Tiny-framed but top-heavy, Thora Birch grew up (and out) in public as a cute kid in family favorites such as Hocus Pocus (1993), Monkey Trouble (1994), and Now and Then (1995). Then she landed plenty of praise for her work with Kevin Spacey in 1999’s American Beauty, which won Oscars as Best Picture and for its male lead. The teen thespian also truly stood out–especially since she busted out he Golden Globes during a window-peeping scene that won her all kinds of male fans.
Big-ticket Hollywood superstardom seemed inevitable for the (gulp) 17-year-old actress. Actually, Thora was of legal age by the time that American Beauty made her a star. She was probably old enough to know better when it came to her next role. Nobody took Thora seriously as a princess in 2000’s dopey Dungeons and Dragons movie. Fortunately, Thora recovered with a very smart turn as knockout nerd Enid Coleslaw in the 2001 cult classic adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World.
Thora was so snarkily sexy that she managed to even divert guys’ eyes from teenage Scarlett Johansson as Enid’s best friend. She went into the 21st century as a very hot item, and posed for plenty of mag lads. And then Thora’s career seemed to just sort of stop, and she vanished.
Reports abound that Jack Connors–Thora’s father and manager–derailed her ascent by allegedly proving impossible for anyone to work with (beside his own daughter). Those rumors culminated with a 2009 news story about the making of the indie flick Winter of Frozen Dreams, where Thora’s dad reportedly burst onto the set during her shooting of a sex scene and pushed his way into directing the action.
(We should also note that Jack Connors was a 1970s adult film performer. He even appears in the all-time hardcore classic Deep Throat. One mitigating factor: Thora’s mom, Carol Connors, is also in Throat, and went on to her own kind of sex-film stardom before retiring when she had kids.)
Thora Birch has never quit working, though. She just tends to show up in independent productions, which include some classy arthouse productions. Also, she’s joined Heather Graham and Christina Ricci in making movies for the Lifetime network. And we can always look back at Thora’s peak years, where she showed off her peaks and–like the Norse god Thor–ignited lightning in the pubescent pants of a generation…