Actress takes aim at doctorate

URBANA – Amy Stoch's excellent adventure has included a hit TV show, cult movies and motherhood. Now she's about to add "Ph.D." to the list.

The actress, who has appeared in "Dallas," "Days of Our Lives" and "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," is a doctoral candidate in the theater department at the University of Illinois.

Perhaps best-known as Missy, the sex-bomb stepmom from "Bill and Ted," she jokes about having "Dr. Missy" tattooed on her forehead.

Stoch has played her share of dumb blondes, but she is a professor's kid working on a very intellectual book, a dissertation on the theater theoretician Herbert Blau – an advocate of avant-garde playwrights Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and Harold Pinter.

It should be done in December, said Stoch, who found some time recently to join the cast of "The Strip," a film that finished production in February.

Stoch has always been an actress and a teacher, coaching models in her 20s, when she was a spokesmodel on "Star Search." She studied under some of the greats, including Jose Quintero, the Broadway director of plays by Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams.

She's a familiar face from a gazillion commercials, work that she still loves today. Favorites including playing Scarlett O'Hara in an FTD commercial, and spending four days in Hawaii for a feminine hygiene mini-movie.

Her most famous part, though, almost eluded her. The producers of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" liked her face and comedic talents, but wanted someone more voluptuous to play Missy Preston, the 19-year-old classmate of Ted who becomes his stepmom.

"They tried everything, including a push-up bra," said Stoch, who has an All-American athletic look. (Her father was disappointed she didn't become a professional golfer.)

Finally, after five callbacks, she got the part. The film went on to make a star of Keanu Reeves, become one of the top-grossing films that year and generate a sequel into which producers were careful to write in Missy once more.

Stoch said she saw the persona of dumb blonde Missy as surprisingly shrewd.

"She wanted the whole Better Homes and Gardens lifestyle and she didn't want to work for it, so she married a rich older guy," the actress says.

Though the movie came out in 1989, it's ancient history for Stoch's theater history students, she says.

Keanu Reeves is still a young man, Harrison Ford and Al Pacino can still bed 20-somethings in their latest movies, but Hollywood actresses are penalized for not remaining sub-30.

Stoch was 26 when she played 19-year-old Missy, and kept getting parts by looking younger, but she's not expecting to play a 50-year-old Missy, despite some recent talk of a late entry into the "Bill and Ted" franchise.

Reeves told MTV earlier this month that he had talked about starring in the film, but the third "Bill and Ted" will be made without its original stars.

Stoch's son Bobby, a 15-year-old at the High School of St. Thomas More, thinks it's funny that Mom would be a sex symbol, and while he's a natural actor, he has no interest in a film career, she said.

As she finishes her dissertation, Stoch intends to teach some private acting classes, and will resume her acting career when she's closer to a major city.

"I could never give it up," she says. "I'll always be an actress."

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