Whatever Happened To The Childlike Empress From The NeverEnding Story?

The NeverEnding Story was one of the most iconic movies of the 1980s. Released decades ago in 1984, the movie starred Noah Hathaway and Barret Oliver. The film was singular in its artistic ambitions, and it was brought to life with an army of puppets and one-of-a-kind characters. It was also a hit in theaters, grossing over $20 million, according to Box Office Mojo, and forever endearing itself to millions of fans for decades to come.

Of all of the incredible actors and actresses in the film, the Childlike Empress stands out as one of the most beloved characters, with her glistening eyes, benevolent authority, and a soul that seemed so much older than the empress herself was. Played by Tami Stronach, who gave an incredible performance in the role, the Childlike Empress is renamed in the end as Moon Child, thanks to Bastian's courage.

Despite her nuanced and emotional performance as the Childlike Empress, Stronach pretty much dropped off Hollywood's radar after The NeverEnding Story. So what exactly happened to her? Read on to find out!

Becoming the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story

When Tami Stronach was cast as the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story, she was doing a lot of community theater in Berkeley, Calif., where she lived at the time. So when it came time to make the jump from the small stage to the big screen, Stronach prepared for it as she would a play: She read the novel and wrote down adjectives that described the character in a notebook. "Then I also gave her an age," she recalled in an interview with Screen Mayhem. "I decided that ... she's ageless and much older than this, but for me just to have something concrete to hold on to, I made her 300 years old." No wonder she seemed like such an old soul.

Stronach also got exceptional instruction from director Wolfgang Peterson, who never talked to her like she was a child. "He spoke as if I was a smart, comprehending individual," she continued. "I just felt so excited that he trusted me to understand the stakes and be able to enter it on that level." Thus Stronach was able to develop the character we all know and love today.

She looks back at her time as the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story fondly

It's been a long time since The NeverEnding Story debuted in theaters. But even all these years later, Tami Stronach looks back on the experience with extreme fondness. "The experience of being inside of these vast sets and mingling with the army of creatives who brought Fantasia to life definitely took my sense of wonder to a new level," she revealed in an interview with HuffPost. "Also, the message of the film is to keep that childlike part of us alive, and I took that message to heart." We did too, Tami!

But because Stronach was focused on other priorities in life, it's taken her some time to interact with fans in a meaningful way. "I have to admit, that for many many years I really didn't think about it at all," she confessed in an interview with Screen Mayhem. "I wanted to even distance myself from it." Fortunately for fans of the Childlike Empress, Stronach is active on both Instagram and Twitter, where she shows her love for the film on the reg.

Why did the Childlike Empress actress from The NeverEnding Story stop acting in films?

After starring as the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story, Tami Stronach and her family agreed that she didn't want to continue on in the movie business for a variety of reasons. "I think at that time, in the 80s, Hollywood was a very powerful entity and we ... got a sense that we just weren't very well equipped to know how to navigate that machine well," she explained in an interview with SciFi Monkeys. "I think that with everything that's come out with Harvey Weinstein, it's safe to say that ... you did have to have a lot of savvy to work your way through it and come out a healthy, balanced person on the other end." She's got a point, as child stars have a reputation for self-destructing at times.

On top of being wary of the film industry, Stronach also received some strange solicitations. "I think that being eleven, we just got some really weird scripts after The NeverEnding Story that were totally inappropriate," she continued. Yikes! No wonder she noped right out of there.

Stronach released an album after playing the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story

Here's a fun fact that most people might not know about Tami Stronach: she made an album just after The NeverEnding Story was released, and it was kind of a big deal in Europe. "I sang ... on a TV show promoting The NeverEnding Story and a record producer in Germany heard me and called us up that afternoon and said he wanted to make a record with me," she recalled in an interview with Screen Mayhem. But because Stronach only had a few days left in Germany before going back home, her mom said no to the project outright.

However, the producer suggested that instead he could record a single with an A side and a B side, and he could do it quickly — and Stronach's mother relented. "So, that's what we did," she continued. "It was the quickest project ever. He just whipped them up. It was crazy." 

You can hear the songs here, in all of their 1980s glory.

