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Recreating the Fame movie magic

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

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Peter Bowes goes behind the scenes on the Fame remake

Fame, the 1980 film that epitomises the dreams and heartaches of aspiring performers is being remade with a modern-day theme.

The original Fame movie, which is best remembered for its high-energy dance routines, leg warmers, lyrics like "'I'm gonna live forever" and its star, Irene Cara, won two Oscars.

It also went on to become a successful TV series and developed a cult following.

Now, Fame has been re-written with new characters, new songs and a storyline designed to make it relevant to a contemporary audience.

"The original film was a huge pop culture event," explains director Kevin Tancharoen during a break in filming.

"It set the tone for the time period it was in and we wanted to set the tone for the time period 2009," he adds.

Re-visiting an old favourite is never easy. Indeed, some would say it is unnecessary.

Naturi Naughton
Naturi Naughton, who plays Denise, says: "I am living my dream"

Early internet chatter has questioned why the iconic film should be remade at all.

"It's extremely high stakes," acknowledges Tancharoen.

"The first time I heard that Fame was being remade, I am guilty of saying: 'Really?' I love that movie why are they remaking that film?'"

"I can't be the guy that walks down the street and messed up a classic. So I'm making this movie as authentic as I possibly can."

Much of the authenticity is likely to come from the first-time director's experience as a dancer and choreographer.

He has worked with major stars, such as *NSync and Britney Spears, directing live stage events.

The updated film, which is set in the present time at the New York City School of Performing Arts, features five new songs and some of the original tunes, such as Cara's Out Here on My Own.

Naturi Naughton, who plays Denise, one of the main characters, performs the song.

"I have been singing and performing and acting since I was a little girl and, literally, I'm living my dream," says Naughton.

"So many people all over the world can relate to striving for their dreams and struggling at times and dealing with rejection so I've been there and I've lived it so can really relate to what's going on in the film."

Fresh interpretation

Collins Pennie, who plays Malik, an aspiring star, adds: "The dance styles and the dress styles have evolved. It's a modernisation. We're shaking it up a bit to make it relatable to the youth of today."

The young actors are well aware that they are reinterpreting a story that their parents grew up with.

"I wasn't even conceived when the movie came out," says Walter Perez, who plays a keyboard player.

Naturi Naughton
The pressure is on for first-time director Kevin Tancharon

"There's a lot of pressure. We're keeping the same concept and the same story but just new characters."

Most of the actors are relatively unknown and some have never appeared before in a movie. The film also features Megan Mullally, Kelsey Grammer and original cast member, Debbie Allen.

But it is the remake's interpretation of fame that makes it different to the original.

"The word fame means something dramatically different these days with the creation of the internet and the popularity of reality television," says Tancharoen.

"Fame is almost a reachable idea for anybody, you can either go and be a contestant on American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance or you could upload a very funny video onto YouTube and you'll have your 15 minutes.

"What we wanted to showcase in this film is the fact that there are kids out there that still take the art form and the dedication to studying the art form very, very seriously."

Musical revivals

On set, the mood is upbeat and energetic. Behind the scenes there is a sense of relief that the filming is almost complete.

"This movie was very difficult to develop," says Gary Lucchesi, the veteran Hollywood producer whose job has been to pull all the elements of the production together.

"The shooting has been relatively easy but developing a script that we felt very comfortable with was difficult. Finding the cast was a six-month process that was quite arduous."

The producer, who has made over 45 movies, including the Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby, says there are many potential pitfalls in making a musical.

"If you have a good script and good cast but have lousy songs, you're screwed. So you have to find good music as well - and that was an all out effort. I do think we achieved it though," he says.

The film-makers are hoping to ride on the wave of success created by recent musicals such as High School Musical and the Step Up movies. Fame will be released in September although the songs will be heard earlier.

"We have a movie that doesn't have big stars in it so you're marketing the title and you're marketing the artistry and the performance.

"So it behooves us to launch the music six to eight weeks before the movie comes out and hope that it takes off," says Mr Lucchesi.

Fame is due to be released in September.



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