Thora Birch

Thora Birch

Birch on a photo shoot by Peter Konerko from November, 2016
Born (1982-03-11) March 11, 1982
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1988–present
Parent(s) Carol Connors
Jack Birch

Thora Birch (born March 11, 1982)[1] is an American actress. She had early roles in the short-lived sitcom Day by Day and in Purple People Eater (1988), in which she won a Young Artist Award for "Best Young Actress Under Nine Years of Age". She also starred in other 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 appeared in independent films, such as Dark Corners (2006), Train (2008) and Winter of Frozen Dreams (2009).

After taking a break from acting, Birch resumed her acting career in 2016 and played software engineer Morgan in the first season of Carlton Cuse's television series Colony, as well as starring in four independent films.[2][3][4][5]

Early life

Birch was born in Los Angeles, the eldest child of Jack Birch and Carol Connors. Her parents, who have been her business managers throughout her acting career, are former adult film actors; both appeared in the film Deep Throat.[6][7][8][9] Birch is of German Jewish, Scandinavian and Italian ancestry.[10] The family's original surname was Biersch.[10] Her name, Thora, is derived from the name of the Norse god of thunder and lightning, Thor;[11] she has a younger brother named Bolt.[12] Because of their own experience with the entertainment industry, Birch's parents were reluctant to encourage her, but they were persuaded to show her photograph to agents by a babysitter who noticed her imitating commercials. She appeared in commercials in the late 1980s for Burger King, California Raisins, Quaker Oats and Vlasic Pickles.[13]



Birch made her film debut in Purple People Eater, for which she won a Youth In Film Award.[14] She also played Molly in the short-lived television series Day By Day. She was credited as "Thora". Birch starred in Paradise, with Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith and Elijah Wood. During the 1990s, she starred in All I Want for Christmas (1991), Hocus Pocus (1993) and Monkey Trouble (1994). She appeared in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), as the daughter of Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford). Birch starred in Now and Then (1995) with Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci, Demi Moore, Rosie O'Donnell and Melanie Griffith.


In 1996, she landed a leading role in Alaska (1996). After guest-starring in a few television series, Birch took a break from acting.[15]

In 1999, she returned in the television film Night Ride Home and had an uncredited role for Anywhere but Here. Later, Birch won critical praise for the role of Jane Burnham in American Beauty and was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award. The film itself went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. As Birch was 16 at the time she made it, and thus classified as a minor in the United States, her parents had to approve her brief topless scene in the film. They and child labor representatives were on the set for the shooting of the scene.[16][17] After supporting roles in The Smokers (2000), where Birch was called "a scene-stealer" by The Hollywood Reporter,[18] and Dungeons & Dragons (2000), she landed the lead role alongside Keira Knightley in the horror film The Hole (2001). The film was released in theaters 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".[19]

Birch landed the leading role in Ghost World (2001), with Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi and Brad Renfro. Her performances gained positive response from film critics and she was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.[20] 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".[21] 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".[22] 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".[23]


Jane Fonda backstage with Birch before being honored at the 2015 Hollywood Film Awards

Birch played Liz Murray in the television film Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story (2003), for which she received an Emmy nomination.[24] The next year, she played 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.[25][26]

In 2006, Birch starred in the low-budget horror film Dark Corners, as a troubled young woman who wakes up one day as a different person—someone who is stalked by creatures.[27] Tony Sullivan, for, found Birch "convincing as the two halves of this split personality".[28] 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. In 2009. She starred in the mystery film 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 film made tabloid headlines.[8] In January 2010, Birch played Sidney Bloom in the Lifetime movie The Pregnancy Pact.[29]

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.[6] Reflecting on the incident in January 2014, Birch expanded on earlier statements that she had been in a "state of shock" by acknowledging that she had upset a lot of people, while alleging that those people had wanted her to "be not fine."[26]

In 2012, she appeared as the lead character in Petunia, in which she also produced and one that received a limited release.[26][30] About the film, 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."[31]