Education was a priority for the Childlike Empress actress

Tami Stronach very easily could have gone after a successful career as a child actor in Hollywood after finishing filming as the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story. Had she chosen that route, chances are she would've had to pursue an alternative education, as many other child actors have to do. It has to be challenging to fit an education into your day if you're also on a production set for hours and hours at a time!

But Stronach didn't choose the Hollywood life, so she was able to get her education in a more normal fashion. In high school, she became a voracious reader, according to an interview with Big Shiny Robot. After that, she went on to receive her BFA in Dance at SUNY Purchase College and her MFA in Dance at ADF/Hollins University, according to her profile on Paper Canoe. That's definitely a different trajectory than most other child stars have taken.

Stronach returned to stage acting long after her days as the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story

Despite the fact that Tami Stronach decided to quit acting in films as a child after her role as the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story, she did pick up stage acting again when she was older. "I was in a theater company for seven years called The Flying Machine and we toured all over the United States," she shared in an interview with Slash Film. "We made four original plays. We were the resident theater company for SoHo Rep which is a very reputable downtown theater company in New York." That's not small potatoes, either — Soho Rep is kind of a big deal.

But after a long run with The Flying Machine, the troupe eventually disbanded when they lost their leader. "Unfortunately, the director of that theater company quit after 10 years at the height of our glory days and moved to L.A. to write scripts," she continued. "So I was out of my acting company."

The NeverEnding Story's Childlike Empress actress is a successful dancer

When Tami Stronach left Hollywood after playing the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story, she didn't abandon her passions altogether. Rather, she simply decided to follow her heart into a different artistic profession. "I made a decision that I would throw myself into dance," she shared in an interview with Slash Film. "And that if I really missed acting, I would return to it as an adult when I was in charge of my life and I wasn't upsetting my parents, who both had really active full careers and couldn't just give over all their time to pursue being my manager."

That turned out to be a good decision for Stronach, who has enjoyed a long and successful career as a dancer in the Big Apple. "So that's what I did and I ended up dancing for 20 years professionally in New York," she continued. "I really love dancing." Obviously she's pretty good at it, too, as it's not an easy career path.

Stronach is also a successful and lauded choreographer, according to her website, showing just how multi-talented she truly is. 

The woman who played the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story happily married an actor

When it comes to Tami Stronach's personal life, the NeverEnding Story star is happily married to actor, playwright, and director Greg Steinbruner, whom she also respects creatively. "My husband, Greg Steinbruner, is one of those hyper creative kind of people, with an essentially endless list of stories he wants to tell," she gushed in an interview with HuffPost. That's quite the compliment coming from Stronach, who's insanely creative herself.

Like Stronach, Steinbruner was classically trained in the arts. "I came to NY from Washington DC in 1989 to study at NYU's Tisch School receiving training at both the Circle in the Square Program, and NYU's [in-house] Classical Studio," he revealed in an interview with TTLG. It doesn't get much better than that, as Tisch is known to be a top school.

Steinbruner also boasts a seriously impressive acting resume, according to his website. He's been in a variety of films and plays, including several Shakespearean shows, and he also narrates audio books. Additionally, he's directed several plays, including The Government Inspector, The Tempest, and The Birds at Ramapo College, according to the Paper Canoe website.

The star who played the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story co-founded an entertainment company

In addition to dancing, choreographing, and acting, Tami Stronach has partnered with husband Greg Steinbruner to found the entertainment company Paper Canoe. The couple, along with other artists and musicians, aim to create high-quality television, films, and digital content that parents can watch together with their children. "I want to bring high aesthetic values to our productions because kids deserve that," the NeverEnding Story star, who played the Childlike Empress, explained in an interview with HuffPost. "That's how we make kids feel like adults. Put them in front of things that look and feel artful and virtuosic creatively, rather than cheap and corporate." There's definitely room in the market for content like that, as any parent can tell you.

Paper Canoe also strives to keep parents entertained with their material as well. "Kids can feel when parents check out and jump on their phones to do email during a story, and when the work is 'just for the kids' that's pretty tempting," she continued. "So all of Paper Canoe Productions have jokes and concepts that are directed towards an adult audience while entertaining and engaging children." That's really refreshing.

