Thora Birch was born in 1982 and as a toddler was the star
of numerous commercials. It was when she played Jane Burnham
in the Oscar-winning American Beauty that she became
a household name. Review Graveyard caught up with her
as her last movie, The Hole was released on DVD and
ReviewGraveyard: What impact has the success of American Beauty
had on your life?
Birch: It gave me a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different
things, which I was kind of surprised about. I thought I'd
only get offers for very sullen, depressed teens, but actually
the opposite happened. A lot of people put emotions in Jane
that maybe weren't even there, and they took her to all the
extremes. They saw me as being someone very sweet and innocent
and young to someone who's very mature and old. So it was
a great range of projects that I got to look at. American
Beauty became the film that took me from kids roles to
What offers particularly surprised you?
The role of Liz in The Hole. The gamut of emotions
was so broad and there were so many layers and facets to Liz
that I was really surprised. I thought, 'Wow, they watched
American Beauty and thought that I might be good at
Maintaining Liz's ambiguity must have been the real challenge
of this role.
Actually the real challenge was trying to figure which one
was the real Liz. At first I had broken her into three characters
but then I realised there were really about five. Sometimes
she's two or three of them in the same moment. I came to the
conclusion that the first time we ever see her, when she's
just come out of the hole and has a little scream, is the
only real Liz that there is. The others are kind of degrees
Do you think she was really in love with Mike, or is it just
Throughout shooting the film I maintained that she was genuinely
in love. Then everyday we would get subtle revisions from
the writers, and one day we got a new scene completely and
it had this speech which I thought was one of the best speeches
in the film. It was this speech where she says that doing
things this way, Mike never cheats on her, leaves her, or
grow old. That's when I realised it wasn't love; she was just
completely and utterly obsessed.
needed to possess him. If she could do that, it would complete
her life. She's already strong, she's already smart, and she's
already on top of the school. She isn't popular within the
in-crowd, but she is a popular girl. She has everything except
that one thing. And once she had got that one thing, she would
have been sorted.
You said around the release of American Beauty that
you related to Jane's outsider status because you were an
outsider at school yourself. Was this what also attracted
you to Liz, and to Enid, the character you play in 'Ghost
Enid is definitely an outsider but I don't think Liz is. But
when I said that before that was just my mood, actually. I
wasn't really so much an outsider at school but post-American
Beauty I was like, 'Yeah, I'm a rebel! I never got on
with anyone' and kind of relishing in that. But I've got to
be honest it was an act. I wasn't a cheerleader or anything
but I did get along with kids and I still have some of my
friends. An outsider? That's an awful term. No one's really
When I said those things in previous interviews I thought
it sounded very actorly. But I read it just recently and I
was I like, 'You're a lying tart, Thora'.
It must be odd then looking back at old interviews.
Yeah, I mean a lot of things that you don't realise you're
saying are suddenly in the written word and to me the most
powerful thing is the written word, because ever since I was
a little girl that is how I'd memorise my lines. I actually
saw the words in my mind and that would help me remember them.
So now when I see some of the stuff I've said, I tell myself,
'No, we're not going to go down that road again'.
I was younger and I watched my own movies, I did feel like
just your average audience member. I was totally disconnected
with the idea that that was me up there. Now that I am actually
paying attention to the work that I am doing, I make myself
sick at certain moments. It's not like I'm retching and vomiting
every time I see myself on the screen, but when there are
certain things coming that I know were personal or that I
had issues with, I have to look away. I can't cope. It's really
How do you feel about watching yourself in The Hole?
It's really uncomfortable. It's not fun It was a stressful
shoot - kind of - but I'd really rather shoot the whole film
again than face some of it. That's not to say that I don't
like it and that I'm not happy with it, though, because actually
I am proud of it. I think it came out well.
grew up in the industry. So anything that happens, whether
I shoot way, way up there or fall way, way below, wouldn't
surprise me. Of course I'd be ecstatic or completely upset
and depressed, but it wouldn't shock me. Because of that I
don't even think about it. Sure there's certain cons, like
maybe a stalker watching you when you go out in public, but
I don't even think about that because I love meeting genuine
I go to a premiere the photographers are a bit of a pain,
but then you see these 13-year-old girls who have been standing
there in the freezing cold, with a little autograph book in
their hand, and you just melt. I run to them because they're
real fans, and because I'd rather sit and talk with them than
wave to the photographers.
thanks to Louise Gray at DSA PR