Birch on Tom Green's House Tonight in 2006
March 11, 1982
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Thora Birch (born March 11, 1982) is an American actress. She got her first role at the age of 6 in the short-lived sitcom Day by Day, that performance was followed by an appearance in the motion picture Purple People Eater (1988), for which she received a Young Artist Award for "Best Young Actress Under Nine Years of Age". Birch's profile was raised significantly with major parts in films such as All I Want for Christmas (1991), Patriot Games (1992), Hocus Pocus (1993), Monkey Trouble (1994), Now and Then (1995), and Alaska (1996).
Her breakthrough role came in 1999 with the Academy Award winning film, American Beauty. Her performance was well received by both critics and audiences and brought Birch to international recognition. She later played the lead role in Ghost World (2001) for which she received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. She has since appeared in independent films such as Dark Corners (2006), Train (2008) and Winter of Frozen Dreams (2009).
Birch was born in Los Angeles, California, the eldest child of Jack Birch and Carol Connors. Her parents, who were her business managers from the start, are former adult film actors and both appeared in the pornographic film Deep Throat. Birch is of German Jewish, Scandinavian, and Italian ancestry. The family's original surname was Biersch. Her name Thora is derived from the name of the Norse God of thunder and lightning, Thor. She has a younger brother named Kian.
Due to their own experience with acting, Birch's parents were reluctant to encourage her in the profession, but were persuaded to show her photograph to agents by a babysitter who noticed her imitating commercials. She had several parts in the late '80s, including advertisements for Burger King, California Raisins, Quaker Oats, and Vlasic Pickles.[dead link]
Early career, 1988–1995
In 1988, she landed the role of Molly in the short-lived television series Day By Day. She was billed simply as "Thora". That same year, she won a part in the movie Purple People Eater opposite Ned Beatty and Neil Patrick Harris. Her performance won her a Youth In Film Award. Birch played as 'tomboy' Billie Pike in the movie Paradise, which also starred Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith, and Elijah Wood.
Birch's parts during the period of 1991–1995 included the role of Dani in Hocus Pocus (1993), as well as All I Want for Christmas (1991) and Monkey Trouble (1994). She appeared in two Harrison Ford films, Patriot Games (1992) and its sequel, Clear and Present Danger (1994), where she played Sally Ryan, the daughter of Ford's character Jack Ryan. Birch's performance in the 1995 film Now and Then teamed her with Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci, Demi Moore, Rosie O'Donnell, and Melanie Griffith.
Worldwide recognition, 1996–2001
In 1996, she landed a leading role in the adventure film, Alaska (1996). After guest-starring appearances in The Outer Limits, Promised Land, and Touched by an Angel, Birch took a break from acting. In 1999, she returned in the made-for-TV movie Night Ride Home and also took a small uncredited role in the Natalie Portman film Anywhere but Here.
Later in 1999, Birch won critical praise playing the role of Jane Burnham in American Beauty and was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award. The movie itself went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. As Birch was 16 at the time she made the film, and thus classified as a minor in the United States, her parents had to approve her brief topless scene in the movie. They and child labor representatives were on the set for the shooting of the scene.
After supporting roles in The Smokers (2000; where Birch was called "a scene-stealer" by The Hollywood Reporter) and Dungeons & Dragons (2000), she landed the lead role alongside Keira Knightley in the horror movie The Hole (2001). The film was released in the cinema in the UK, and went direct-to-video in the US almost two years later and gained divided reviews. BBC.co.uk wrote: "Given that she has a much leaner role than the one she enjoyed in "American Beauty", the qualities which made her flourish in that multi-Oscar-winner are still abundantly clear".
Birch landed the leading role in Ghost World (2001), alongside Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, and Brad Renfro. Her performances gained positive response from film critics. In his review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott praised her: "Thora Birch, whose performance as Lester Burnham's alienated daughter was the best thing about American Beauty, plays a similar character here, with even more intelligence and restraint". In his Chicago Reader review, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "Birch makes the character an uncanny encapsulation of adolescent agonies without ever romanticizing or sentimentalizing her attitudes, and Clowes and Zwigoff never allow us to patronize her". However, in his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris disliked Birch's character of Enid and remarked: "I found Enid smug, complacent, cruel, deceitful, thoughtless, malicious and disloyal". She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.