The Childlike Empress actress now teaches at colleges around the country

On top of everything else Tami Stronach has been working on throughout her life, she's also maintained an academic position as well. "I'm a dance professor in New York at a college here," the former Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story revealed in an interview with Screen Mayhem. "I teach composition." Our girl is clearly very busy!

Specifically, Stronach has been teaching dance composition and improvisation at Marymount Manhattan College since 2011, according to her bio on the Paper Canoe website. She's also been a guest instructor at Alfred University, Bennington College, Princeton University, SUNY Purchase, the University of Florida, Long Island University, and the University of Michigan, according to her faculty website. Additionally, she's a consultant for the education department at The New York City Ballet, and she has worked as a teaching artist at Lincoln Center Institute. So she is unquestionably a master of her craft — the cream of the crop when it comes to teaching dance. 

Becoming a mother inspired this NeverEnding Story star

After Tami Stronach got married and had her daughter, things changed for the Childlike Empress actress in more ways than one. Notably, becoming a mother changed the way Stronach values children's entertainment. "Watching my own daughter read stories, see stories, hear music, it dawned on me that storytelling for kids is actually much more important than I ever realized," she shared in an interview with Screen Mayhem. "It really defined for her what is possible."

Additionally, Stronach has gotten in touch with her own inner-child in the process, and has a new appreciation for The NeverEnding Story as well. "It's been interesting how having a kid has really brought me back to doing the things that I did when I was a kid, which was acting and singing," she mused in an interview with SciFi Monkeys. "It's been really fun. It's sort of like a little funny circle." Having children can do that to a person!

You can find the actress who played the Childlike Empress from The NeverEnding Story at comic cons

Now that Tami Stronach has embraced the NeverEnding Story fandom, she's made appearances at Comic Con. But as she tells it, her motivation for first going wasn't to be mobbed by fans. "I got invited to a Comic Con and I thought that Noah would be there, Noah Hathaway (Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story), and I hadn't seen him in a really long time," she recalled in an interview with Screen Mayhem. "And I thought it'd be really fun to see him after thirty years." But, as it turned out, Hathaway never showed up. Boo, Noah!

Fortunately, Stronach had a great time regardless, and the Childlike Empress actress met all kinds of NeverEnding Story fans and their children. "It was just a really lovely experience and it reminded me how lucky I was to have been in that," she continued. "I was moved by how much the story meant to them and I felt really happy that I was able to be part of something like that." Maybe she'll make it a regular thing!

The Childlike Empress actress is ready to star in films again

With so many things coming full circle for Tami Stronach, the woman who played the Childlike Empress in The NeverEnding Story is starting to become open to more acting gigs. After all, it's not like she's been completely out of the game. "I have been acting in the NYC theater scene for the last decade so the acting bug didn't go anywhere, even as I was dancing and choreographing," she explained in an interview with Attack from Planet B. "But I wasn't doing commercial acting." 

However, that changed in 2018, when she appeared briefly in a film. "Recently I started receiving some scripts for films and Ultra Low caught my eye," she continued. "I have a short cameo where I play... myself. It was so fun to be back on a movie set. I'll be doing more, if anyone will have me." Hey Netflix, take notice!

At the time of this writing, there's nothing pending on Stronach's IMDb page, but who knows what could be in the works!

Would the original Childlike Empress appear in a remake of The NeverEnding Story?

It seems like every movie eventually gets a remake at some point or another. Whether it's The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, A Star is Born, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hollywood just can't resist rebooting the classics.

Well, if there's ever a reboot of The NeverEnding Story, Stronach is on board to be a part of it, though we doubt she'd be able to play the Childlike Empress. "If they make a remake of course I'd love to do a cameo," she gushed in an interview with AXS. "I'd be happy to revisit this wonderful story in any capacity." We'd be pretty happy about it as well — as long as they don't mess it up.

Class act that she is, Stronach isn't afraid to have a sense of humor about it, too. "If they take a long time maybe I could play the wife of the old scientist, Urgl," she continued. "She's pretty cute!" That would be pretty hilarious!