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The original inspiration for Fame came thanks to A Chorus Line – where one of the characters mentioned attending a performing arts school.
From there the idea expanded, and the film was a box office success that helped change the way musicals were envisioned going forward.
“It’s not just about kids wanting to put on a show,” said director Alan Parker. “It’s actually about the darker side of what celebrity means – or the desperation to be famous.”
1. A lot auditioned.
According to director Alan Parker, over 2 thousand teenagers auditioned for parts in the musical. The auditions also included some “eccentric” talents, which were incorporated into the film – even though the actually audition process for the High School of Performing Arts is much more structured. In the end, it wasn’t just about talent though. Parker said, “A lot of the kids were cast because their own personalities were very close to who the characters were.”
2. The title changed.
The original name of the film was Hot Lunch, a reference to one of the film’s songs. But when it was discovered that this name was also the name of an – ahem – “adult” movie, a change was necessary. “I didn’t come up with the title until about halfway through shooting the film,” said director Alan Parker. As a result, scripts simply had the word “Title” where the title should have been.
3. They weren’t allowed to use the real school.
“The High School of Performing Arts wouldn’t let me use the school,” said Parker. The head of the New York School District wouldn’t allow them to film in the actual school because of the content and language in the screenplay. There were also concerns that director Alan Parker would approach this drama with the gritty realism he had used in Midnight Express. As a result, the crew found an empty high school and filmed the exterior of a church, when showing the outside of the school.
4. An actor had wardrobe problems.
The wardrobe department had an especially hard time finding the right look for Lee Curreri’s character. The director rejected outfit after outfit until the wardrobe crew started blaming the actor for not selling the flashy, rock star look that they had envisioned. Eventually, they took a different approach and decided to use the actor’s own clothes – even going over to his home to pick them right from the closet. “I was still wearing shirts that I was wearing when I was thirteen.” Curreri said, recalling his outfit.
5. The music was a smash.
Fame won two Academy Awards thanks to its music. It won Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “Fame”. The film actually made Oscar history for being the first to have two songs from the film be nominated in Best Original Song category. The film also helped launch Irene Cara’s singing career. Cara had done some recording prior, but her dynamic performances in the powerhouse songs brought the attention that helped. She also made Oscar history by being the first to perform two songs at the ceremony. Test how well you know the lyrics here.