Birch as Jolene on the set of Above Suspicion

After devoting herself to academic pursuits, Birch returned to her acting career in 2015 with a recurring role as software engineer Morgan in the Carlton Cuse series Colony.[3][4]

Birch is set to star in four films in 2017. She first starred in the independent filmThe Etruscan Smile with Brian Cox, which was shot in San Francisco and Scotland.[32] She then went to Kentucky to shoot the thriller Above Suspicion,[33] based on the book of the same name by New York Times columnist Joe Sharkey, and co-starring Jack Huston, Emilia Clarke and Johnny Knoxville.[34] Birch starred in the political thriller Public Affairs, with Adrian Grenier. The film was shot in Norfolk, Virginia.[35] Most recently, Birch starred in the romantic comedy, The Competition, directed by Harvey Lowry, which was shot in Portland. Birch both starred in and produced the film[36]



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 Uncredited
2000 The Smokers Lincoln Roth
2000 Dungeons & Dragons Empress Savina
2001 The Hole Elizabeth "Liz" Dunn
2001 Ghost World Enid
2004 Silver City Karen Cross
2004 The 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
2017 The Etruscan Smile[37] Emily
2017 Above Suspicion[38][39] Jolene


Year Title Role Notes
1988–89 Day by Day Molly Recurring role (21 episodes)
1989 Doogie Howser, M.D. Megan Episode: "Vinnie Video Vici"
1990 Dark Avenger Susie Donovan Television film
1990 Married People Emily Episode: "To Live and Drive in New York"
1990–91 Parenthood Taylor Buckman Main role (12 episodes)
1991 Amen Brittany Episode: "Nothing Says Lovin'..."
1994 Monty Ann Sherman Episode: "Here Comes the Son"
1995 The 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 Television film
2002 Night Visions Susan Thornhill Episode: "The Maze"
2003 Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story Elizabeth "Liz" Murray Television film
2005 My Life as a Teenage Robot Vega (voice) Episode: "Escape from Cluster Prime"
2010 The Pregnancy Pact Sidney Bloom Television film
2016 Colony[3][4] Morgan Recurring role

