What is Thora Birch Doing Now?

The trajectory as to why an actor or actress falls off the A-list radar has far too many complexities to give any cut and dry answers. Sometimes it’s just by volition of the actor themselves in wanting to do more meaningful films, hence going into indies.

In the case of Thora Birch, it’s worth examining why she went from A-list lead roles in the 1990s to eventually doing less popular films.

Her career is filled with a lot of oddities and arguments over whether she was really being “difficult” or subject to what many women have gone through in Hollywood.

Growing up a child actress with adult film actors as parents set her up for a confusing time. Fortunately, she’s taken time to become a more adjusted adult while attempting an acting comeback.

She was poised for superstardom after ‘American Beauty’

Thora Birch on the red carpet
Thora Birch | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

A recent Vice profile on Birch appeared last August, giving a lot of insight into why she disappeared from the big-screen for a time. In 1999, she was at the top of the mountain when it came to teen actresses thanks to American Beauty winning Best Picture that year.

Prior to said time, she’d already established herself as a precocious child actor going back to memorable small roles in Hocus Pocus and Alaska. Most adult actors on the set of those earlier movies openly stated she was like an adult in a preteen body.

Growing up with parents who starred in Deep Throat probably did make her grow up a little too fast. Her awareness of the world and not being afraid to pour out her emotions if need be in her roles made her the next big thing.

There isn’t any doubting her role as Jane Burnham in American Beauty is one of the rawest, most memorable teen performances ever done, if slightly exploitative. Not long after her accolades for this film, she backed off a little into doing more obscure films.

‘Ghost World’ was her last major hit until more recently

A couple of years after American Beauty, Birch starred with Scarlett Johansson in Ghost World, a film that received raves for both of the actresses. Birch created a classic character (Enid) young adults latched on to, making it almost impossible to top.

After a while, she started getting pickier on the types of scripts she was looking for to challenge herself. It led her to start taking roles in indie fare not attracting half the audiences she was used to enjoying.

There was also controversy in her supposedly being moody on film sets, including being fired from movies like Election. Plus, she was notoriously fired off the set of an off-Broadway adaptation of Dracula, reportedly due to her father meddling in how to approach Birch’s character.

It’s been said her father/manager was involved in numerous altercations, including on film sets, causing discord in the Hollywood community.

If there was some kind of blacklist on Birch for a time due to refusing to commit to the status quo, it didn’t last forever. She’s recently had a comeback.

Taking a break to study law

There was a six-year break from acting for Birch starting in 2012 after starring in an indie flop called Petunia. Many of her experiences on film sets during the mid-2000s were a bit chaotic, mostly due to her dad getting into altercations with production crews.

Birch’s break did her a lot of good where she managed to get a legal studies degree through online courses. Going back to acting in 2016, she landed a role immediately in the USA Network series Colony, then went back to making more indie films.

Within the last year, she joined the cast of The Walking Dead (playing one of the Whisperers, Gamma) where she says she feels right at home with all the character angst and messiness.

Her willingness to do deep dives into troubled characters may mean she could become award-worthy again before turning 40.