Fame takes on a new generation

When Fame was released in 1980, Alan Parker's film became a critical hit thanks to its leg warmer-clad cast and dance routine involving a New York taxi cab. By Genevieve Hassan

Nominated for six Oscars, the movie, which followed the students of the New York City High School of Performing Arts, went on to win two awards - including one for its infectious title song performed by Irene Cara - and spawned a TV series and successful musical.

Now, nearly 30 years on, the film has been reinvented for a new audience.

Set in the same school, a new group of talented singers, dancers and actors pursue their dreams of becoming successful over four years' hard study.

We meet Denise, whose parents want her to be a classical pianist, but she secretly harbours a dream of being a singer; Marco, an aspiring singer with romantic problems; and Alice, a talented dancer who must choose between a boy and her passion.

Adult themes

There's no chance of becoming famous overnight from appearing on reality shows at this school, they must earn it and "pay for it in sweat".

The original 1980 film was rated R in the US - where no-one under the age of 17 is allowed to view the film unless accompanied by an adult - and a 15 in the UK.

The original film was gritty, tackling "adult" themes like homosexuality, abortion, drug use and was peppered with profane language.

But initial impressions of the new film given to journalists at a 15-minute preview suggest the reimagining has perhaps been a bit more diluted for the teen market it is aimed at - and it has been rated PG.

Asher Brook, who plays Marco, says the film's rating should not deter fans of the original film.

"When we watched our film we felt there was so much edgy rawness. I think this PG will be taking it to a PG limit - but you can still take your kids to it," he says.

Co-star Naturi Naughton who portrays pianist Denise agrees: "We were shocked they called it a PG and not PG13 (a stronger caution for parents) or R."
Kevin Tancharoen
The movie is director Kevin Tancharoen's (right) first feature film

"I just hope people are open-minded and don't judge the movie by its rating."

But Naughton insists that although the film may not be as gritty as the original, "we're still touching on those same issues, have the same basic story, confrontations, struggles and issues".

Taking its inspiration from previous popular dance genre films like Save the Last Dance and Step Up, first-time director Kevin Tancharoen was conscious to create something new, while keeping the original core idea and message.

"I feel like if you had taken those [old] characters, I know there would have been a lot of people who would have been heartbroken because I don't think I could have recast Leroy or Coco or Montgomery or Bruno, because they were so perfect," he says.

The film's focus on big dance routines is also no surprise considering 24-year-old Tancharoen is not only a dancer, but also choreographed and directed Britney Spears's worldwide tour aged just 19.

Surreal

The cast of students is largely made up of little-known actors, supported by well-established stars including Will & Grace's Megan Mullally, Frasier's Kelsey Grammer and original cast member Debbie Allen.

Although the film is about sweating your way to success and not achieving fame through the internet or TV talent shows, ironically, one of the movie's stars found fame through reality TV.
Fame
The young cast is made up of mainly unknown actors

Kherington Payne made it to the top 10 of US talent show So You Think You Can Dance? last year, catching the attention of Fame's producers.

Relatively new to the fame game herself, the 19-year-old says her experience of being famous has been surreal.

"It's crazy, I would never have imagined in a millions years I'd be here," she says.

"Everything's very exciting and new - yesterday we experienced the paparazzi for the first time which was really weird and crazy but also fun."

But Payne hopes the film will encourage people to avoid chasing fame frivolously: "I hope it inspires people to do whatever, not just singing or dancing - just showcase whatever their talent is, and take it seriously."

Brook also wants audiences to come away with the message that the world of showbusiness takes hard work and dedication.

"I think people will come out thrilled and entertained - not only just from the performances but from the story - what fame truly means and what it's really all about."

Fame is released in the UK on 25 September.

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