But now he's roaring back with not one, but three feature films this year. The first of which, "The Union," a documentary about the album of the same name by Elton John and Leon Russell, just had its premiere at the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival. Crowe was actually unable to attend the premiere because he's still deep in production on another film, this coming December's "We Bought A Zoo." The drama, based on the novel by Benjamin Mee and co-scripted by Aline Brosh McKenna ("The Devil Wears Prada"), is about a father (Matt Damon) who moves his family to the countryside to re-open a struggling zoo.
The third Crowe film of 2011 will be a doc he's been working on for quite some time now, "Pearl Jam Twenty" a career-spanning look at the Seattle rock band. Crowe recently spoke with Rolling Stone and gave some details about the film. The documentary, which will see a September release, is being assembled from 18 to 20 hours of material from the band's long career as well as footage he's shot over the last year and a half. The director said, "It's the best souvenirs of the past. Some fabled footage you've heard exists but have never seen, and some interviews. So while The Union was, 'How do we buff up the cinéma vérité?,' 'Pearl Jam Twenty' is, 'How do we do 'The Kids Are Alright' of Pearl Jam, and sonic blast the best stuff?' It's a wider scope." The film will be released alongside a soundtrack and a book featuring anecdotes, memorabilia, photos, tour notes, drawings as well as an intro by Crowe.
Whereas "The Union" is a vérité look at two legends making an album together, it was almost the opposite experience creating a retrospective look at Pearl Jam's 20-year career. Describing the difference in filming the two he said, "For Elton, the camera is a buddy. [But] Pearl Jam is not prone to opening the curtain the same way, and that is the challenge and delight of it." The director also explained his sudden burst of creative output as "going by the Scorsese grid," referring to how the iconic director often juggles documentaries in between and during his feature work.
It's also pretty well known that like Scorsese, Crowe is a huge music fan (having fictionalized his own life experience as a writer for Rolling Stone in "Almost Famous") so it makes sense for him to jump into music documentaries. As fans of the director we're actually kinda surprised it took him this long. When asked if he had more music docs in his future he said, "I can't stop!" I just love music." We'll take that as a yes, but wish he would be more specific. Here's hoping he finally gives Marvin Gaye a life onscreen (though Julian Temple looks to have already beaten him to the punch).
"The Union" is now playing at the Tribeca Film Festival, "Pearl Jam Twenty" will hit theaters this September and "We Bought A Zoo" is already Oscar-primed with a December 23 release waiting in the wings.