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The NeverEnding Story Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

Based on the German novel of the same name by Michael Ende, "The NeverEnding Story" was released in 1984 and captured the imaginations of children worldwide. The successful film went on to spawn two sequels, 1990's "The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter" and 1994's "The NeverEnding Story III," as well as a short-lived HBO animated series that aired from 1995 to 1996.

A wealth of fantastical ideas, creatures, and plots were introduced throughout the course of the franchise, wonderfully told by a varied cast of actors. Sadly, some of these people's stories were not as unending as the characters they played. With the incredible amount of characters brimming to life within Fantasia's magical pages, it's no surprise that you may have missed some of these dire developments.

So turn the page and join us as we tell you about "The NeverEnding Story" actors you may not know passed away.

Thomas Hill as Carl Conrad Coreander

The wonderful adventures in "The NeverEnding Story" wouldn't have even begun if Bastian hadn't stumbled into the bookstore owned by cranky Carl Conrad Coreander, portrayed by the delightfully mysterious Thomas Hill.

Over the years, Hill played a wide range of characters in many television series and films, most notably the recurring role of Jim Dixon in the classic CBS sitcom "Newhart." However, he returned to the role of the ornery bookseller he had created six years prior in 1990's "The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter." He was the only actor to reprise his role from the original film, though the character's name reverted to the original novel's spelling of Karl Koreander.

Sadly, the sequel turned out to be his final film performance. On April 20, 2009, the 81-year-old actor passed away from a heart attack. But he will always be remembered as the gruff old man who inspired a world of children to crack open a book.

Moses Gunn as Cairon

Portrayed by Moses Gunn, Cairon is the herald of the Childlike Empress who sends Atreyu on his quest to save Fantasia.

Aside from "The NeverEnding Story," Gunn featured in a number of prominent roles in film and television, including Shaft's archnemesis Bumpy Jonas in "Shaft" and "Shaft's Big Score!", the former boxing champion Joe Kagan in NBC's "Little House on the Prairie", and political figure Booker T. Washington in 1981's "Ragtime." He was even nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Kintango in ABC's 1977 miniseries "Roots."

His success wasn't just limited to the screen, either. For his stage work, he won an Obie Award in 1968 for playing Aaron in "Titus Andronicus" and he was nominated for a Tony in 1976 for portraying Benjamin Hurspool in "The Poison Tree."

On December 16, 1993, the 64-year-old actor died from asthma complications, leaving behind a wealth of treasured performances.

Patricia Hayes as Urgl

Played by Patricia Hayes in "The NeverEnding Story," Urgl is a gnome who spends most of her time making gross broths and bickering with her husband, Engywook. She also injects the fluffy Falkor with a giant needle full of vitamins! So she's kind of like a fantasy vet.

Appearing in films and television since 1936, Hayes accrued over 130 acting credits to her name, including roles in the fantasy film "Willow" and the comedy classic "A Fish Called Wanda." She also appeared in television classics like BBC's "The Benny Hill Show," "Till Death Us Do Part," and "Spooner's Patch." Her role as Edna, the Inebriate Woman in the BBC anthology series "Play for Today" snagged her a BAFTA in 1972. To top it all off, she was awarded an OBE for her work as an actress in 1988.

On September 19, 1998, Hayes passed away due to natural causes at the age of 88, but not before giving the world a never-ending amount of entertainment.

Sydney Bromley as Engywook

Sydney Bromley gave a memorable performance as Engywook in "The NeverEnding Story," imbuing the scientist gnome with the perfect balance of comedic chaos and dramatic gravitas. The character's knowledge of the Southern Oracle helps the hero Atreyu further along on his quest to save the Empress, while Engywook's constant bantering with his wife Urgl provides the audience with a significant dose of comic relief.

Throughout a career that spanned over 50 years, Bromley found himself in roles that were just as fantastical and adventurous. He was in other fantasy classics like Terry Gilliam's 1977 film "Jabberwocky" and the 1981 epic "Dragonslayer." He was attacked by the titular werewolf in the 1981 horror comedy classic "An American Werewolf in London" and he took to the seas in 1986's "Pirates" as well as appearing in countless other exciting film and television projects.

On August 14, 1987, Bromley passed away at the age of 78. But his work will be remembered as a gateway to adventure for many.

Tilo Prückner as The Night Hob

Played by Tilo Prückner, the Night Hob is one of the first fantastical creatures we meet in "The NeverEnding Story." Accompanied by Teeny Weeny and Rock Biter, the Night Hob flies off for the Ivory Tower on his sleepy bat steed to warn the Childlike Empress of the Nothing that has wiped out his home and threatens all of Fantasia.

