Posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 by Fred Topel
When I saw the Spotify ad with all grown up Atreyu flying around on Falcor listening to Limahl’s theme song to The Neverending Story, I tweeted about it. This caught the attention of Tami Stronach, who when she was 11 played the Childlike Empress in the film. She’s been engaging fans with Falcor drawing contests and news about her current activities, so I arranged an interview with Stronach by phone out of New York.
The Neverending Story was a childhood favorite with all the animatronic and puppet creatures, Atreyu’s quest and Bastian reading all about it alone in the attic. Later I discovered it was a Wolfgang Petersen film, and he became a director whose work I liked, and the song rocks.
Currently, Stronach’s Paper Canoe Company (www.papercanoecompany.com) has three projects for families in the work. Their sock puppet show for children is currently performed in New York. They are releasing an album called Beanstalk Jack, and developing a show for tweens called Light. So you can see Stronach star in another epic fantasy on stage. Here is our full interview with Tami Stronach where you can find out about her experience on The Neverending Story and how busy she’s been in the decades since.
The scene where you explain The Neverending Story to Atreyu, I didn’t fully get it until I saw it as an adult. We’re watching Bastian read about Atreyu and then we’re part of someone else’s story, and they’ll impact someone else’s story and that’s how it never ends. Did you fully understand it when you were doing that scene?
I did, actually. I read Michael Ende’s book before we did the film. So I was reading the script and I was reading Ende’s original simultaneously. I had a lot of conversations with my mom about what it means and was very invested in understanding the mechanics of it. I loved the story. I didn’t understand the film was going to have the impact it did at all, but I understood that the bones of the story were really special.
So when smart alec kids said, “It’s not true because it ends,” did you tell them, “No, you don’t understand.”
[Laughs] I think maybe I lived it so the principle of imagination impacting life and creating reality being the founding principal of how things work stayed with me.
And now you’re a part of my story and I’m telling your story.
That’s very poetic.
You’re not in this scene, but did you cry when Atreyu’s horse sank in the swamp like everyone else?
Of course I did, yes, of course. That’s the litmus test. If you don’t cry in that scene then some serious therapy is in order in my opinion.
Did you get to play on Falcor when they weren’t filming?
No, everyone thinks that I was riding all the puppets and there was some kind of puppet party going on, but no. Because everything’s done in pieces, I saw his head in one studio in front of a green screen. Then I saw his body somewhere else. I saw him being operated with puppeteers but they didn’t really let us ride the puppets.
There are a lot of creatures in your scenes. Did you get to see the puppeteers work and learn about what they do?
I did actually. I went in while they were filming some of the other scenes and I wanted to watch the mechanics of how things were being done, so they let me just sit quietly on the side. One of my favorite things to do was watch the puppeteers.
When did you first hear the song by Limahl? After the movie was done?
Yeah, it was after. I loved it. The whole thing was much more epic and much more connected than I could have imagined glimpsing bits and pieces of it. There were so many parts to the film that I had never seen. The scenes with Bastian and his father were shot I think in Canada, not even in the Bavaria Studios in Germany. So there were scenes that had been filmed that I wasn’t aware of, so it was really fun. The only thing is that it premiered in German so I saw it for the first time in German.
Was it dubbed in German or did Wolfgang Petersen actually film scenes with German dialogue?
It was dubbed. In the ‘80s, every film that went to Europe was pretty much dubbed into the language of the country in Europe. I don’t think they do that anymore because everyone speaks English now. Maybe they do. I don’t really know but in any event all the films would be dubbed including this one. I knew what was going on but it was all in German.