Thora Birch was born on March 11, 1982 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents, Jack Birth and Carol Conners, were business managers who used to work in the adult film industry. Birch had an interest in acting from an early age, but her parents were reluctant to encourage their daughter into a film career because of their own past in the adult film industry. However, the couple ultimately decided to show Birch’s photo to talent agents after she repeatedly expressed an interest in appearing in commercials. In the mid to late 80s, Birch appeared in numerous television commercials for companies such as Quaker Oats, Vlasic Pickles, Burger King, and California Raisins.
It was not until 1988 that Birch appeared in more substantial film and television roles. She was cast in the short lived Day by Day, where she was credited under her first name only. She also appeared in the film Purple People Eater, which starred Neil Patrick Harris and Ned Beatty; her performance in the film earned her notice, and she even won a Youth in Film Acting Award for the part.
During the mid-1990s, she appeared in several more films. Her most famous role during this period was here role as Danni in the Disney film, Hocus Pocus; the film, which was not a financial success at the time, is now considered a popular “cult film.” She also appeared in the Christmas film All I Want for Christmas, and the children’s comedy Monkey Trouble, which premiered in 1994. Her acting career continued throughout the 1990s with roles in films like Alaska, as well as small guest roles in shows such as The Outer Limits and Touched by an Angel.
In 1999, Birch–then only 16 years old–was cast as Jane in the drama American Beauty. The film, which later won the Academy Award for Best Picture, earned Birch much notice and critical praise, especially due to her young age. Birch was almost not cast in the film due to her young age, which caused some complications when the movie was filmed in the United States, due to its subject content.
in 2001, Birch was cast alongside Brad Renfro, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi in the film Ghost World. The film and Birch’s performance earned critical praise, with one critic noting that “Birch makes the character an uncanny encapsulation of adolescent agonies without ever romanticizing or sentimentalizing her attitudes…” Her performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
Birch’s career continued with small role, mostly in TV films and indie films, throughout the 2000s. These roles have included films such as Train, Deadline, Petunia, and a role in the TV film The Pregnancy Pact. The Pregnancy Pact was one of the highest rated Lifetime TV films of its year, and gained notoriety as a “cult film” for being especially over the top. Birch has recently announced that she plans on branching out from acting, particularly as her exposure in Hollywood has declined in the last decade; she also announced that she has been working on a film screenplay that she hopes to turn into a feature films.