Whatever happened to Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story?
Noah Hathaway landed the role of a lifetime when he got cast as Atreyu in 1984’s The NeverEnding Story. At just 13-years-old, the veteran child actor became the hero of one of the most enduring fantasy films of all time, battling Gmork, helping to save The Childlike Empress, and befriending everyone’s favorite dog-dragon-thing, Falcor. That’s why it’s so strange that he basically disappeared from Hollywood a few years later.
As of this writing, Hathaway is getting back into the movie biz, but from 1986 to 2012, he logged just a single film credit. So, what was he doing all those years? This is what happened to Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story.
He basically retired after The NeverEnding Story
By the time Hathaway became Atreyu, he had already been acting for ten years, first as a commercial actor, then with a big role in the original Battlestar Galactica film and TV series. But the production of The NeverEnding Story took such a toll on Hathaway—the film took an entire year to shoot, with scenes requiring up to 40 takes—that he decided to walk away from the acting game just two years later.
“I worked the first 20-something years of my life as an actor. I just wanted to drop off the radar and be a regular human being,” he told The News Tribune. He had mixed feelings about his iconic role in The NeverEnding Story. “It’s the weirdest experience of my life,” he said. “On one end it’s some of the most wonderful parts of my life, and in another respect it’s part of the worst parts of my life.”
According to TooFab, Hathaway completed the cult classic, Troll, immediately after The NeverEnding Story, then took the next few decades to pursue other passions, including becoming a dance instructor, competing in amateur martial arts tournaments, and racing motorcycles.
He got messed up pretty bad on the set of The NeverEnding Story
Hathaway incurred a nasty injury while training for The NeverEnding Story. In order to look like he knew what he was doing atop his loyal companion, Artax—you know, his horse who drowned in the Swamp of Sadness and destroyed our childhoods—Hathaway had to learn how to ride.
During one of his training sessions, his horse tried to jump a fence, missed, and fell on top of him. As a result, Hathaway “cracked a couple of vertebrae,” which has resulted in lifelong back problems. But that’s not all.
According to an interview with Galactica.tv, Hathaway also “pretty much drowned in the Swamp of Sadness,” and “almost lost an eye in the fight scene with the Gmork.” When asked why there wasn’t better stunt coordination, he said, “Wolfgang Petersen [the film’s director] was notorious for his actors doing their own stunts. His actors are always getting hurt, because he wanted…he wants his actors to do as much as they can for the realism of the movie… I just ended up paying.”
Hathaway told TooFab, “They tried to kill me every week! I was in the hospital every month.”
Yeesh. No wonder he decided to take a break.
He'd probably never do a sequel
Setting aside the fact that there have already been two questionable sequels to the film and an animated TV series, Hathaway doesn’t sound like he’s ready to strap on the Auryn and take on The Nothing again anytime soon.
Hathaway admitted that he hasn’t spoken with anyone in the cast since they wrapped the film, and he doesn’t sound too keen on working with anyone on the production side, either. Speaking with Galactica.tv, he said, “Uhmmm…It would depend on how much they’d pay me! They’d have to pay me a LOT of money! (laughs) They have to pay me a lot of money to do it. They were a lot of problems we ended up having with the producers and the production. They were shady, so they’d have to pay me a ridiculous sum of money to do another film… with Wolfgang [Petersen, the director] that is!”
Apparently, the feeling is mutual. Petersen once told The Nerdist, “[Noah Hathaway] I didn’t care for so much because he had an attitude. But it was an attitude that you could tell was put there by his parents. They were making so many demands and were essentially trying to blackmail the production.”
Oof, this sounds like a collaboration that is never going to happen again.
He reprised the role for a Spotify ad
Despite the drama of the past, Hathaway clearly has a soft spot for Atreyu and The NeverEnding Story. In fact, he agreed to portray the character once more for a 2016 Spotify ad that highlighted the fact that the film’s theme song—after all these years—is still played daily on the streaming music service.
In the ad, Hathaway portrays a bearded, grown-up Atreyu flying on the back of Falcor, who is voiced by the original voice actor, Alan Oppenheimer.
“It’s just strange, man, I feel like someone needs to pinch me and go, ‘Wake up!'” Hathaway said in the behind-the-scenes video for the shoot. That could mean one of two things: either the reprisal really was a dream come true for Hathaway, or Spotify ponied up that aforementioned huge sum of money. We’re thinking it’s a bit of both.
He became a tattoo artist
In an interview with Mad Bros. Media, Hathaway revealed that he’s been “getting tattooed since he was 15,” and after his ex-wife got “an apprenticeship with a really notable tattoo artist,” he took up the art form himself. However, it hasn’t turned into a viable career for Hathaway, who said he’s been “too wrapped up my own bulls**t” to really pursue it. “It’s like you gotta be committed to that type of art. It is one hundred percent, or, you know—I don’t do it a whole lot anymore.”
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some fun tattoo stories. “I was doing a tattoo in Seattle,” Hathaway told TooFab, “and a girl came in and had the whole side of her buttcheek was the Auryn [The protective medallion Atreyu wore in The NeverEnding Story]. So she pulled her pants off and asked if she could get a picture with me next to the Auryn, so I stuck my head right next to her butt.”
Apparently that was something of a peak experience for Hathaway and Auryn tattoos, because he also told The New Tribune, “I wouldn’t do another Auryn tattoo because I did 15 in three weeks. It is very flattering though.”
