Writer-director Cameron Crowe’s original intent for Singles was to tell the story of a group of single young men and women looking for a connection; the fact that it was set in Seattle at the exact same time that city was becoming the epicenter of the next big musical movement was not. Here are some facts about the 1992 film that are too important to be left on an answering machine.
1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SET TO BE PRODUCED IN 1984.
It was going to be set in Phoenix, Arizona, but the box office failure of Crowe’s The Wild Life delayed the Universal project. By the end of the decade, Crowe had relocated to Seattle—which is where he was when Mother Love Bone lead singer Andy Wood died in 1990. Crowe noticed the music community coming together to process the loss, and rewrote his script with the incident in mind, changing its setting to Seattle.
2. JOHNNY DEPP TURNED DOWN PLAYING STEVE.
Johnny Depp’s excuse to Crowe was that he couldn’t say “I love you” on screen yet. Matt Dillon also passed on the role of Steve, opting to play Cliff Poncier instead. Campbell Scott ended up in the role.
3. MATT DILLON DIDN’T THINK HIS CHARACTER WOULD BE NICE TO DEBBIE.
He initially played Cliff to be sarcastic to Debbie. Crowe corrected him. Dillon was confused as to why Cliff would like her enough to take her seriously.
4. PEARL JAM MADE UP THE REST OF CITIZEN DICK.
At the time they were known as Mookie Blaylock, but Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, and Stone Gossard cameoed as Cliff’s bandmates. Most of Dillon’s clothes were in fact Ament’s. The bassist Ament also wrote all of the fake song titles for Citizen Dick; Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell decided to write actual songs with those titles. “Spoonman” was one of those songs.
5. JEREMY PIVEN COST THE PRODUCERS A LOT OF MONEY WITH HIS IMPROVISING.
He riffed about remembering Steve mixing Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” and Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Because he used the lyrics in his little history lesson, Crowe and company had to pay the artists money for the rights. Initially, Piven playing Doug Hughley was only going to take $216 out of the budget.
6. BILL PULLMAN INITIALLY TURNED DOWN HIS PART BECAUSE HIS DOCTOR FATHER DIDN’T LIKE PLASTIC SURGEONS.
Crowe insisted that Dr. Jeffrey Jamison didn’t enjoy his job as a plastic surgeon, so he should reconsider. Pullman claimed his role was much larger in the original cut.
7. IT WAS PAUL GIAMATTI’S FEATURE FILM DEBUT.
He said “What?” while making out with his lady friend during Steve and Linda’s first date.
8. THE FOUNTAIN ISN’T AS NICE AS YOU THINK IT IS.
The Coryell Court apartment building’s fountain was created out of styrofoam. The building is also only two stories; there’s no elevator.
9. THE SEDGWICK FAMILY WAS WELL REPRESENTED.
Kyra Sedgwick played Linda. Andy Warhol icon Edie Sedgwick was her cousin. In one scene, Debbie referred to an “Edie Sedgwick” look. Cliff also wears an Edie Sedgwick shirt in the film when delivering flowers.
10. THERE WAS A LOT OF CONCERN OVER CAMPBELL SCOTT’S HAIR.
Scott (Steve Dunne) had his hair cut very short to play a leukemia patient in Dying Young. During filming, Warner Bros. executives commented that Scott looked ill, and suggested replacing him. Gradually, his hair grew just long enough to work.
11. CROWE AND SCOTT GOT INTO A SHOUTING MATCH ON SET.
Crowe grew tired of Scott’s incessant hostile sarcasm. The final straw was when Scott gave the camera assistant the finger as he snapped his slate. The two got along better after the fight.
12. DILLON WAS INTENSE.
When he needed multiple takes, he walked away, hit the wall with his fist, then came back.
13. ERIC STOLTZ WAS THE TALKING MIME.
Stoltz was dating Bridget Fonda (Janet) at the time. Tim Burton made a rare cameo as the video director for Debbie’s tape. Crowe himself played the reporter who interviewed Cliff. Chris Cornell is the guy that listens along to the car stereo. Alice in Chains is the band that plays at the bar. Director Gus Van Sant Jr. loaded furniture.
14. IT WAS ALMOST NEVER RELEASED.
15. IT WAS ALMOST TITLED COME AS YOU ARE.
Title suggestions in late January 1992 from Warner Bros. were In the Midnight Hour, Love in Seattle, Leave Me a Message, and Come As You Are. Nirvana wasn’t even in the film, but the Java Stop where Janet worked was actually the OK Hotel. It was the venue where, on April 17, 1991, Nirvana performed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live for the first time.
16. CROWE BELIEVED FRIENDS WAS A RIP-OFF OF SINGLES.
Crowe was asked by Warner Bros. Television to turn Singles into a TV series about “a group of six 20-something roommates searching for love.” Crowe decided not to do that. When Friends, a Warner Bros. show, debuted in 1994, the show was so familiar looking to Crowe that he had his lawyer look into it. Apparently, just enough of the details were changed that it wouldn’t be an easy lawsuit.