I was reading an article by The Guardian the other day about Thora Birch that kind of depressed me. It was an article I just happened to find while in the middle an impromptu Terry Zwigoff film festival I was holding for myself. As you may know, Terry directed the film Thora is perhaps best remembered for, 2001's GHOST WORLD, which also starred a young Scarlett Johansson. Back then, most people would have assumed Thora was destined for the big league rep Scarlett now enjoys. But things just didn't go that way. Instead, Scarlett blew up huge and Thora got tossed out like last week's garbage. As much as many of us love Scarlett, one does wonder how the hell things went so wrong for Thora?
The short answer to that question is that she pissed off too many people. Thora has been acting since she was 6. However her star began to shine brightest following movies like AMERICAN BEAUTY. Thereafter she became increasingly sought after by many a filmmaker, becoming a darling of the independent movie scene. Unfortunately for Thora, her affinity for independence was not limited to the kind of movies she made. Growing disillusionment over the Hollywood machine began to take hold in Thora. She also became troubled by the gradual decline of her acting contemporaries like Brittany Murphy and Brad Renfro, both now deceased. Combine all that with a vaguely unsettled nature and a somewhat troubled family situation and it becomes clearer how she eventually earned a reputation as a troublemaker - easily the kiss of death in Hollywood.
Nowadays the quick-witted cutie with the impressive rack is nowhere to be found. That's unfortunate, as I always had a special thing for Thora. She played exactly the kind girl I would have fallen for in a big way back in my high school days - cute, but sharp tongued, smart and clever, yet harsh and unforgiving. I'd have put myself through all kinds of hell trying to get next to her. That's the one silver lining to not having Thora around anymore. I can continue to see her as that same cynical square peg, making a mockery out of everyone and everything around her. I might have some trouble maintaining that were she now playing moms and school teachers.
As much as I do love those old roles, I'd hate to see them become her career's epitaph. Thora has helped set the standard for many a nonconformist character and indie actor who came after her. I mean, where would Ellen Page be without her? Perhaps Thora's brand of unsettled dissent just doesn't sit well with the showbiz of today. Maybe she's too much of a rabble-rouser to fit in with an increasingly superficial Hollywood. I do hope she finds her place somewhere, somehow. She's still got a lot of time left on her career clock. It would be a shame to see her count it all down while sitting on the sidelines.
Check out some of Thora in better times below.
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