While internationally Prückner is most likely known for playing the Night Hob, or maybe as Nazi scientist Doktor Richter in the 2012 sci-fi film "Iron Sky," he has acted in over 200 German films and television series dating from 1967 all the way through 2021. He did particularly well in television, starring in popular shows like "Adelheid und ihre Mörder," "Kommissarin Lucas," and "Rentnercops." He also wrote and published his only novel, titled "Willi Merkatz wird verlassen" in 2013. It told the story of a doctor in a failing relationship

On July 2, 2020, Prückner died of heart failure at the age of 79, ending a truly remarkable career.

Bernd Eichinger as Man Next to Man Who Drops Milk

Near the beginning of the film, Bastian finds himself on the run from a handful of bullies. While he whisks away down the street, he ducks between two men. One of them drops his milk, spilling it all over the sidewalk. He is played by the film's director, Wolfgang Petersen, who went on to direct films like "Enemy Mine," "Air Force One," and "The Perfect Storm." The man next to the man who dropped the milk is the producer of "The NeverEnding Story," Bernd Eichinger.

Eichinger produced a wide range of films, including four "Resident Evil" films, the first two "Fantastic Four" films (as well as 1994's unreleased disaster "The Fantastic Four"), and the Sean Connery/Christian Slater film "The Name of the Rose." In addition to producing, he was also an accomplished screenwriter, having written 2006's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" about a scent-obsessed serial killer and 2004's "Downfall" about the rise and fall of Hitler. The latter of which received an Oscar nomination and thousands of re-subtitled "Hitler Rant" parodies (though we couldn't find any with him ranting over spilled milk).

At the age of 61, after having worked on nearly 100 films, inspiring a meme, and producing a fondly remembered fantasy classic, Eichinger died of a heart attack on January 24, 2011.


Perhaps one of the most emotionally effective scenes in "The NeverEnding Story" is when Atreyu's horse Artax succumbs to despair and drowns in the Swamp of Sadness. The scene was so powerful and convincing that it led to a persistent rumor that the filmmakers actually drowned the horse onset, a claim that the film's director Wolfgang Peterson denies.

In actuality, two horses were trained to go up to their necks in water and were frequently swapped out while filming to not overwhelm them. The horses were never fully submerged, as is evident in the finished film.

After filming was completed, one of the horses was gifted to the actor playing Atreyu, Noah Hathaway. However, due to how complicated it would be to ship to his home, Hathaway decided to leave the horse in Germany with his stunt-riding double. The horse lived on his ranch for the next 20 or so years before passing away. In an interview with EW, Hathaway noted "It had a great and wonderful life."

Jonathan Brandis as Bastian Balthazar Bux

Released six years after the 1984 original, "The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter" was in need of a younger actor to play Bastian Balthazar Bux, the role originally portrayed by Barret Oliver. Jonathan Brandis stepped in to fill the role and told the story of Bastian returning to again save Fantasia and maybe get over his fear of heights in the process.

Prior to the sequel, Brandis had mostly appeared in small television roles. But he was soon starring opposite Tim Curry in the 1990 ABC miniseries "Stephen King's It," Rodney Dangerfield in 1992's sports comedy "Ladybugs," and Chuck Norris in the 1992 karate comedy "Sidekicks." But he truly became a certified teen idol when he was cast as the scientific genius Lucas Wolenczak in NBC's sci-fi action series "seaQuest DSV."

However, afterward his career started to wane and he began to drink heavily. On November 11, 2003, Brandis committed suicide at the age of 27.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Freddie Jones as the Old Man of Wandering Mountain and Mr. Coreander

Freddie Jones does double duty in "The NeverEnding Story III," playing the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, as well as taking over the role of Mr. Coreander, who now works as a librarian at Bastian's new school. The Old Man of Wandering Mountain was the author of the NeverEnding Story in the original novel, but here he functions more as its protector as the book basically writes itself. That is until some bullies steal the book from Coreander's library and start writing a new future.

Throughout his nearly 60-year career, Jones appeared in over 200 film and television projects. These included big films like 1983's "Krull," 1985's "Young Sherlock Holmes," and 2002's "The Count of Monte Cristo." He also featured in three David Lynch films, "The Elephant Man," "Dune," and "Wild at Heart." His final role was a 13-year run as Sandy Thomas on ITV soap opera "Emmerdale."

