Whatever Happened to Thora Birch? She Pissed Off a Lot of People, That's What Happened to Thora Birch
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Whatever Happened to Thora Birch? She Pissed Off a Lot of People, That's What Happened to Thora Birch

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrities Are Better than You | January 24, 2014 | Comments ()

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Over on The Guardian, entertainment reporter Hadley Freeman talks with Thora Birch about the trajectory of her career, from Golden Globe nominated actress in popular films like Ghost World and American Beauty to, most recently, being fired from an off-Broadway play she got fired from after her father/manager physically threatened another actor. It’s a fascinating piece, and the discussion in it mostly revolves around what happened to Birch’s career, and what she’s doing to get it back.

Birch herself is very blunt, defensive, and a little sour, and based on her own statements, it’s easy to understand why her career has vanished, having been fired from movies like Election and having found difficulty landing jobs in movies that people actually see (she has actually been working for most of the past decade, just not in anything you’ve heard of).

I pissed a lot of people off over a long period of time and they found a way to upset me, hoping that upset would bring a change in my behaviour. Like a distancing … But I’m done, I’m done. People wanted me to be not fine. A lot of it was bullshit.”

Has she felt that for a long time that people are trying to get her, that they’re angry with her?

“Yeah, definitely.”

Why are they angry?

“Because I should just shut up.”

Because she’s a young woman? Because she’s an actor?

“All of it.”

Her career problems aren’t entirely as a result of her own self-described bad reputation. Ghost World represented a kind of transition for Hollywood from the grunge era when actresses like Birch or Juliette Lewis were popular into an era where more traditional looking actresses like Scarlett Johansson were popular again. She didn’t want to play along.

“I tried to walk a fine line between being alluring and somewhat glamorous but maintain a strong identity and pursue things that were a little more thoughtful, and I guess nobody really wanted women to do that at that time,” she says.

Did she feel people were trying to make her into something she wasn’t? “I just felt like I was making people angry, because I wouldn’t wear the frilly bows. I just didn’t take advice and I think people got pissed off at me for not taking advice.”

Her attitude toward Johannson, who apparently scooped up all the parts that Birch rejected back in the day, isn’t exactly warm, either.

Birch screws up her face: “I don’t know. Look at her. Whatever,” she says in a “like duh” tone. “I still love her, we were kids together …”

The entire interview is a great read, and definitely worth checking out, if only to see how the careers of young stars can be throttled, not by drugs and scandals, but by changing times, an unwillingness to compromise, and simply rubbing people the wrong way.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • MRC210

    I thought it was interesting that the writer of the profile, Hadley Freeman, joined in the comments that follow the piece and seemed very defensive and rather snippy in response to the questions that were asked. As for what Thora Birch is doing to get her career back, it doesn't seem from the article that she knows how to go about this. She's 31 now and sad to say, her time has already passed.

  • Candypants

    Hocus Pocus is still one of my favorite movies.

  • Walt Jr

    I loved her in "Paradise" with a young Elijah Wood.

  • Now I don't know anything, which makes this the perfect thing to comment on, but another possibility is the theory espoused by that wise deputy marshal: if you run into an asshole on one film, you ran into an asshole on one film. If you run into assholes on all the films, you're the asshole.

  • L.O.V.E.

    I think you owe Quatermain and/or Raylan Givans royalties for this comment.

  • I already donate 100% of all the revenues I derive from making sarcastic internet comments to the Seth Bullock Tragic Bicycle Accident Fund.

  • L.O.V.E.

    What a coincidence. 10% of all my upvotes go to the Todd Gaines Brain Trauma and Recreational Drug Fund.

  • Haystacks

    I thought her father was the root of her dying career. The man is a abusive nutbar.

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    I miss the grunge era.... especially when it looked like this:

  • kirbyjay

    Rita Wilson, Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith and Rosie O'Donnell. That's who they should have been in the "now". Never agreed with the casting choices in this movie.

  • snarkywilma

    I loved this movie and I just looked it up on Wikipedia. "Chrissy" died of a heroin overdose several years ago.

    Whoa. Grunge, indeed.

  • John G.

    I have always loved Thora Birch. I would trade her for a ScarJo anyday, and I will continue to root for her comeback.

  • Eva

    Me too

  • deathandthestrawberry

    Hmmm. I remember reading an interview years ago with Lindsay Lohan where she claimed Scarlett Johannson "stole" her career. Which makes me wonder: Did Scarlett Johannson really go around and steal all the parts. Or is she just the go to scapegoat for fading starlets. Thinking about those Avengers-sized paychecks they're not getting has gotta sting.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I think it's simply a competition thing. They all went for similar parts, Johansson got more of them than others. Why? Johansson's pretty freaking gorgeous, so there's that. There was also likely a period where she was a bargain in comparison to a variety of other actresses. Also, it may just be me but she can kind of straddle that 90s line of a bit of unconventional, quirky beauty and the aughts 180 of going after the more obviously, straightforwardly pretty-- it's achieved with a bit of makeup and hair color for her with no problem.

    And whatever you want to say about her talent, she is at least average (and arguably more so, it seems, when any director makes an effort), which is all it takes in most roles. She hit the scene at the right time with the right look and the right ability to snag a lot of roles others might also have wanted. And she's stuck around because apparently no one hates working with her.

