There are very few actresses that can pull off the whole Goth Goddess like the lovely and vivacious Fairuza Balk. She can be ferocious, beautiful, and innocent… maybe even a mixture of all three at the same time. Even at a young age she had the ability to carry a film. Of course she did this in the fantasy children’s flick RETURN TO OZ way back in 1985. At the tender age of 11 Balk was cast as the leading role of “Dorothy.” I have to be honest in that I’ve never seen the film, but if you have and you dug it (or hated it) feel free to spit some bullets below. This children’s tale is not the reason Ms. Balk in our featured player in this week’s “Where in the Horror are they now?” but it’s a good place to start. The first time this wild and witchy woman really grabbed hold of my attention was a much darker tale than OZ – more on that later.
Now before I discuss that old familiar genre title which I hold near and dear to my black heart, it should be noted that Balk enjoyed a very successful career for her young age. Once she left the world of wizards and munchkins, she found herself in a TV Movie called “The Worst Witch” in 1986. This was another kiddie flick that I have a vague memory of watching one Halloween. The up-and-coming child star was well on her way with family friendly material but as she approached the 90’s, she took on more adult oriented features. Sure VALMONT (1989) and GAS, FOOD LODGING (1992) may not ring any bells in the world of horror, but they made me aware of Balk as being more than a child actress.
Balk continued to work in television and Indie feature films including WHAT TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD in 1995. She also played opposite Sean Murray (“NCIS”) and the bearded rockers ZZ TOP in the TV Movie ZZ TOP: BREAKAWAY a year before. Then it happened… the movie that let me know exactly who this Fairuza Balk was and what she could do. It was “Nancy Downs” from Andrew Fleming’s THE CRAFT in 1996. If you hadn’t guessed, this is the film where not only did Balk grab my attention but she ripped it out of me and tore it apart. As a witch finding her powers too difficult to control, she proved to be thrillingly good at being bad. Sure she started off protecting the weak from the class A-holes, but like any good teen horror drama, a lesson needs to be learned and she done learned – and occasionally taught it.
With the 1996 remake of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, Balk starred opposite the legendary Marlon Brando as well as Val Kilmer. This is not a great movie – some would say it is pretty awful – yet the fault of that does not fall on Fairuza. With constant battles between the filmmakers, studio and cast with a pretty terrible script, there was no hope for this flick. However it is worth mentioning simply because she looked gorgeous here even if the film didn’t give her much to do. She did have a fun little exotic dance where she is cloaked in black but there is more sexual tension between Kilmer and David Thewlis than anything involving the female lead (if you can call it that).
The 1998 drama AMERICAN HISTORY X is not a horror film. Yet it features some pretty horrific stuff. This tale of racism, violence and murder featured an award winning performance from Edward Norton – one which earned the actor an Academy Award nomination. As Norton’s trashy girlfriend Stacey, Balk is actually quite terrifying as a white power racist. Soon after the critically acclaimed feature, she appeared in the Adam Sandler comedy THE WATERBOY and she was shockingly hot. How amazing would it be for her to be somebody's first kiss and first glimpse at boobies!?! After running the gamut between an intense drama and comedy, the actress also appeared in the highly regarded Cameron Crowe musical drama ALMOST FAMOUS in 2000 along with a slew of other famous faces.
Over the next few years the actress appeared in such films as Wim Winders’ DON’T COME KNOCKING and A YEAR IN A DAY, both in 2005. In 2006 she starred in an episode of “Masters of Horror” called ‘Pick Me Up’ which was a personal favorite of mine. Then in 2009 she gave an incredibly sexed up performance in THE BAD LIEUTENANT: PORTS OF CALL NEW ORLEANS. While I didn’t appreciate this Nicolas Cage vehicle the first time out, the wild and wacky nature of this Werner Herzog film began to appeal to my wicked senses. Again, this wasn’t a huge role for her, but it was memorable enough for me.
If you were wondering like us what exactly happened to this throaty voiced beauty, you’ll be pleased to know that she hasn’t gone far. While investigating her whereabouts I found clips of this stunning talent singing her heart out – and man can she sing! Hell, I even found her talking about personal experiences with ghosts.
According to her IMDB page she is still lighting up the screen with the 2013 Indie thriller DOSE OF REALITY. Not only that, she has one film in post-production called ANOTHER STATESIDE as well as one flick in pre-production called THICKER which is scheduled for a 2014 release. If you’d like to know firsthand what she is up to, you can check out her official website or follow her on Twitter. She is a producer, actor, artist, musician and a dancer… I should have known by her many talents that the spell she cast on me all those years ago would never fade.