Director Alan Parker wanted a scene that showed Doris overcoming her fear and becoming an actress. He heard of the audience participation at the local screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and went to check it out. He loved it so much that he not only decided to use it in the film, he had many of the "cast" from the local screenings appear in the film, as the people doing the time-warp on stage when Doris runs up and joins them.
The school is based on the real-life Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan. It is a public school, and therefore available to any New York City high school student who successfully auditions.
This was the first film in the history of the Academy Awards to have two songs nominated in the Best Song category. The nominated songs were the title song, written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford and "Out Here On My Own" written by Michael and Lesley Gore. The title song won. It has since happened several times.
One of the first films to employ digital audio in the soundtrack. Much of the music was recorded in New York on a digital system that digitally encoded two channels onto a video signal, then recorded it to 3/4 inch video tape. The final mix was analog on the standard six channel 70mm Dolby Stereo. The dub began on 3 March 1980.
Debbie Allen commented in interviews that the role of Lydia was originally bigger in the movie, written as a star dance student always competing for roles with Irene Cara's Coco. So the role would not outshine Cara and the other young cast members, the role was then drastically cut down and made into the audition judge that you see in just the first ten minutes of the film. The character of Lydia, of course, was carried over to and made the star of the TV version of Fame (1982).
During the scene where the kids dance to the song 'Fame' on the street over the cars, the song hadn't actually been written at the time. On location, the actual song used was 'Hot Stuff' by Donna Summer. This song was chosen because the beats were similar to the proposed song and the dancers moved their bodies in a similar fashion so it fit quite nicely.
In its 2015 review of notable people who had died over the past year, "The Lives They Lived," the New York Times Magazine said that "Out Here on My Own," which Lesley Gore wrote with her brother Michael for this movie, later "became an anthem of empowerment for anyone who felt marginalized or discarded."
The monologue that Montgomery performs during his audition ("I always worry that maybe people aren't going to like me, when I go to a party. Isn't that crazy? Do you ever get kind of a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach . . .") is from the 1957 play "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" by William Inge. In the play, the lines belong to the character Sammy Goldenbaum.
The U.K. premiere of 'Fame' was on 23 July 1980 at the Empire cinema, Leicester Square. As well as the film's director, Alan Parker, other attendees included Lynsey De Paul, Diana Dors, Bob Geldof, Paula Yates, Bonnie Langford, Ernie Wise and his wife Doreen Blythe, Patrick Mower, Robin Cousins, Jenny Agutter, Robert Powell and Barbara Lord; Patricia Hayes; Irene Handl, Mel Brooks, Dora Bryan, Jennifer Beals, Leslie-Anne Down, Pete Townsend, Tim Rice, James Hunt and Suzi Hunt, Donald Sutherland, Joss Ackland, Simon McCorkindale, Fiona Fullerton, Lulu, Hazel O'Connor and Aimi Mcdonald.