  • I never understood this idea of "stealing" a career. I mean, if she got locked out because she pissed people off, I get that. But another actress "stealing" her career? Uh, how? Isn't that just complaining about how somebody else was less of a hassle than you were?

    As far as I have seen, Scarlett is a pretty hard worker and say what you will about her talent, she does the work asked. And it isn't like she doesn't have standards either. Or really, any of the actresses that are being mentioned as "replacing" her. They were willing to do the jobs she didn't or couldn't.

    I don't know. Between this and the stuff with her father, it sounds less like a sympathetic view into an actress who hit a rough patch, and more like sour grapes for not being fawned over anymore.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    But she was SO GOOD in that Dungeons & Dragons movie!

  • Haystacks


  • Yeah, sometimes people do get unfairly tagged, but on the other hand, it's like they say 'You meet an asshole in the morning, you met an asshole. You meet assholes all day long...maybe you're the asshole'

  • Guest


  • JayWantsACat

    My father used to come back from **wherever** and complain about how rude the cashier/customer service rep/whomever was to him. My reply, in my head obviously, was that HE was the one who's always rude. I was always amazed by how he was surprised that treating someone shitty generally meant that those people responded not positively. That saying you posted always makes me think of my father.

  • John W

    I thought it was her father that was the problem.

  • lowercase_ryan

    She sounds like she'd get along fabulously with Craug.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Someone needs to be cast in Orange Is The New Black stat. It's Lyonne-ing time.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I thought Ellen Page coming along is what happened to her career?

  • TotesMcGotes

    And Alison Lohman,who came along a bit earlier than Ellen Page. Who also disappeared,last thing I saw her in was in Drag me To Hell.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Lohman had a baby. Which is confusing because I'm pretty sure she's a vampire stalled at 14.

  • Guest

    Babies are the reason Bryce Dallas Howard isn't Jessica Chastain.

  • Sex with Seth Gabel > Jessica Chastain's career.

  • Guest

    I had no idea Lincoln Lee was her husband. They must have some pale freckled ginger babies.

  • Guest

    Fun Fact: Lohman was signed to replace Page when she dropped out of Drag Me To Hell.

  • L.O.V.E.

    I thought that her career was divided and eaten by Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn.

  • loo shag brolley

    Rory: I'm going to go change.
    Lorelai: Great, come back as Thora Birch.

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    And don't forget Amber Tamblyn 2.0:

  • Guest

    Her sister Kay should actually be 2.0, Danielle is version 3.0.

  • Guest

    E.P. was later (she didn't arrive till 2005). Birch's high mark was 1999.

  • L.O.V.E.

    She certainly seems to have the, um, features, to compete with Johannson.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I saw her in a fairly bad suspense/thriller and she's a really beautiful woman with a great figure. She could easily have competed with Johannsen if she had wanted to. I think she's being too gracious by taking most of the blame for the decline of her career though, I've read several different accounts that her father is a raging jackass.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Exhibits A-E.

  • chanohack

    WHOA that first picture is seriously creepy.

  • kirbyjay

    Photoshopped. NO way she has a foot long neck and look at the coloring where her neck and the other neck meet. Creepy? Yes

  • MikeRoorda

    I remember reading an article in the past that basically laid the responsibility firmly at her fathers' feet. It implied he was overbearingly creepy (similar stories to Jessica Simpson's dad who would comment on the amount of cleavage or his daughter's sex scenes.) It also said he was a rageaholic and would regularly fly off the handle and go ballistic on set if he or Thora didn't get what they wanted and get it right away.

    It sounds like they're both pretty difficult to work with. Whether that's an accurate portrayal or just what "they" want us to believe is up for interpretation. Either way, if you don't play by the rules, you can't complain when they don't reward you for coloring outside the lines. Should she submit to things that she didn't want to do or portrayals that she felt were demeaning? No. But the time to protest that stuff is during the script reading process, not waiting until the day of filming to raise concerns.

  • Aaron Schulz

    Yeah i read a thing on cracked about it that basically said her dads a lunatic and she got punished.

  • That's what I thought, too. Birch's Dad was supposedly like a Stage Mom on 'roids and a lot of people wouldn't work with her because of the problems he caused on sets.

    Blaming the decline of her career on not wearing frilly bows seems disingenuous at best.

  • Guest

    I always blamed her disappearance on this:


  • Green Is Good

    28 seconds of that. It's all I could stand.

    And the problem with Thora Birch's career is Thora. She comes off pretentious and snotty. Her tragically misunderstood artist crap isn't doing her career any favors. Maybe she should get a little self-aware and realize it's her shitty attitude that's sabotaging her career.

  • NoPantsMcLane

    Now i'm gonna need a long, cold shower. Thank you for that.

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    So, by asking this question I'm admitting to A) having watched this and B) having watched this until the 1:48 mark, but

    Is that Bill Paxton?

  • Monica

    Yes, yes it is

  • Paxton used to hang out with Durst. Or, at least, they once had dinner together (in a group) at Cheesecake Factory when I worked there.

  • Guest

    Honestly I haven't seen the video since 2003 so I couldn't tell you. I have no intention of watching it now.

  • DarthCorleone

    And here I thought Bill Paxton could make anything better.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I blame the Dungeons & Dragons movie.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    I watched about 30 seconds of this with the sound off and still feel violently ill as a result.

  • pajiba

    Oh god. That sure as hell couldn't have helped.

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