On July 9, 2019, Jones passed away at the age of 91, leaving behind a wife and three sons — including "Harry Potter" and Marvel alum Toby Jones.

Thomas Petruo as Large Head

In "The NeverEnding Story III," the Childlike Empress and the Old Man of Wandering Mountain are assisted in their quest to Fantasia by a character known only as Large Head. For the nine days the actor Thomas Petruo was on set, he would spend over four hours in makeup each morning to achieve the bulbous-headed look of the character.

While he has a few other on-screen credits to his name, Petruo put a much larger stamp on the world of voice acting. Specifically, he dubbed over 2,000 films into his native German. Notable instances include providing the voice for Biff Tannen in all of the "Back to the Future" films, dubbing over Gary Oldman in four separate films, and voicing Sheldon Plankton in the Nickelodeon television series "SpongeBob SquarePants." His range was incredibly diverse, covering the spectrum from Robert Downey, Jr. to Ice-T to Javier Bardem.

On April 13, 2018, Petruo passed away at the age of 61, leaving behind a lifetime of voices.

William Hootkins as Falkor the Luck Dragon

Falkor is the flying Luck Dragon that helps Atreyu and Bastian on their quests throughout the entire series. In "The NeverEnding Story III," the fluffy and lovable Falkor that everyone dreams of riding was voiced by fan convention mainstay William Hootkins.

While appearing in classic genre fare such as 1980's "Flash Gordon," 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and 1989's "Batman," he was probably best recognized for flying his X-Wing in the Battle of Yavin under the callsign Red Six in the 1977 classic "Star Wars." That's right, Hootkins was the fan-favorite Rebel pilot Jek Tono Porkins (or "Piggy" to his friends). In addition to flying through the skies of Fantasia and flying into the trenches of the Death Star, Hootkins appeared in over 100 films, television, and video games over the span of 32 years.

On October 23, 2005, Hootkins died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57. May the force be with you, Hootkins.

Adrien Dorval as the Nasty Rage

In "The NeverEnding Story III," Fantastia is threatened by a group of bullies calling themselves the Nasties. Their members include the leader Slip (played by a young Jack Black), Dog, Mookie, Coil, and Rage. While each Nasty has their role in the group, the muscle was provided by Rage, beefily portrayed by Adrien Dorval.

Over the years, Dorval contributed his talents to a wide range of popular television series including "MacGyver," "Highlander," the 2004 "Battlestar Galactica," "Stargate SG-1," and more. On the feature film side, you can spot him alongside Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in "Shanghai Noon," Vin Diesel in "The Chronicles of Riddick," and Robert Pattinson in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." In addition to his numerous screen appearances, he still managed to find the time to play Santa Claus at his local mall.

On January 5, 2021, Dorval died from esophageal cancer at the age of 57.

Wayne Robson as Engywook

After the trilogy of films concluded, HBO aired a 26-episode animated series of "The Neverending Story," continuing Bastian's adventures in Fantasia. Along for the ride were many of the characters introduced throughout the three films, including the gnome scientist Engywook. This time around, Engywook was voiced by Canadian actor Wayne Robson.

Robson was most well known for playing the somewhat reformed criminal Mike Hamar on the long-running television comedy "The Red Green Show" and its 2002 feature film spinoff "Duct Tape Forever." He played another former criminal in 1997: The escape artist Rennes in Vincenzo Natali's sci-fi horror cult classic "Cube." Criminals and convicts aren't the only thing on his resume, as he has over 150 film and television credits to his name. "The Neverending Story" isn't even his only animated series adaptation of a live-action film — Robson also voiced multiple characters in USA Network's "Highlander: The Animated Series."

On April 4, 2011, Robson died from a heart attack at the age of 64.

Chris Wiggins as Mr. Coreander

"The Neverending Story" HBO animated series finds Mr. Coreander back at his bookshop. Or, rather, it doesn't — as he is never seen on-screen. He is usually off on an errand leaving the store unattended. He does, however, leave little notes (and the titular book) for Bastian to find. These narrated notes from Mr. Coreander are voiced by prolific actor Chris Wiggins.

Wiggins voiceover career began in 1966, when he voiced Thor in Marvel's first-ever television show, "The Marvel Super Heroes." Later, he provided multiple voices for the 1967 animated "Spider-Man" series, played the memory-wiped Prince Mon Julpa in 1985's "Star Wars: Droids," and voiced the villainous No Heart in "Care Bears." He was no stranger to live-action television either, starring in 1974's "The Swiss Family Robinson" and 1987's "Friday the 13th: The Series."