Birch played Liz Murray in the made-for-TV movie Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story (2003), for which she received an Emmy nomination. The next year, she appeared as Karen in Silver City (2004), which after premiering at that year's Cannes Film Festival, received a mixed reception. She later, in 2006, starred in the low-budget horror movie Dark Corners. The film is about a troubled young woman (played by Birch) who wakes up one day as a different person – someone who is stalked by creatures. Tony Sullivan, for Eyeforfilm.co.uk, found Birch "convincing as the two halves of this split personality". She also had the leading role in the 2008 slasher Train.
She starred alongside Brittany Murphy in the psychological thriller Deadline. The film first premiered directly-to-video in October 2009 in the U.K. before being released in December in the United States. In the same year, she starred in the mystery motion picture Winter of Frozen Dreams. A controversy during filming involving Birch's father and his forced presence during Birch's taping of a sex scene for the movie made tabloid headlines. In January 2010, Birch played Sidney Bloom in the Lifetime movie, The Pregnancy Pact.
Birch was cast and scheduled to make her American stage debut in the off Broadway revival of Dracula, but was fired for reasons apparently involving her father's interference four days before the show's first performance. She appeared as the lead character in the Petunia,which was released in 2013. About the motion picture, Birch said: "I think it's just something that's a little bit different from your standard summer fare. It's a little bit more intimate. It's also a very modern tale. I think it's actually honest."
|1988||Purple People Eater||Molly Johnson|
|1991||All I Want for Christmas||Hallie O'Fallon|
|1992||Patriot Games||Sally Ryan|
|1992||Itsy Bitsy Spider||Little Girl (voice)||Short film|
|1993||Hocus Pocus||Dani Dennison|
|1994||Monkey Trouble||Eva Gregory|
|1994||Clear and Present Danger||Sally Ryan|
|1995||Now and Then||Tina 'Teeny' Tercell|
|1999||American Beauty||Jane Burnham|
|1999||Anywhere but Here||Mary|
|2000||Dungeons & Dragons||Empress Savina|
|2000||Smokers, TheThe Smokers||Lincoln Roth|
|2001||Hole, TheThe Hole||Liz Dunn|
|2001||Ghost World||Enid Coleslaw|
|2004||Silver City||Karen Cross|
|2004||Dot, TheThe Dot||Narrator (voice)||Short film|
|2006||Dark Corners||Susan Hamilton / Karen Clarke|
|2009||Winter of Frozen Dreams||Barbara Hoffman|
|1988–1989||Day by Day||Molly||Recurring role (21 episodes)|
|1989||Doogie Howser, M.D.||Megan||Episode: "Vinnie Video Vici"|
|1990||Dark Avenger||Susie Donovan||TV film|
|1990||Married People||Emily||Episode: "To Live and Drive in New York"|
|1990–1991||Parenthood||Taylor Buckman||Main role (12 episodes)|
|1991||Amen||Brittany||Episode: "Nothing Says Lovin'..."|
|1994||Monty||Ann Sherman||Episode: "Here Comes the Son"|
|1995||Blackbird Hall||TV film|
|1995||Outer Limits, TheThe Outer Limits||Aggie Travers||Episode: "The Choice"|
|1997||Promised Land||Allison Rhodes||Episode: "Running Scared"|
|1997||Touched by an Angel||Erin||Episode: "The Pact"|
|1999||Night Ride Home||Clea Mahler||TV film|
|2002||Shadow Realm||Susan Thornhill||TV film|
|2002||Night Visions||Susan Thornhill||Episode: "The Maze"|
|2003||Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story||Liz Murray||TV film|
|2005||My Life as a Teenage Robot||Vega (voice)||Episode: "Escape from Cluster Prime"|
|2010||Pregnancy Pact, TheThe Pregnancy Pact||Sidney Bloom||TV film|
|1989||Young Artist Award||Best Young Actor/Actress Ensemble in a Television Comedy, Drama Series or Special||Day by Day||Nominated|
|1989||Young Artist Award||Best Young Actress Under Nine Years of Age||Purple People Eater||Won|
|1990||Young Artist Award||Outstanding Performance by an Actress Under Nine Years of Age||Day by Day||Nominated|
|1991||Young Artist Award||Best Young Actress Supporting or Re-Occurring Role for a TV Series||Parenthood||Nominated|
|1992||Young Artist Award||Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture||Paradise||Won|
|1993||Young Artist Award||Best Young Actress Under Ten in a Motion Picture||Patriot Games||Nominated|
|1993||Young Artist Award||Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture||All I Want for Christmas||Nominated|
|1994||Young Artist Award||Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy||Hocus Pocus||Won|
|1996||Young Artist Award||Best Performances by a Young Ensemble – Feature Film or Video||Now and Then||Nominated|
|1997||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actress||Alaska||Nominated|
|1999||SDFCS Award||Best Supporting Actress||American Beauty||Won|
