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Thora Birch

Thora Birch
Birch smiling
Birch on Tom Green's House Tonight in 2006
Born (1982-03-11) March 11, 1982
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1988–present

Thora Birch (born March 11, 1982)[1] is an American actress. She got her first role at the age of 6 in the short-lived sitcom Day by Day; that role 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).


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early career, 1988–1995 2.1
    • 1996–2001 2.2
    • 2002–2013 2.3
    • 2014–present 2.4
  • Filmography 3
    • Film 3.1
    • Television 3.2
  • Awards 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

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.[2][3][4][5] Birch is of German Jewish, Scandinavian, and Italian ancestry.[6] The family's original surname was Biersch.[6] Her name Thora is derived from the name of the Norse God of thunder and lightning, Thor.[7] She has a younger brother named Kian.[8]

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.[9]


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.[10] 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 up with Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci, Demi Moore, Rosie O'Donnell, and Melanie Griffith.


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.[11] In 1999, she returned in the made-for-TV film 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.[12][13]

After supporting roles in The Smokers (2000; where Birch was called "a scene-stealer" by The Hollywood Reporter)[14] 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. 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".[15]

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".[16] 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".[17] 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".[18] She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.[19]


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.[20] The next year, she appeared as Karen in Silver City (2004), written and directed by John Sayles, which after premiering at that year's Cannes Film Festival, received a mixed reception.[21][22]

In 2006, Birch starred in the low-budget horror movie Dark Corners, a film in which she plays a troubled young woman who wakes up one day as a different person—someone who is stalked by creatures.[23] Tony Sullivan, for, found Birch "convincing as the two halves of this split personality".[24] 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 U.S. Birch revealed in 2014 that she observed a "condition" in regard to Murphy, stating: "But when I worked with her I saw the condition—she twirls her finger next to her head—and I thought, that can't be good." Birch also stated that she was not surprised upon hearing of Murphy's death.[22]

Also in 2009, 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.[4] In January 2010, Birch played Sidney Bloom in the Lifetime movie The Pregnancy Pact.[25]

Birch was cast and scheduled to make her American stage debut in the off Broadway revival of Dracula, but was fired for the behavior of her father, her manager at the time, who physically threatened one of the show's cast members.[2] Reflecting on the incident in January 2014, Birch revealed that not only was she in a "state of shock," but later accepted that she had upset a lot of people and those around her wanted her to "be not fine."[22]

She appeared as the lead character in 2013's Petunia, a film that she also produced and one that received a very limited release.[22][26] 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."[27]


In regard to her reduced exposure in the film industry, she insists that she has continuously worked and maintained a career but "it's just that no one was paying attention." However, Birch admitted that she "decided to take a break and live my life, branch out a little, educate myself." In addition to her ongoing acting aspirations, Birch is seeking production support for a screenplay and stated that she wants to "move forward" as part of a life in which she considers herself "really lucky!"[22]



Year Title Role Notes
1988 Purple People Eater Molly Johnson
1991 Paradise Billie Pike
1991 All I Want for Christmas Hallie O'Fallon
1992 Patriot Games Sally Ryan
1992 Itsy Bitsy Spider Leslie McGroarty (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
1996 Alaska Jessie Barnes
1999 American Beauty Jane Burnham
1999 Anywhere but Here Mary
2000 Smokers, TheThe Smokers Lincoln Roth
2000 Dungeons & Dragons Empress Savina
2001 Hole, TheThe Hole Elizabeth "Liz" Dunn
2001 Ghost World Enid
2004 Silver City Karen Cross
2004 Dot, TheThe Dot Narrator (voice) Short film
2005 Slingshot April
2006 Dark Corners Susan Hamilton / Karen Clarke
2008 Train Alexandra "Alex" Roper
2009 Winter of Frozen Dreams Barbara Hoffman
2009 Deadline Lucy Woods
2012 Petunia Vivian Petunia


Year Title Role Notes
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 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 Night Visions Susan Thornhill Episode: "The Maze"
2003 Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story Elizabeth "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


Year Award Category Production Result
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
2002 Golden Globe Awards Best Actress Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Ghost World Nominated
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


  1. ^ (2012-11-14). "Thora Birch". Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  2. ^ a b Healey, Patrick (December 14, 2010). """Actress Thora Birch fired from "Dracula.  
  3. ^ O'Neal, Sean (December 14, 2010). "Thora Birch's creepy ex-porn star dad gets her fired". The A.V. Club.
  4. ^ a b Johsnon, Richard; Froelich, Paula; Hoffmann, Bill; Steindler, Corynne (27 March 2007). "Dad Crashes Star's Sex Shoot". New York Post. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  5. ^ Sharbutt, Jay (February 13, 1978). "Young Gong Show Introducer Carol Connors Rings Bell". Ocala Star-Banner. Archived at Google News. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Getting her own thing going".  
  7. ^ "Thora Birch Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story". Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  8. ^ "Thora Birch". Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  9. ^ "Thora Birch Profile" Retrieved on May 9, 2011.
  10. ^ Awards for Thora Birch at the Internet Movie Database
  11. ^ "The Thora Birch Picture Pages". Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ There's a reason for R rating, Deseret News, March 2, 2007.
  14. ^ "'"Film review: 'Smokers. The Hollywood Reporter. 20 March 2000. 
  15. ^ Thomson, Michael (2001-04-12). """Films – review – "The Hole. BBC. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  16. ^ Scott, A.O. (July 20, 2001). "Teenagers' Sad World In a Comic Dimension".  
  17. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (August 10, 2001). "Women of Substance".  
  18. ^ Sarris, Andrew (August 5, 2001). "So You Wanna Be a Country-and-Western Star".  
  19. ^ February 10, 2002 (2002-02-10). "The contenders". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  20. ^ "Thora Birch Emmy Nominated". Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  21. ^ Silver City at Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed October 24, 2012.
  22. ^ a b c d e Hadley Freeman (23 January 2014). "Thora Birch: how Hollywood's darling disappeared". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  23. ^ Dark Corners at the Internet Movie Database
  24. ^ "Dark Corners (2006) Movie Review". Eye for Film. 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 
  25. ^ Hinckley, David (January 23, 2010). "Lifetime's 'Pregnancy Pact' treats surge in teen pregnancy with kid gloves". New York Daily News. 
  26. ^ Genzingler, Neil (28 June 2013). "Wilted Spirits in an Abstemious Family". New York Times. p. C8. 
  27. ^ "Thora Birch Explains How "Petunia" is Different from Standard Summer Fare". 2012-07-26. Retrieved 2013-07-03. 

External links

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