On February 19, 2017, Wiggins passed away due to complications from Alzheimer's disease at the age of 86. Along with Thomas Hill and Freddie Jones, there are no surviving actors who have portrayed the mysterious bookstore owner and librarian, Mr. Carl Conrad Coreander. But his story is NeverEnding.

Donald Arthur as school custodian and Falkor (NeverEnding Story II)

The German-language version of "The NeverEnding Story" has a few differences from the one released in North America. For instance, it contains a scene in which a custodian goes to the storage room where Bastian is hiding out and reading the titular book, which prompts Bastian to have to hide. The custodian, arms full of stuff to put away, doesn't see the blanket that Bastian had spread out onto the floor and trips over it. He gets up in an angry huff and storms off, cursing.

The custodian was played by German actor Donald Arthur, who was uncredited. But it's not the only — or the biggest — role that Arthur played in the "NeverEnding Story" series. In "The NeverEnding Story II," Arthur voiced Falkor, taking over for Alan Oppenheimer. Interestingly, Falkor would be voiced by two more different actors for the third movie and the animated series. For whatever reason, Arthur was once again uncredited for this role as well. Arthur, whose career went back to the 1970s, was also a writer and dialogue coach, in addition to being the voice of Chef and Kent Brockman in the German-language versions of "South Park" and "The Simpsons," respectively. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 79.

Barbara Bryne as Urgl (animated version)

Another character who made the transition from the "NeverEnding Story" films to the HBO animated series was Urgl, the gnome with a knack for making soup that'll heal what ails you — if you can manage to get past the terrible taste, of course. Like all the other characters in that series, Urgl is voiced by a different person than the one who played her in the films. In this case, taking over for Patricia Hayes, who played her in the first movie, and Moya Brady, who voiced her for the third, is British stage and screen actor Barbara Bryne.

Bryne was more known for her theater work, which stretched from the 1960s all the way to the 2012s, and included being in the original Broadway cast of several Stephen Sondheim musicals. She also compiled plenty of screen credits, among them the Oscar-winning film "Amadeus" and TV shows like "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" and the 1980s sitcom "Love, Sydney" with Tony Randall and Swoosie Kurtz. As it happens, Urgl would be Bryne's final screen credit, though she would maintain an active career in live theater into her 80s. When she died in 2023 at the age of 94, most of the articles about her passing focused on her theater work and, in particular, how often she worked with Sondheim. 

Patricia Fugger as Instrument Spinster

Michael Ende only wrote one "NeverEnding Story" novel, so the movie's sequels had to consist mostly of new plot points and characters. With the first movie only encompassing about half of the book, "The NeverEnding Story II" was able to use some of the second half — but there wasn't quite enough left to fill an entire movie. So, that's where many of the added elements first came into play, including several new characters both major and minor. 

One of those new minor characters, though never named in the movie, is referred to as "Instrument Spinster" in the credits. She pops up about 20 minutes in, during the scene in which Bastian escapes from giants into a secret passage where he speaks to the Childlike Empress through a projection. The spinster is seen wearing an elaborate headpiece and playing a large stringed instrument. She was portrayed by Patricia Fugger, who only has five screen credits to her name, with "NeverEnding Story Part II" certainly being the most well-known. She died in 2014 at the age of 53. 

John Dunn-Hill as Carl Coreander/The Curiosity (TV series version)

Though Thomas Hill was happy to reprise his role as the bookshop owner who not-so-subtly pushes Bastian into fulfilling his destiny in saving Fantasia, Hill had long since stepped away from acting by the time casting began for the live-action series. Titled "Tales from the NeverEnding Story," the show ran for a single season in its native Canada between 2001 and 2002 and was condensed into four films when it arrived in the United States via HBO later in 2002. 

Only very loosely based on the original book, it mostly ignores the films, choosing instead to tell its own version of Bastian's journey to discovering/dreaming up Fantasia. But some elements and characters remained, including Carl Coreander, now played by actor John Dunn-Hill. Hill actually tackled dual roles as both Coreander and Coreander's Fantasian wizard counterpart, known as The Curiosity. Though Dunn-Hill had been acting since the 1960s, he would see his biggest period of visibility — at least as far as Hollywood was concerned — later in life, appearing in "Punisher: War Zone," "300," and "Secret Window" in his late-60s to mid-70s. "Punisher" would be among his final film roles prior to his passing in 2015 just shy of turning 80. 

