Tami Stronach's calling card in Hollywood is still the 1984 cult film The NeverEnding Story —but the actress is making her return to the big screen more than 30 years later.
Stronach, 48, is best known as the Childlike Empress from the iconic children's fantasy film, but she stepped away from a burgeoning career in Hollywood after she found there were pitfalls to childhood fame.
"I did not desperately want to be a star. I desperately wanted to act," Stronach told Vice in an interview published on Wednesday. "Those are two different things."
The actress and dancer added that her parents, archeologists Ruth Vaadia and David Stronach, "had really full, exciting lives" and were not "stage parents."
Stronach, who is currently working on her fantasy film Man & Witch alongside her husband Greg Steinbruner, said when she landed the role of the Childlike Empress, her parents agreed to move to Germany, where the film was shooting, from San Francisco, where the family lived.
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"[They] said, 'Sure, we can do this for a summer, then you're going back to school,' " Stronach recalled.
Stronach did return to school in San Francisco after spending three months filming just a few minutes in the film where her character appears.
But all normalcy disappeared after the film was released when adult men tracked down her address and camped outside her family's home, waiting to catch a glimpse of the then-12-year-old.
In one instance, the actress said producers "came to our house and pitched [a nude film], and I'm like, 'I'm not doing a nude film. I'm not Lolita.' "
Stronach said her parents jointly made the decision for her to stop pursuing her acting career.
"The bottom line is my parents just weren't equipped to be managers," she told Vice. "We weren't in it for the money, and we certainly weren't in it for the fame. I think if I had moved to L.A. and they had decided to help me hunt for projects, we could have found those. But that was just not a step we as a family were going to take."
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So Stronach focused on having as normal a childhood as possible, but found comfort and creativity in theater and dance.
After graduating from high school, she moved to New York City to become a professional dancer.
Stronach became the director of her own company, worked as a dance professor at Marymount Manhattan College and teaches yoga.
"There was this really important notion of defining for myself what value is, defining for myself what artistic success is, and defining for myself what kind of stories I want to tell," she said. "I was constantly doing plays in New York, so I didn't actually stop acting. I just moved to theater."
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It was when the third season of Stranger Things paid tribute to The NeverEnding Story with a singalong that Stronach and Steinbruner received inspiration to get back into films.
The couple created an '80s-based fantasy film, Man & Witch, which stars both of them as well as several of the who's-who of the '80s such as Christopher Lloyd, Sean Astin and Rhea Perlman.
"It's a modern film in the sense that we're not trying to make it look like an '80s film," Stronach told Vice. "It's not going to be grainy and on VHS. It's really more about storytelling devices. It's not cynical. It's a heartwarming story."
She added, "You asked me if I wanted to be a star as a kid. I'm such a complicated case because I really love doing the work, but I really don't like the lifestyle. I had to navigate this alternate path, and I just feel so lucky."
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