Meeting an “Empress”: An Exclusive Interview with Tami Stronach

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Tami Stronach came to fame at the age of twelve in 1984 when she made her film debut as the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story. After the film, she decided to take a long break to focus on being a normal kid with a penchant for dancing and theater. However, in 2008, she made a small comeback in the Czech film Fredy and Zlatovláska and since then, is on the verge of making a comeback. Along with husband Greg Steinbruner, she has formed the children’s entertainment company Paper Canoe Entertainment.

World Film Geek had the opportunity to talk with Stronach about reminiscing about her film debut and what she is up to these days.

Hi Tami. First of all, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to have this interview. I was a huge fan of The Neverending Story as a kid and I think it still hold its own today.
Awesome! That’s cool!

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Tami as the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story (Warner Bros.)

How did you get the role of The Childlike Empress?
I was in an acting class and a talent scout came in and he asked me to audition. So, it was one of those unforeseen surprise kind of things.

What was it like to shoot the film and to work with director Wolfgang Petersen?
To shoot the film was amazing. The studios were enormous. The Bavarian Film Studios were blocks and blocks and it was like walking into a whole another world. It was just soundstage after soundstage after soundstage. It was really massive which was kind of amazing. In retrospect, I’m more impressed with it now than when I was a child because when you’re little, you see everything at face value. Now, I’m just like that went on forever (laughs).

I loved working with Wolfgang. He was so great and very dedicated and invested. He treated us with a lot of respect, which I really appreciated.

Noah Hathaway (above left) and Barret Oliver played Atreyu and Bastian.What were they like on the set and after filming, did you get to keep in touch with them?
I really liked both of them, which was great. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay in touch with them afterwards. They were living in L.A. and I was living in the Bay Area so we weren’t really in the same town. They were totally different. Barret was really into G.I. Joe and little figurines and we would sort of play with those together. Noah had dance training and singing training and he had been in the performing arts longer than both Barret and I as a professional. He was much more of an outdoorsy-type and wanted to be more physical. He wanted to go swimming or go do stuff.

I understand you are also involved in dancing and choreography? Was that a career you started prior to The NeverEnding Story or after?
I was always dancing and acting simultaneously and in my mind, they seem very similar. I know they don’t to other people (laughs). They both seem like different ways of storytelling and performing. I was in plays and always taking dance classes basically since I was about six on.

That’s interesting. I noticed that after you took this break from films, I saw your name appeared on a Czech film. My question is how did that come about?
Well, it’s funny. I actually went over there as a choreographer. They hired me to choreograph a fight scene and there were some big party dance sequences as well. I wanted to do it because I’ve never done fight choreography before. I’ve only done dance choreography. It sounded interesting and they sent me these strange futuristic looking blades. I mean they are not sharp but they have these curves at the ends. So I was in New York and figure out how to swing and jump over them, you know, move with them as weapons.

I went over there and worked with their stunt team, which was a really fun experience. It was really interesting to do fight choreography and do that scene. In the end, they asked me if I would jump in the scene and do a little bit of acting. I said sure, but I don’t speak Czech so it was a very small part. Basically, I get hit in the head with a rock and cry (laughs), which you can do without speaking the language (laughs).

It was fun and it was nice to get back into film and then I wasn’t thinking about coming back into it. Then, I did this other film, Ultra Low, which is coming out this year that was just a brief cameo where I played myself. But I’ve been doing plays in New York for the past twenty years in addition to dancing. I never stopped fully acting. I was always involved with the theater and the New York acting scene. I was in one theater company for seven years and we toured nationally, having done four original shows. It was at this wonderful playhouse called Soho Reparatory, which is a very reputable downtown playhouse here. I was staying involved in acting, even though I focused on dancing and choreography.

I had one foot in that door and now that my body’s starting to get well, old to dance, the acting bug is coming back. I love performing. I’m sort of addicted to it so I’m looking for ways where I can keep performing and growing, but with dancing, you can’t do as much when you’re in your 60’s (laughs). It’s one of those things where you have to accept it. The wonderful thing about acting and singing is that you can keep doing those things until the end. I mean, you play older parts and so I’m excited to come back to some of the things I invested in when I was a kid and bring my experience of twenty years into the game these days.

Speaking of that, let’s about your new venture, Paper Canoe. I got to see the little music video (see above) and thought it was cute! So how did that come about?
Thanks! So I have my daughter and I’ve been reading books to her and watching movies with her. I suddenly felt excited to start making stuff again for kids. Some of the stuff I’ve done in New York is not something I can easily share with her. It was more for a niche audience, those who are into modern dance and theater and it’s become more of a smaller audience interested in that.

My daughter actually loves dance. I take her to a lot of shows. She’s really invested into many art forms. She’s amazing. She’ll sit through an entire play and other things. That’s one of the advantages of living in New York (laughs). I did want to make something fun to share with her and thinking about how important stories are to kids in terms of their development and their sense of what the possibilities are in life and what’s wrong and what’s right. Reading books with your kids, they think about fairy tales and some of them are really strange. I mean those really old fairy tales that are terrifying (laughs). Some of those stories also take out all the fear in them and they end up being flat and kind of boring because nobody wants to scare kids.

I sort of miss the balance between the two. I mean kids are kids but you don’t want to scare them. You do want to protect them. You can’t get the high without the low. You can’t get the depth without the emotional risk. So, I was thinking what kind of stories were really meaningful to us as a family and to her. I wanted to participate in making those kind of stories.

So, I created Paper Canoe with my husband because theater is where I come from.  Our first two productions were plays in New York. We did a sock puppet show for little kids and that was a lot of fun. Then we did a show for older tweens. Then as we were moving forward, we did an album called Beanstalk Jack and we were able to do a little music video, which you saw. We’ll be making another video this month.

And I’m really enjoying to work in this digital capacity. I think we’ll be continuing in this digital capacity. Doing more music videos, doing short films. So we can share them with a larger platform. We do have an audience that come out and support our stuff here in Brooklyn. But, we hope to reach out to a larger audience and it looks like digital is the way to go, so we’re gonna keep going with it.

That’s great! Well, once again, thank you so much for this interview. I’ll definitely keep supporting your venture and am excited that you are making a comeback! I feel like the fanboy in me has truly come out!
Thank you so much for the support!

A Special Thank You goes to October Coast PR and Tami Stronach for making this interview possible. For more on Tami and Paper Canoe Entertainment, check out their official website now.

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