The 1984 film ‘The Never Ending Story’, written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, is a film that I have cherished since I first saw it as a little girl. It was beautiful and amazing in so many ways. Every little girl who saw it imagined, at least once, that they were the Childlike Empress, including me. So, when I had the chance to interview the real Childlike Empress, Tami Stronach, I was overjoyed.
Horror Fuel: “Your role as the Childlike Impress is still iconic. How do you feel about the film now?”
Ts: “I think that film, surprisingly, holds up pretty well even 30 years later and I don’t think any of us could have anticipated or expected that to any degree. I think it was a particular magical moment where special effects were getting really good and live puppetry was actually getting better and better. Things looked more and more fantastical. It was before CGI took over. It was a special moment where the industry was creating this whimsical and making it real, bringing trees and putting them in mud instead of putting them in front of a green screen. There’s something about the handmade quality of the film that I think makes it have that iconic sticking power.It was the first major production made in Germany in collaboration with Warner Bros. , but it was all made in Germany. I certainly didn’t anticipate that it would have the affect that it did. It’s remarkable and so lovely and heartwarming that it still resonates with audiences today and that people want to share it with their kids now. I feel so lucky to be a part of that.”
Horror Fuel: “At the time, how did it feel to be cast in the film?”
TS: “I loved it. It was super exciting. I had been doing local community theater and I was in a lot of ballet recitals at the time and so I loved performing and I loved being inside fantastical, magical stories. It was just that on steroids. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I really loved it.”
Horror Fuel: “I have to ask, what was your favorite creature from the film?”
TS: “I loved the Rockbiter. There is something so sad and beautiful about this enormously strong being that just feels so devastated about not being able to save his friends. I have a soft spot for the Rockbiter.”
Horror Fuel: “After The Never Ending Story was released, you left film, what were you doing during that time?”
TS: “I would say I left celebrity. I was pretty freaked out by the attention the film got. It was not something we had anticipated or really knew how to navigate very gracefully. I did not come from a Hollywood family. My parents were academics. I never left acting, story telling or dancing. I just shifted it to live theater and live dancing. Dance and choreography was my main focus the past twenty years in New York. I did work with a theater company for seven years. We created four original shows that were housed by a wonderful theater, a really initiative, lovely theater in New York. We were touring with those shows around the country as well. I really just focused on live performances for the most part.”
Horror Fuel: “What are you working on now?”
TS: “I am now working on something called Paper Canoe Company which is a new entertainment content generating company that I created with my husband. With the birth of my daughter I felt really inspired to bring all of my passions under one umbrella. Basically it started with The NeverEnding Story, a film that the whole family can get something out of, but I wanted to start making stories and artwork that I could share with my daughter and share with her friends. We looked at each other, my husband and I, and said that ‘we have twenty years experience of art making experience in New York, why don’t we just apply it to family friendly shows’ and the more we started talking about it the more felt that a really good story can transcend age and you can have layers to it and that it can appeal to you at different ages. It’s kind of a really exciting thing to try to tell a story the captures a much wider audience, so that’s what we did. We are making some live shows, the media we are most familiar with. Now, we are venturing into digital content. Our most recent project is Beanstalk Jack, a folk rock album that tells the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk. I really wanted to give it an updated twist. Paper Canoe Company really is about taking folk tales and giving them a modern spin so that they will be relevant for kids today. We decided that the giant would have a daughter named Harmony and instead of Jack stealing all the stuff he steals her heart and they would run away and star a band.”
Horror Fuel: “Oh, great. I have a five-year-old nephew and I know my sister is sick of hearing those obnoxious cartoon songs from TV. I will have to tell her about your music.”
It’s wonderful that someone who starred in one of the biggest films from our childhood is still entertaining children around the world today. For anyone with kids or nieces or nephews you know how much torture listening to those horrible kids song can be. It’s time to upgrade to entertainment you can both enjoy.
Tami Stronach Bio:
Tami Stronach began her art career early starring as the Empress in the iconic 80’s cult classic The Never Ending Story. She is now a NY based actor, dancer, and singer who spent the last two decades performing regularly as part of the NY downtown theater world. She recently co-founded Paper Canoe Company—a family entertainment brand. Stronach has been the Artistic Director of TSD (Tami Stronach Dance) since 2003. Her dance theater works have been presented annually in NYC since the company’s formation and her acclaimed works have toured nationally and internationally. She is also an arts educator, adjunct professor and gives talks to help people harness the power of their imaginations to “Do What They Dream.”