HOLLYWOOD -- Pippi Longstocking, a heroine to millions of little girls around the world, will spring to life on movie screens next year in the person of 11-year-old Tami Erin Klicman.
Tami fits the part of the fictional tomboy as if the character were written especially for her.
She has a zillion freckles, green eyes, bright red hair and a foghorn voice.
The sixth grader from Pembroke Pines, Fla., is 4-foot-9, weighs 79 pounds and has never acted a day in her life.
But her statistics don't tell the story. She has a bright, toothy grin and a sunny disposition, exactly what Swedish novelist Astrid Lindgren must have had in mind when she wrote the Pippi Longstocking books. Tami, in fact, looks a great deal like the illustrations of Pippi, although she's not knock-kneed and skinny.
Tami was selected for the role after producers Gary Mehlman and Walter Moshay -- abetted by writer-directer Ken Annakin and casting director Garrison True -- spent six months searching for just the right little girl.
Tami arrived in Hollywood last week for her third and last screen test along with two other final candidates.
'We had a hard time making the decision,' said director Annakin. 'We had seen 8,000 other girls in the United States and England. We spent three hours debating on our final choice after seeing all three tests.'
Tami, sitting beside her director at lunch, piped up, 'I would have been disappointed for myself if I hadn't got the part. But I would have been happy for Jenny or Faye if they had won.
'Faye is from England. We spent a couple of days together and became friends. She is going to play the mean orphan in the movie. Isn't that great?'
Tami is the daughter of James and Gail Klicman. Her father is a merchandising executive in the beauty supply business.
Seated with Tami at lunch, her mother said, 'It was funny how the search for Pippi came to our attention.
'A friend of mine read a UPI story in the newspaper about the big talent hunt for Pippi. My friend said Tami fitted the description of the girl they were looking for. She sent me the story and I mailed an eight-by-ten photograph and a letter to the producers.
'Mr. True (the casting director) invited us to Orlando to audition last Dec. 10.'
Annakin said, 'Once True interviewed Tami, he telephoned to say, 'I think we've found her.' A week later Tami auditioned for me in Jacksonville -- where we'll shoot most of the film -- but I wasn't enthusiastic.
'Tami's mother had done some coaching and given Tami a few of the old Shirley Temple kind of gestures. It spoiled her natural instincts.'
Mrs. Klicman blushed and laughed. 'It's true. I was just trying to show that Tami could be versatile. I guess it didn't work out.'
'Then the Klicman family did their own videotape of Tami with her brothers,' Annakin said. 'She was so natural and had so much fun I was convinced she would make a wonderful Pippi.
'I spent a day and a night with the Klicmans in Florida, long enough to see that Tami is a great little gymnast, a good horseback rider and she's fearless on roller skates. She can do cartwheels and flips just like Pippi.'
Tami happily admits she's a tomboy, thanks in part to being reared with three brothers, Jay, 12, Todd, 8 and Joey, 5.
'I like to climb trees and ride horseback; so does Pippi,' Tami said. 'I read some of the books when I was eight. We went to the library when they said I was going to audition and I read 'The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.''
Tami likes to watch TV, especially 'Punky Brewster,' the star of which -- Soleil Moon Frye -- was a candidate for Pippi at one time.
Tami doesn't mind being called 'Red' but she draws the line at 'Carrot Top.'
'Carrot tops are green,' she explained.
What about 'Freckle Face?'
'Nobody calls me that,' she said. 'I tried to count the freckles on my face one time. But there were too many.'
Production begins on 'The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking' March 31, which means Tami will be out of school for the remainer of the semester.
'Yea!' she said. Her enthusiasm was dampened somewhat when she was told she would have to spend 15 hours a week with a tutor on the set.
Producer Mehlman said, 'There are some big changes in store for Tami. She will be carrying a $10 million movie on her shoulders. But we believe we've found the perfect Pippi.'