To what extent can we extrapolate the truth without it being considered theft? Well, according to Cameron Crowe, all it takes is some creativity and some anonymity and you will be off the hook—for the most part. For what would become a controversial topic in the 1980s, the release of the popular film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” left a select few names out of the credits. Those names? The students at Clairemont High School in San Diego, California, who served as an inspiration for Cameron Crowe’s writing, and in turn, the film.
According to Todd Floyd, who’s character appears in the film as Charles Jefferson, Cameron Crowe did not ask anyone if they approved of the idea to make the film. He goes on to mention how Crowe had made a few friends with the people at school while working undercover as a student only to “turn around and make all this money writing about our private lives”.
But because Crowe combined fiction with reality, not every event that occurred in the film occurred in real life. Many of the stories portrayed were twisted versions of the lives that he observed at Clairemont High School. Crowe intended the film to be this way. He even combined multiple students he observed at the school into composites, to create his own, original, entertaining story, with the intention to keep the identities he used a secret.
Despite this effort to conceal identities, one student at Clairemont High School felt that it was all too obvious that a character was based off him. Andrew Rathbone, author of the “for Dummies” book, and film character Mark Ratner both had the same nickname: Rat. In the film, Rat appears geeky, timid, and apprehensive to make any moves on his crush, Linda. He even forgets to bring his wallet on a dinner date. Despite being close friends with Crowe, Rathbone filed, then dropped, a lawsuit, for defamation of character.
Cameron Crowe received both appraisal and backlash for the film production of his book. By carefully lacing together a contorted version of the lives he based his story on, Crowe was barely able to escape legal action. But was what he did a crime? Maybe, but nevertheless, he managed to create a humorous story.