

People like David Crosby, with whom Crowe developed a relationship over time with so many interviews prior to this doc. When the film was merely a seed of an idea in 2016, Crosby approached Crowe to help. At the time, Crowe was deep into production on the show “Roadies,” and felt he had no time to delve into another project. As a compromise, Crowe offered to do a “gratis” interview with himself off-camera and Crosby answering questions telling his own story as opposed to a slew of “talking heads.” One interview led to more, and finally Crowe agreed to produce the picture.

“It truly was like a rolling labor of love, and I think it came from us all wanting to like do something intimate, but it came from him just being a fantastic interview subject,” Crowe said. “It’s why he’s putting us out of business by working at Rolling Stone itself. He just cuts out the middleman. He doesn’t even need us.”

“David Crosby: Remember My Name” will screen as part of the Asbury Park Festival at 7 p.m. Saturday. Crosby is also featured in the Jakob Dylan-produced film “Echo in the Canyon,” which shows in the same location, the Paramount, on Friday at 7.

The festival will also feature screenings and appearances including “An Evening with the Farrelly Brothers,” the world premiere of “Asbury Park: Riot. Redemption. Rock n’ Roll,” “Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?,” “The Bruce Springsteen Archives,” the Po’ Boy Jam Tangiers Blues Band Featuring Danny Clinch, “Creem: Boy Howdy! The Story of Creem Magazine,” “Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool,” “The Show’s the Thing: The Legendary Promoters of Rock” and “Trey Anastasio: Between Me and My Mind.” For tickets and info, go to https://www.apmff.org/tickets.