Paul Iacono stars as wannabe future star Neil Baczynsky -- playing a character that attends the exact performing arts high school he actually attended -- in the new remake of "Fame." Paul joins us and explains, basically, why the world needs a new "Fame" film in the first place.

Mike Ryan: Explain why the world needs a new "Fame."

Paul Iacono: Why does the world need a new "Fame"? Well, in 1980, Alan Parker's film was really groundbreaking in the sense it gave a gritty, realistic, sort of dirty portrayal of kids aspiring to be in the preforming arts field. It was very innovative for its time. And it dealt with what the modern day interpretation -- at the time -- of what fame is. The idea of fame has changed very very much since 1980. Because we now have things like YouTube and American Idol and blogging. Due to that we have this warped interpretation of what it is to be a celebrity. The type of fame you get from being on Jerry Springer and weighing 1000 pounds.

Our film digs deeper into the original perception, though, with a modern day twist and tries to find out what is behind true ambition, hard work, dedication. What is the goal of performers that are truly dedicated to their craft and what is that fame? What is that old sort of fame, not this new interpretation.

And you actually went to the New York High School of Preforming Arts.

Yes, I went to the Professional Preforming Arts School. You have to audition to be accepted, much like in the film. The audition process in particular was something I was really able to dig into memories of experiencing the unnerving relentlessness of having to wait, callbacks, preparing monologues. And you're 13 or 14 and in all honestly, no matter how much of a seasoned veteran performer you are -- I was a child actor -- but the stakes were higher than any other Broadway show I ever auditioned for.

At the beginning of freshman year everyone is so gung-ho and spirited and passionate pursuing the arts. By the time senior year roles around there was 10% of my class that was going on to pursue anything remotely close to what their original ambitions were. And that's because most people are generally turned off by the idea of the work that comes into it.

Image © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

I'm assuming you didn't have to take P.E.

The school has a funny interpretation of the rules. You know, they sort of bend the rules a little bit. The average New York public high school student takes six hours a week of physical education. So, if you're a drama major, physical education is a movement class. If you're in musical theatre it's dance.

Did they make you do any PSA's like the original television cast?

What do you mean?

The television cast did these anti-drug PSA's where they would all yell in unison "You can't fly if you're high!" and jump in the air where the camera freezes mid jump.

That is great! No, but I think I'm going to go home and make my own personal YouTube video doing just that, tonight.

When's the last time you watched the original "Fame"?

(Laughs) I was home sick in bed last week -- at my mom's house in New Jersey -- and I saw the DVD laying on my bookshelf... I mean, honestly, I could watch that opening montage of that audition sequence over and over again. I love that audition sequence.

You know what always surprises me when I see it? I always forget Paul McCrane's in it. I mean, he's Dr. Romano on "ER."

I know! And such a beautiful, understated performance in that. And then he sings that gorgeous song. He's excellent in it. And Barry Miller. Whatever happened to that dude? He was f*cking excellent in that film.

I have to say: There's a lot of people in that film we don't hear much about today. You think there would be more breakout stars from that film. Even Irene Cara's not exactly...

Oh, no. I heard that during a concert tour of hers a couple of years ago they brought out cafeteria tables and she does a solo rendition of "Hot Lunch." (laughs). Which I found really amusing. I was like, "God, please, someone post a YouTube video of this."

We can put it right with your personal "You Can't Fly If You're High" video.

My what?! Oh, yeah yeah. I thought you may have YouTubed me and found something awful. There's a few of them on there, we will leave that for the next conversation.

Remember in the old "Fame," Ralph wanted to be the next Freddie Prinze? It would be funny in the new one if someone wanted to be Freddie Prinze Jr.

Yeah, right. I mean, or not, because what is that guy doing now? It would be a nice homage to the original. Honestly, what I was genuinely pushing for -- and I mean this in all sincerity -- I called the director a week or so after "Scarlet Takes a Tumble" came out on YouTube. I was like, "Get Scarlet and have her in that f*cking audition sequence." That would be golden. That girls made me laugh harder than anyone else in the year 2008. I must have watched that 80 times, or more.

I like how we're both coming up with our own ideas saying, "You know what would be great in "Fame" 2009? Unfortunately my idea might have been better if the name of the movie was "Fame 1999."

(Laughs) Yeah, that would be more appropriate. Exactly.

What's the difference between you and your character Neil? You went to the same high school.

I think Neil is Paul in high school but sort of on steroids. He's like me a little more intense. Because I was, I was such a dreamer. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the business and the industry. I quickly learned the hardships of the craft; the true homework that goes into it. Luckily I'm a Virgo and any analytical thought process comes pretty natural to us.

Last Question: Would you rather live forever or would you rather light up the sky like a flame?

(Laughing) Cant I just learn how to fly high and call it even?

"Fame" opens this Friday, September 25.

"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at
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