He's really into motorcycles
In almost every interview with Hathaway, he is described as either a motorcycle enthusiast, motorcycle racer, or custom motorcycle builder. Though he’s never achieved any kind of fame connected to his passion for bikes, he did at one time have pretty big plans to open a custom bike shop.
Speaking with Galactica.tv in 2006, Hathaway said that his shop, 5150 Choppers, was still a few years away, but in the works. “I’m still learning, like I’m going to welding school and learning about mechanics. And I learn as I’m building. It will take a while, you know, I’m not in a rush… I’ve been riding my whole life, so it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a little kid…to build my own bikes; ever since I was 12-13 years old.”
Hathaway also said he would be into building a custom Battlestar Galactica or The NeverEnding Story bike if a customer commissioned it, although he doesn’t prefer the custom bike trend, presumably referencing shows such as American Chopper and Monster Garage, which were popular at the time. “I don’t like to do what everybody does, you know what I mean? I’m not a sheep, I kind of want to do what makes me happy,” he said.
That’s cool and all, but we actually really want to see that The NeverEnding Story bike. After all, it’s not like he doesn’t have the perfect inspiration for one from the character Rockbiter’s insane, steamroller-style ride.
He screwed himself out of a recurring role on Family Ties
One of the last roles Hathaway took before his long showbiz hiatus was the character of Adam Galardner on the sitcom Family Ties in 1985. According to Hathaway, what was supposed to be a regular gig got nixed because of some backstage hanky-panky.
Speaking with CinemaJaw, Hathaway said, “I was supposed to come on Family Ties as a recurring role, and, uh, Meredith Baxter-Birney’s daughter locked me in her mom’s dressing room, but forgot to lock the door, and we were getting it on and the mom walked in and, needless to say, I didn’t come back the next season. So I think that’s the only time I ever screwed anything up, but you know, you live and let learn, and usually I’m super professional on set.”
Wow. And yes, for you math whizzes out there, that puts Hathaway at the ripe old age of about 14 when this all went down. Hathaway also said that he kept in touch with Baxter-Birney’s daughter, who told him that she was promptly shipped off to boarding school after their little rendezvous.
He returned to acting after almost two decades
In 2012, Hathaway returned to the big screen in Sushi Girl, a “noir thriller” about a diamond heist crew who turn on one another. The films stars Star Wars alum, Mark Hamill, and martial arts legend, Sonny Chiba, and it was the involvement of those big names that drew Hathaway back into the spotlight.
“It was the first project I’ve done—I came out of retirement to do this movie,” Hathaway told On the Spot, adding, “They said you’re going to work with Sonny Chiba and Mark Hamill, and I was like, ‘When do I leave?’ And I literally was on a plane six hours later.”
Since then, Hathaway has logged several more screen credits, but nothing high-profile as of this writing. That might have something to do with his desire to break type. Speaking with Fruitless Pursuits in 2012 to promote Sushi Girl, Hathaway said that the types of roles he played as a kid, “the hero” or the “good guy next door” are “really f***ing boring.” He’d always wanted to play “the bad guy” or “the evil, diabolical character or the junkie or whatever.”
“As an artist and an actor, I want to delve a lot more deep,” he said, noting upcoming projects he’d already logged with legendary horror director Tom Holland. “I got to really kinda tap into that f***ed up, crazy mental patient thing that, you know, I think we all have in us, and you know, I had a blast.”
He's a screenwriter
Though he doesn’t have any actual screenwriting credits listed on his IMDb page, Hathaway told The News Tribune that his post-Sushi Girl career resurgence has also included becoming a scribe. “It just kind of reignited everything,” he said, claiming that in the three years since his Hollywood comeback, he’s penned five screenplays, secured financing for two of them, and was about to start shooting a pilot for one of them. “If you shoot a pilot yourself, you can keep what you own instead of giving it over to somebody,” he told The News Tribune.
That was in 2015, and as of this writing, we’re not sure what happened with all of that, but in Hollywood, projects can languish in what is commonly known as “development hell” for extremely long periods of time. Here’s hoping we get to see an original Hathaway production soon!
His neighbor started a GoFundMe for his medical bills
In March 2017, Hathaway ran into some hard times when mounting legal bills caused him to resort to crowdfunding for help.
Speaking with TMZ, Hathaway said that over the years, his spinal surgeries—which were all directly related to his The NeverEnding Story injury—have cost him “just shy of a million dollars.” On top of that, his beloved French bulldog, Cash, also needed surgery to have cysts removed, a procedure that came with a price tag of about $16,000 dollars.
It was actually Hathaway’s neighbor who started the GoFundMe account on behalf of Hathaway, according to IndieWire, although the page no longer exists. Hathaway tracked the donations he received on his Facebook page and made a vague mention of what supposedly went wrong with the fundraiser in a May 2017 post: “Just a heads up that person managing my gofund me campaign dropped the ball,” he wrote, adding, “If anyone is owed a signed pic please let me know so I can get them out ASAP!! Much love Noah.”
The good news: Hathaway and Cash got the surgeries they needed, and as of this writing, are both recovering well. Hopefully, Hathaway also got the financial assistance he needed as well. After all, the guy did once save the entire realm of human imagination. The least we can do is kick in a couple bucks for his back surgery.