Thora Birch was born to Jack and Carol Birch on March 11, 1982 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California. Her name is derived from the name of the Norse god of thunder and lightning, Thor. Thora was her parents’ first child, and even at a very young age she displayed qualities of a budding actress.
When she was a toddler, Thora was encouraged to audition for commercials and successfully landed parts in several of them, including advertisements and TV commercials for Quaker Oats and Vlasic Pickles. But it was in 1988 that her acting career really started to take off. She was cast as Molly in the short-lived television series “Day By Day”, and she also landed quite an important role as Molly in the children’s movie Purple People Eater which also starred Ned Beatty and Neil Patrick Harris. Thora even won a Youth In Film Award for her performance in the film.
In 1990, Thora got the part of Taylor in “Parenthood”, a television series based on the 1989 film by the same name. In this short-lived sitcom, she replaced Alisan Porter who had played Taylor in the movie. And an interesting fact about Thora’s first three roles is that she was credited as simply ‘Thora’, and her last name wasn’t added until 1991. Also, in 1990 Thora’s brother, Bolt, was born. He is her only sibling.
In 1991, Thora was cast in her first, real break-though role. She played Billie Pike in the movie Paradise along with Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith and Elijah Wood. Thora won this role after the director, Mary Agnes Donoghue, interviewed over 4,000 other young hopefuls, so it was quite a big achievement. Her successful portrayal of a young tomboy landed her parts in many other movies including All I Want for Christmas that same year, Hocus Pocus and the big-budget films Patriot Games in 1992 and it’s sequel, Clear and Present Danger in 1994. And also in 1994, Thora starred in the family film Monkey Trouble, in which her co-stars included four different monkeys who shared the role of Dodger in the movie.
In 1995, casting directors thought that Thora was the obvious choice to play Tina Tercell in Now and Then. She was cast long before her co-stars, Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffmann and Ashleigh Aston Moore. This film also marked Thora’s first venture into teenage roles, as opposed to playing a kid in the movies.
And in 1996, Thora played Jessie Barnes in the wilderness adventure film Alaska in which she had top billing. She also made guest-starring appearances on various television shows such as “The Outer Limits”, “Promised Land” and “Touched By An Angel”.
After taking somewhat of a break from acting, Thora returned to the screen in 1999 with some excellent acting in the made-for-TV movie Night Ride Home. She also played Jane Burnham in the Oscar-winning American Beauty, not to mention the fact that she played an uncredited role in Anywhere But Here with Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman, as well as starring as Empress Savina in Dungeons & Dragons.
In 2000, Thora turned heads again with her work in Ghost World, the story of two rather eccentric best friends trying to find their places in life after high school. Thora received her first Golden Globe nomination for this role, and was also honored as Best Actress at the Seattle International Film Festival for her work. Following this, The Hole was released. The movie tells the story of what happens when four high school-aged private school kids are accidentally locked in a bomb shelter. The movie was well-received despite the fact that it was not widely released all at once and it took quite some time to be released world-wide. And in 2003, Thora was praised again for her work on the Lifetime movie Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story. The film told the true story of Liz Murray, a girl who suffered through a tough childhood only to live up to work hard through high school to get into Harvard. More recently, Thora played a role in the ensemble film Silver City.
Thora now lives in her own home in southern California. While that is her home, she’s rarely there nowadays since she is constantly away, either filming on location or promoting her new movies. Currently underway for Thora are two new films: the psychological horror/thriller Dark Corners, and Winter of Frozen Dreams, based on a true story which climaxed with the first televised murder trial in U.S. history. Thora has also said that she has aspirations of one day becoming a director, so maybe in the future we will see her behind the camera as well. Until then, we will surely see this young talent on movie screens around the world for a long time to come.