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work Result
1989 Young Artist Award Best Young Actor/Actress Ensemble in a Television Comedy, Drama Series or Special Day by Day Nominated
Best Young Actress Under Nine Years of Age Purple People Eater Won
1990 Outstanding Performance by an Actress Under Nine Years of Age Day by Day Nominated
1991 Best Young Actress Supporting or Re-Occurring Role for a TV Series Parenthood Nominated
1992 Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture Paradise Won
1993 Best Young Actress Under Ten in a Motion Picture Patriot Games Nominated
Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture All I Want for Christmas Nominated
1994 Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy Hocus Pocus Won
1996 Best Performances by a Young Ensemble – Feature Film or Video Now and Then Nominated
1997 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 Nominated
OFCS Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated
OFCS Award Best Ensemble Cast Performance Won
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Favorite Supporting Actress – Drama Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture Won
Young Hollywood Award Best On-Screen Chemistry (shared with Wes Bentley) Won
Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress Won
YoungStar Award Best Young Actress/Performance in a Motion Picture Drama Won
2001 Young Artist Award Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress Dungeons & Dragons Nominated
Golden Space Needle Award Best Actress Ghost World Won
TFCA Award Best Performance, Female Won
Deauville Film Festival Best Female Performance Won
SDFCS Award Best Actress Won
2002 Golden Globe Awards Best Actress Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
VFCC Award Best Actress Nominated
Young Hollywood Award Talent for Charity Won
Cinescape Genre Face of the Future Award Female Dungeons & Dragons and Ghost World Nominated
OFCS Award Best Actress Ghost World Nominated
CFCA Award Best Actress Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Line Nominated
MTV Movie Award Best Dressed Nominated
Golden Satellite Award Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical Nominated
2003 Young Hollywood Award Won
DVD Premiere Award Best Supporting Actress The Smokers Nominated
Primetime Emmy Award 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. Williams, Kate. "Life Advice From Thora Birch". Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  3. 1 2 3 Andreeva, Nellie. "Thora Birch Joins USA's Alien Drama Series 'Colony'". Deadline. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  4. 1 2 3 Whitney Friedlander. "Thora Birch Joins 'Colony' From Carlton Cuse Starring Josh Holloway". Variety. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  5. Busch, Anita (2016-04-06). "Thora Birch To Star In And Produce Romantic Comedy 'The Competition'". Deadline. Retrieved 2016-09-13.
  6. 1 2 Healey, Patrick (December 14, 2010). "Actress Thora Birch fired from "Dracula"". The New York Times.
  7. O'Neal, Sean (December 14, 2010). "Thora Birch's creepy ex-porn star dad gets her fired". The A.V. Club.
  8. 1 2 Johsnon, Richard; Froelich, Paula; Hoffmann, Bill; Steindler, Corynne (27 March 2007). "Dad Crashes Star's Sex Shoot". New York Post. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  9. Sharbutt, Jay (February 13, 1978). "Young Gong Show Introducer Carol Connors Rings Bell". Ocala Star-Banner. Archived at Google News. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  10. 1 2 "Getting her own thing going". The Sunday Times (South Africa). 2002-03-17. Archived from the original on 2002-05-26.
  11. "Thora Birch Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story". Retrieved 2014-03-25.
  12. "Thora Birch". Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  13. "Thora Birch Profile" Retrieved on May 9, 2011.
  14. Awards for Thora Birch at the Internet Movie Database
  15. "The Thora Birch Picture Pages". Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  16. 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.
  17. "There's a reason for R rating", Deseret News, March 2, 2007.
  18. "Film review: 'Smokers'". The Hollywood Reporter. 20 March 2000.
  19. Thomson, Michael (2001-04-12). "Films – review – "The Hole"". BBC. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  20. "The contenders". Chicago Tribune. 2002-02-10. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  21. Scott, A.O. (July 20, 2001). "Teenagers' Sad World In a Comic Dimension". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
  22. Rosenbaum, Jonathan (August 10, 2001). "Women of Substance". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
  23. Sarris, Andrew (August 5, 2001). "So You Wanna Be a Country-and-Western Star". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
  24. "Thora Birch Emmy Nominated". Retrieved 2014-03-25.
  25. Silver City at Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed October 24, 2012.
  26. 1 2 3 Hadley Freeman (23 January 2014). "Thora Birch: how Hollywood's darling disappeared". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  27. Dark Corners at the Internet Movie Database
  28. "Dark Corners (2006) Movie Review". Eye for Film. 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  29. Hinckley, David (January 23, 2010). "Lifetime's 'Pregnancy Pact' treats surge in teen pregnancy with kid gloves". New York Daily News.
  30. Genzingler, Neil (28 June 2013). "Wilted Spirits in an Abstemious Family". New York Times. p. C8.
  31. "Thora Birch Explains How "Petunia" is Different from Standard Summer Fare". 2012-07-26. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  32. Pedersen, Erik (2016-01-28). "JJ Feild Joins 'The Etruscan Smile'; Netflix Sets Tony Robbins Documentary Bow". Deadline. Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  33. Busch, Anita (2016-05-27). "Thora Birch, Johnny Knoxville Join Phillip Noyce's 'Above Suspicion'". Deadline. Retrieved 2016-05-31.
  34. "Thora Birch, Johnny Knoxville Join Phillip Noyce's 'Above Suspicion'". 2016-05-27. Retrieved 2016-05-31.
  35. Dave McNary (2016-01-28). "Adrian Grenier's 'Public Affairs' Adds Thora Birch". Variety. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  36. Busch, Anita (2016-09-13). "Thora Birch To Star In And Produce Romantic Comedy 'The Competition'". Deadline. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  37. Balboa, Tony. "The Etruscan Smile - 2017". Retrieved 2016-03-16.
  38. "Thora Birch, Johnny Knoxville Join Phillip Noyce's 'Above Suspicion'". Retrieved 2016-05-31.
  39. "ATTACHMENT - Casting: Johnny Knoxville, Thora Birch Join 'Above Suspicion' | PowerGrid". Retrieved 2016-05-31.

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