Tancharoen's version of "Fame," for MGM, opens September 25 and has a new cast, a new storyline and new music. The director also executive-produced the film's soundtrack, released August 25.
Billboard: Was it daunting to remake such an emblematic movie, particularly as your first feature film?
Kevin Tancharoen: Definitely. You have to walk in very humbly and say you're going to do it differently. The only way it's a remake is because we're copying the four-year structure and it takes place at the New York High School for the Performing Arts. Other than that, it's completely different. (Music-wise) we used the theme song and we had one of the leads sing "Out Here on My Own."
Billboard: Is the first film's gutsy, exhilarating spirit present in the movie?
Tancharoen: One hundred percent. The movie is very grounded and very gritty and very authentic, because I come from that world of performing arts, and I wanted to bring that authenticity to that movie. All those things I romanticize I actually think are very, very cool. You can see the work people do in the school: The instruments are a little old, the mirrors are chipped, it's not a well-funded school by any means, but it's a place of passion, and I wanted to transmit that.
Billboard: How did you land this film?
Tancharoen: They thought my background was unique and they thought it would bring a useful authenticity to the movie. What's popular today are (films like) "High School Musical," and although those movies are so entertaining, I never thought any of the characters jumped off the screen as engaging. I thought the situations were formulated just to get a performance out of them. The movies I love are like "All That Jazz" and "Cabaret," because they're bittersweet and romantic. You love the pain an artist goes through, but you also see the spectacle of the musical numbers.
Billboard: Although ironically, you come from the music video side.
Tancharoen: But I thought "Fame" would be better served as a little bit more old-school. At a school like this you don't learn hip-hop. It's about discipline and structure, and you learn ballet, jazz and in music you learn the classics. Since this was a performing arts high school, I thought, "How can you present them so they actually mean something to the character and you get all these little nuances and imperfections that at the end of the day give you the emotions?"
Billboard: Has the popularity of reality shows like "American Idol" made this remake possible?
Tancharoen: I think this is the cultural zeitgeist. Everybody is as interested in seeing where Joe Shmoe comes from as they are in seeing him onstage. The idea of fame at an arm's length is very attainable now with reality shows and the Internet.
Billboard: Why aren't there huge names in the cast?
Tancharoen: That was a very, very, very conscious decision. I think in this climate it would be very easy for a lot of people to suggest to me, "Hey, you should hire Miley Cyrus." But it wasn't the kind of rawness that I wanted. And I also felt, if you're making a movie about real kids who want to be famous and you want to feel that passion and you want to feel that drive, you simply cannot hire superstars. This is the perfect movie to break stars as opposed to simply get stars.
– Nielsen Business Media