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updated: 4/2/2013 4:59 AM

Wheaton native looks back on playing 'Pippi'

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  • Wheaton native Tami Erin hit the big time in 1988's "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking."

      Wheaton native Tami Erin hit the big time in 1988's "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking."

  • Tami Erin grew up in Wheaton before she starred in the 1988 movie "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking."

      Tami Erin grew up in Wheaton before she starred in the 1988 movie "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking."

  • Wheaton native Tami Erin got to play with the monkeys on the set of the 1988 release "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking."

      Wheaton native Tami Erin got to play with the monkeys on the set of the 1988 release "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking."

  • Wheaton native Tami Erin said her starring role in 1988's "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" has opened many doors in her life.

      Wheaton native Tami Erin said her starring role in 1988's "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" has opened many doors in her life.

  • Video: Tami Erin as Pippi

  • Video: Pippi Longstocking trailer

 
 

One minute, she's just an 11-year-old kid from Wheaton.

The next, Tami Erin is the acclaimed star of the movie "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking," distributed worldwide in 18 languages.

Erin won the title role in the 1988 release after beating out more than 8,000 (that's right, eight thousand) girls auditioning to play the young heroine from Astrid Lindgren's popular story books about a pig-tailed orphan's fantastic, action-packed adventures.

"This was something that I always knew I was meant to do," Erin said. "It was destiny for me. The way that doors kept opening for me, When I finally became a movie star, on some level it was like, 'Exactly! Finally, I'm here!' I wanted to be a movie star. A real movie star. My dream came true!"

Erin was born Tamera Erin Klicman in LaGrange and lived in Wheaton until she turned 9, when her family moved to Miami.

She loved the spotlight early on.

"From the time I was 5," Erin said, "I started walking around the house acting like a movie star. I would prance around and touch my hair."

Erin got her first taste of show business at Brookfield Zoo when she was 6. A photographer asked Erin (with Mom's approval) if she would pose for a Jolly Good soda ad campaign.

Two years later, she became a client at Chicago's Elite Model Management, the same agency that discovered Cindy Crawford.

Erin auditioned for "Pippi Longstocking" in Orlando for famous casting director Garrison True, who found Aileen Quinn to star in John Huston's 1981 musical, "Annie."

Erin, then 11, went through two callbacks. Then a screen test with several Pippi wannabes. Then a final screen test with the last three contenders.

Then she got a call from director Ken Annakin. He told her to meet him at their hotel elevator. He had news.

"I ran to the elevator!" Erin said. "This is it! The door opened and ... uh, oh! I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking about it! He said, 'You got it!' Oh, oh! I had no idea I would get so emotional after all these years, oh my God! I just jumped in his arms! Ten minutes later I'm in a hotel room and USA Today is shooting my picture for the front of its Life section."

Shooting Annakin's "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" wasn't a walk in the park for young Erin.

No, wait. Actually, it was.

"I was in every scene but one," she said. "But I had my own house on an island. Everyone took care of me. Yes, we did work six days a week, which I wasn't accustomed to.

"On the flip side, the only place I ever wanted to be was on the set in costume. Nothing could have pulled me away! That was where I wanted to be. We had golf carts to drive. We got to play with the animals, the horses and the monkeys. Whatever we wanted, we just asked and they took care of it."

Today, the 38-year-old Erin lives in Los Angeles. She's not married but has been in a relationship for eight months with a single father of four daughters. Her resume includes some modeling and clothes designing.

Though she's mainly still known for a movie she made 25 years ago, and has only a couple of small roles to her credit since, Erin considers herself blessed.

"I have to be honest with you -- being a movie star and a celebrity is like Christmas," Erin said. "People send you all kinds of gifts. Once I left with $15,000 in merchandise just getting my picture taken with fans.

"Becoming a real movie star in a studio picture gives you sort of an all-access pass to things in life, and I've been really lucky for all the doors that it has opened for me."

Is there anything Erin regrets. A mountain unclimbed? A challenge unmet? Anything?

"Yes," she said. "I wish I had more roles where I could be really sexy and reveal that side of myself."

Now, she may have the chance to do just that in her new quasi-autobiographical screenplay, "I Hope You Enjoy My Sex Tape."

She got the title idea from agents, the "honey-sweetie-baby-I-know-what-you-need" type.

"I need a lead role in a studio movie that shows my emotional range!" she told them.

"No," the agents told her, "you need a sex tape!"

"Whaaat? No!" Erin told us. "But that's how people are getting famous these days, by making sex tapes. I don't have a sex tape." (Thanks for not making us ask.)

Erin has converted her screenplay into a stage version and hopes to bring it to a San Francisco theater by early June.

She said it will be racy, along the lines of Kevin Smith's comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," but tasteful.

It will be filled with personal stories, like the time she went to what she thought was a Buddhist temple and it turned out to be a nudist colony.

"You can't write this stuff!" she said.

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always interested in hearing about people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a great column, email them at dgire@dailyherald.com or jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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