'Fame' director feels guilty for inspiring TV pop stardom shows

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The Independent Online

Sir Alan Parker, who directed the musical Fame, admitted yesterday that he felt "awful" for inspiring TV talent shows such as Pop Idol and Fame Academy.

The award-winning director, who created the film chronicling the lives of students at New York's High School of Performing Arts in 1979, said the idea that young people could go from nothing to become stars had been stolen by the new rash of pop stardom shows.

"It's awful, really, to think that I am [responsible]," he told the BBC World Service's The Ticket programme. "I do gag a bit when I watch all that.

"The thing that always amuses me is I only called it Fame at the very last minute. The original title, for many, many months, was Hot Lunch. I always thought it really funny that if I hadn't called it Fame, you'd have programmes on TV called Hot Lunch Academy," he said.

Sir Alan, who also directed The Commitments, Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning, Evita and Angela's Ashes, said Fame was "a very tough film", more about failure than success.

"They did make a TV series immediately afterwards, which took all the Hollywoody things about it. That became what people thought to be Fame and, of course, it's been ripped off on almost every programme you see at the moment," he said.

Parker claimed Pop Idol and Fame Academy had "denigrated" the effort real stars put in to building their careers: "Any old kid can be working in a supermarket one minute and then they can win Pop Idol and a couple of million quid the next.

"The real world of entertainment, and the real world of being a musical artist, is very, very different to that, and you have to pay your dues. All the great artists come out of that, and a lot of people fail."

Sir Alan said the reality of the music industry was better reflected in his 1990 film The Commitments than in the modern talent shows. The film followed an Irish soul band's search for stardom.

"The Commitments end up tearing one another apart, even though they do attain greatness," Sir Alan said. "If that had been made by American film-makers, they would have got to Number One and won Pop Idol."