Interview with Never Ending Story star Tami Stronach
by Bobby Blakey
As a kid in the 80s, like most I loved The Never Ending Story. The film was an awesome peek inside a world of fantasy and wonder that easily captured a child’s mind and imagination. In the film a young actress named Tami Stronach brought the young child-like princess to memorable life. I had the chance to speak with her to reflect on her time working on this classic film and her career in the industry.
Bobby: How do you look back on your time as the Child-like Empress?
Tami: Nostalgia is a funny thing. For a long time, like in my early 20s, I really didn’t want to think too much about it. But the fact is the film was a big event in my childhood, and I find that those early years in your life become more important over time, not less. So I think about it more now than I used to. And of course so many of the people who are fans of the film are having kids now and sharing it with their little ones. The experience of shooting the film was completely amazing for me. I loved being on set, seeing the elaborate puppets and special effects being created. It was hard work, in some sense. Long hours, and a lot of fussing with what I ought to look like. I’m really glad with the look they went with. It’s kind of timeless, and the image of the Empress still pops up when people are looking for me online. But I have nothing but fond memories of the creative process itself.
Bobby: How do you think the film industry has changed since 1984?
Tami: The thing that I’m most struck with--or maybe hopeful about is a better way to say it--is maybe now finally there are better opportunities across the board for women as, actors, writers, producers, directors, and on the production side. That extends of course to the kinds of roles we get to play, as well. The little glimpse I had of Hollywood as a kid was not such a great scene for women creatives, or business people. The danger of being exploited back then was real both as a kid, and then again because you’re a woman. Maybe that’s changing? I hope so. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy making my own work. On my own terms.
Bobby: Do you find it harder or easier to get roles?
Tami: I was very, very lucky to get cast in Wolfgang’s film as a kid. He was looking for something pretty different, I believe, and I had to convince him in multiple rounds of auditions. Now I’m a mom in my 40’s. Hollywood is not begging me to come back, as far as I can tell. But I’ve been performing and acting in New York for decades, and since I’m dancing less now, I’m re-focusing on the movies and TV. But the industry doesn’t owe me anything, and I’m not expecting it to be easy. Hollywood is very much a ‘what have you done for us lately’ kind of town. I’m going to be back on the big screen, because I have always felt called to it. One has to be who you are, and that passion for acting has never faded. I have lovely, lovely fans around the world, and I know they want to see me in something big and cool and epic and mysterious. So between their support and interest and encouragement, and my own desire, now, to make it happen, I’ll find a way.
Bobby: Was there a point when you discovered you were getting too old to play a teenager?
Tami: Oh, gosh. I do still feel very young at heart. We did early development on a show last year in New York and I played a kid, which you only get away with in a particular ‘magic of the theater’ kind of way. But like every other woman, for commercial kinds of work once you’re 25, you might as well be 55 in some way. I’m happy now to play older characters, and the actors I admire--Robin Wright, or Cynthia Nixon--are great role models. Powerful, smart. Full of experience and wisdom and will.
Bobby: What was your first ‘adult’ part?
Tami: I have long played a kind of stage version of myself in many of my dance theater pieces; that persona is a definitely a grown up, with grown up passions. The funny thing is that the Empress in the Neverending Story was in my mind actually a three hundred year old soul. I was playing her as a grande dame in my mind! I still love to do that, and now I look the part!
Bobby: And your most recent?
Tami: Funnily enough, I just did a couple of days on an indie film where I play “Tami Stronach” at a film screening event. Pretty funny. I’m developing a short film with my husband right now where I play a witch. Green eyes. I type-cast myself.
Bobby: Do you think Hollywood will remake Never-Ending Story?
Tami: One hears about that, but it never seems to happen. I suspect Ende didn’t want more films made based on his book, so I imagine that would make it difficult.
Bobby: What do you think of kid’s movies today?
Tami: As always there’s a range of things both amazing and terrible. Like everyone else I admire the comic animated stuff that gets made. I love the Harry Potter films. There seem to be a lot of apocalyptic super-hero movies, at the moment, which I like but frankly wild horses couldn’t get my daughter to watch one of those--I have to watch them solo. We are in an interesting moment now regarding technology--in that is is getting so good. So in the case of a brilliant Pixar film it enhances the story but in other situations the technology sometimes buries the story. Great scripts are hard to come by. Great special effects seem to be easier for Hollywood to get a handle on, but no film is good without heart. I’m still all about good old fashioned character development. It’s why 80s films are still popular. The idea used to be that you actually cared about what happens to the characters.
Bobby: You’re developing entertainment for family audiences, too. What can you tell me about Paper Canoe?
Tami: Well to your previous question, we are going to see what we can do to change the game a little bit. We have a simple idea that a story should make kids feel like they are grown up and make a grown ups feel like kids. Great stories are powerful when you can experience them as a family, but the approach most mega-companies take follows a simple formula. There is nothing wrong with a formula. There are compelling business reasons for it, because it is ‘acceptable’ to a huge spectrum of audiences so it can be mass distributed etc... But it’s not great storytelling. It doesn’t really move you or stay with you. As a parent you see that it starts to feel like your kid is just eating the entertainment equivalent of fast food every day. You really, really don’t want to put ‘engineered’ food into your kid every day, and we don’t think you really want to put ‘engineered content’ into your kid every day. You do it because that’s what’s available, but you know it’s not great. Kids can think. They can feel intense things and they can engage with complexity. And grown ups can dream, and imagine, and suspend disbelief. Our projects move you. They make you dance, they make you feel, they make you think. You don’t just sit there. You imagine with us.
We’ve been making theater and music, and this year our focus is going to be on take home content; so, videos, podcasts, maybe some live streaming, and I hope someday TV and movies. The good stuff. The stuff your kids will want to share with their kids 30 years from now.
To keep up with Tami follow her at:
Twitter: @neverendingtami, @papercanoecompany
YouTube: Paper Canoe Channel