Len Carlson as Vermin

The "NeverEnding Story" animated series really upped the number of animal creatures, at least in terms of those who spoke. One such new addition to the "NeverEnding Story" universe by way of the cartoon was Vermin, who mostly had the features of a rodent but also bat-like wings that allowed him to fly. He was the right-hand "man" to a villain named Shadow Goblin, who also made his sole appearance on the animated show.

Speaking for Vermin was Len Carlson, a prolific voice actor whose work dates back to the 1960s when he began his career by voicing the characters of Loki, Odin, and Quicksilver in multiple Marvel Comics-based cartoons. In a career that spanned five decades, Carlson's voice could also be heard in many other cartoon adaptations of live-action films and TV shows, including "ALF: The Animated Series," "Police Academy," "Beetlejuice," "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," "Tales from the Cryptkeeper," and "Swamp Thing." Gamers will perhaps know Carlson best as the voice of villain Ganon in both the "Legend of Zelda" animated series and the "Zelda"-focused episode of "Captain N: The Game Master." Carlson remained busy until his death, serving in the main voice cast of three different animated series at the time of his passing in 2006 at age 68.

Harvey Atkin as Mr. Rockchewer (animated version)

One of the most beloved characters from the first "NeverEnding Story" movie was the Rockbiter, who loomed large and was an impressive visual effect from a time when computers couldn't be used for such things and instead were realized with puppetry and perspective. When the people behind the animated series made their list of characters to bring over, it's hard to imagine that the Rockbiter and his family — which were added in the sequels — weren't near the top. Sure enough, Mr. Rockchewer — as the original character would later be called once multiple members of his species existed in the universe — played a prominent role in the "NeverEnding Story" cartoon. 

Veteran actor Harvey Atkin, who enjoyed a long career both on screen and behind the microphone, voiced him for the show. As far as live-action, Atkin's most famous roles were probably the sergeant on the police drama series "Cagney & Lacey" and Morty Melnick in the cult classic '80s comedy "Meatballs." On the voice acting side, Atkin played King Koopa on three different iterations of "Mario" cartoons, which would be the only time the character was fully voiced other than grunts and roars all the way until the 2023 animated film. Sadly, Atkin didn't live to see Jack Black take his turn as the character, as Atkin died in 2017 at the age of 74. 

Greg Kramer as Rip Rowdy

Like the animated series, the live-action "Tales from the NeverEnding Story" introduced plenty of new characters to interact with returning favorites. One of those was Rip Rowdy, a shady merchant character who teamed with the equally slimy Wexlerian to form the bumbling villain duo known as Rip and Wex. Frequently the comic relief of the series, their questionable plans would typically fall apart in hilarious fashion.

Greg Kramer, whose career included both live-action and voice work and encompassed film, television, live theater, and video games, played Rip Rowdy. He started out on television in the 1980s in the shows "Airwolf" and "War of the Worlds," and continued on the small screen in the '90s by adding "Goosebumps," "The Hardy Boys," and "Kung-Fu: The Legend Continues" to his resume. He also appeared in the movies "300," "The Day After Tomorrow," and "I'm Not There" among many others, as well as did voice work for the first and third main installments in the "Assassin's Creed" video game series. Among Kramer's final roles was also one of his most sizeable: voicing the cat character Nemo across 14 episodes of the PBS animated series "Arthur." Kramer died in 2013 at age 52, just as he was beginning rehearsals for a play entitled "Sherlock Holmes," which he wrote and was set to co-star in with Jay Baruchel. 

Don Francks as Gmork (animated version)

"The NeverEnding Story" rates as one of those movies that seemed aimed at younger children but contained multiple traumatizing moments that were probably a bit too much for the target demographic. For example, the wolf character Gmork probably gave '80s kids more nightmares than the death of Artax. Gmork wasn't quite so scary in the animated series, especially because he was so much more visible — much of what made Gmork creepy in the movie is the build-up to his attack and how little of him we actually see — but he was nonetheless a menacing presence even in pencil and ink.

Don Francks stepped in to voice Gmork for the cartoon, and he was just the man for the job as he had previously portrayed Sabretooth in "X-Men: The Animated Series" as well as several "X-Men" video games. But it's hard to deny that Francks' most famous voice role was that of the gravelly-voiced Dr. Claw, the mostly unseen main antagonist from the original "Inspector Gadget" cartoon. That show also represented the first screen credit for Francks' daughter, who played Penny during the first season. But she wasn't just a one-and-done. His daughter is Cree Summer, who not only played Freddie on the sitcom "A Different World" but has been among the most prolific voice actors of the last 40 years. As for Francks, he continued to act until his death in 2016 at age 84.