|2000||BAFTA Film Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role||American Beauty||Nominated|
|2000||OFCS Award||Best Supporting Actress||American Beauty||Nominated|
|2000||OFCS Award||Best Ensemble Cast Performance||American Beauty||Won|
|2000||Blockbuster Entertainment Award||Favorite Supporting Actress – Drama||American Beauty||Nominated|
|2000||Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture||American Beauty||Won|
|2000||Young Hollywood Award||Best On-Screen Chemistry (shared with Wes Bentley)||American Beauty||Won|
|2000||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress||American Beauty||Won|
|2000||YoungStar Award||Best Young Actress/Performance in a Motion Picture Drama||American Beauty||Won|
|2001||Young Artist Award||Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress||Dungeons & Dragons||Nominated|
|2001||Golden Space Needle Award||Best Actress||Ghost World||Won|
|2001||TFCA Award||Best Performance, Female||Ghost World||Won|
|2001||Deauville Film Festival||Best Female Performance||Ghost World||Won|
|2001||SDFCS Award||Best Actress||Ghost World||Won|
|2002||VFCC Award||Best Actress||Ghost World||Nominated|
|2002||Young Hollywood Award||Talent for Charity||Won|
|2002||Cinescape Genre Face of the Future Award||Female||Dungeons & Dragons, Ghost World||Nominated|
|2002||OFCS Award||Best Actress||Ghost World||Nominated|
|2002||CFCA Award||Best Actress||Ghost World||Nominated|
|2002||MTV Movie Award||Best Line||Ghost World||Nominated|
|2002||MTV Movie Award||Best Dressed||Ghost World||Nominated|
|2002||Golden Satellite Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical||Ghost World||Nominated|
|2003||Young Hollywood Award||Won|
|2003||DVD Premiere Award||Best Supporting Actress||The Smokers||Nominated|
|2003||Primetime Emmy||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie||Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story||Nominated|
|2007||Nellie Tayloe Ross Award||Won|
- TV.com (2012-11-14). "Thora Birch". TV.com. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Healey, Patrick (December 14, 2010). "Actress Thora Birch fired from "Dracula"". The New York Times.
- O'Neal, Sean (December 14, 2010). "Thora Birch's creepy ex-porn star dad gets her fired". The A.V. Club.
- Johsnon, Richard; Froelich, Paula; Hoffmann, Bill; Steindler, Corynne (27 March 2007). "Dad Crashes Star's Sex Shoot". New York Post. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
- Sharbutt, Jay (February 13, 1978). "Young Gong Show Introducer Carol Connors Rings Bell". Ocala Star-Banner. Archived at Google News. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
- "Getting her own thing going". The Sunday Times (South Africa). 2002-03-17. Archived from the original on 2002-05-26.
- "Thora Birch". Nndb.com. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- "Thora Birch Profile" Thora.org. Retrieved on May 9, 2011.
- "The Thora Birch Picture Pages". Superiorpics.com. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Ebert, Roger. "Movie Answer Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 3 February 2012. "It is not illegal. to have people under 18 nude or partially nude on film. The California Child Labor Board approved the scene, and its representative was on the set when it was filmed, as were Thora's parents."
- There's a reason for R rating, Deseret News, March 2, 2007.
- "Film review: 'Smokers'". The Hollywood Reporter. 20 March 2000.
- Thomson, Michael (2001-04-12). "Films – review – "The Hole"". BBC. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Scott, A.O. (July 20, 2001). "Teenagers' Sad World In a Comic Dimension". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan (August 10, 2001). "Women of Substance". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
- Sarris, Andrew (August 5, 2001). "So You Wanna Be a Country-and-Western Star". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
- February 10, 2002 (2002-02-10). "The contenders". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Thora Birch Emmy Nominated
- Silver City at Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed October 24, 2012.
- "Dark Corners (2006) Movie Review". Eye for Film. 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
- Hinckley, David (January 23, 2010). "Lifetime's 'Pregnancy Pact' treats surge in teen pregnancy with kid gloves". New York Daily News.
- Genzingler, Neil (28 June 2013). "Wilted Spirits in an Abstemious Family". New York Times. p. C8.
- "Thora Birch Explains How "Petunia" is Different from Standard Summer Fare". Blog.starcam.com. 2012-07-26. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thora Birch.|
- Official website
- Thora Birch at the Internet Movie Database
- Thora Birch at AllRovi
- Thora Birch at Emmys.com