Childhood & Early Life
Fairuza Alejandra Feldthouse was born on May 21, 1974, in Point Reyes, California, to Solomon Feldthouse and Cathryn Balk.
Her Persian first name was given to her by her father, a traveling folk musician and founding member of the 1960s psychedelic rock group ‘Kaleidoscope.’ He picked up Greek, Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian music while living in Turkey as a child. Her mother, an expert in traditional dance forms, performed, researched on, and taught various dance forms practiced in countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, and Spain.
Balk’s parents separated not long after she was born. She lived with her mother on a commune-type ranch in Cloverdale, California, till she was 2 years old. Eventually, they moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where she began her acting career at the age of 6.
After spending a couple of years traveling to the United Kingdom and France for work, 15-year-old Balk enrolled at a high school in Vancouver, only to finish her schooling via correspondence after finding it difficult to fit into the classroom environment.
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Balk, with her blue eyes and dark hair, bagged her first role in the ‘ABC’ TV film ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ (1983). A couple of years later, she moved to the United Kingdom. She stayed there with her mother till 1988. She trained at the ‘Royal Academy of Ballet,’ the ‘Ramona Beauchamp Agency,’ and the ‘Bush Davies Performing Arts School’ during her stay in London.
She was associated with the ‘Walt Disney Company’ for a while in London. At 11, she was chosen among 1,200 others to star as ‘Dorothy Gale’ in ‘Return to Oz’ (1985). Directed by Walter Murch, this popular film was an unofficial sequel to ‘MGM’s 1939 ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ based on the novel ‘The Marvelous Land of Oz’ (1904) and ‘Ozma of Oz’ (1907). Although the film acquired cult status later, it fared poorly at the box office, grossing only $11.1 million, while it was made on a budget of $28 million. In 1986, Balk was nominated for the ‘Young Artist Award’ for the ‘Best Starring Performance by a Young Actress - Motion Picture’ for this film. The same year, Balk was also nominated for the ‘Saturn Award’ for the ‘Best Performance by a Young Actress’ for ‘Return to Oz.’ The 2007 documentary ‘Return to Oz: The Joy That Got Away,’ directed by Gabe Rodriguez, was dedicated to the actor.
The following year, she starred as ‘Mildred Hubble’ in the popular British musical fantasy made-for-TV film ‘The Worst Witch’ (1986), which was based on the children’s book of the same name by Jill Murphy. The film was co-produced by ‘Central Independent Television’ and ‘HBO.’ At 14, she moved to Paris to work in the French–American drama ‘Valmont’ (1989), with Miloš Forman. Following this, Balk and her mother moved back to Vancouver.
In 1993, Balk received the ‘Independent Spirit Award’ for the ‘Best Female Lead’ for her performance in ‘Gas, Food Lodging’ (1992). Written and directed by Allison Anders, the film revolved around a waitress searching for love while raising her two daughters in a trailer park. It was a cinematic adaptation of a young adult novel named ‘Don't Look and It Won't Hurt’ by Richard Peck.
In 1996, she starred as a teenage witch in ‘The Craft,’ a film that catapulted her to stardom and spawned countless speculations about whether or not she was a real witch. Balk received the ‘MTV Movie Award’ for the ‘Best Fight,’ along with Robin Tunney, for a scene in which they enacted a knife fight.
Her second release in 1966 was ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ (1996), with actor David Thewlis, whom she dated briefly. The following year, the duo was seen together in another movie, ‘American Perfekt.’
In 1998, she had a significant role in another cult classic, ‘American History X,’ in which she was cast as the neo-‘Nazi’ goth punk girlfriend of ‘Edward Norton.’ She was seen alongside Adam Sandler, the same year, in the popular comedy movie ‘The Waterboy.’ This proved her prowess in performing diverse roles.
Balk also performed in the critically acclaimed American comedy–drama ‘Almost Famous’ (2000), written and directed by Cameron Crowe. The star-studded film featured Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit. Although unsuccessful at the box office, the film was nominated for many awards and won a few, too. She shared the ‘Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) Award’ for the ‘Best Ensemble’ with her co-stars. She was nominated for the ‘Screen Actors Guild Award’ for ‘Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture.’
A versatile actor, Balk had, for a brief period, also been part of the band ‘G-13.’ She has lent her voice to popular animated films, TV shows, and video games, such as ‘Family Guy,’ ‘Justice League,’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.’ Balk’s musical outlet, ‘Armed Love Militia,’ released their single ‘Stormwinds’ in 2010, which was written and performed by her. She also collaborated on an EP with singer-songwriter Mel Sanson.
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In 2008, she was invited by the ‘Melissa Morgan Fine Arts Gallery’ in Palm Desert, California, to participate in their annual fundraiser for the orphans of Darfur. Balk used rust to create surreal images. On August 4, 2012, she and other notable artists participated in the group show ‘MiXTAPE,’ where artists were tasked with creating artwork inspired by songs. Balk picked the song ‘Nuages’ by Django Reinhardt and created a mixed-media sculpture based on it.
Known for being discerning about the roles she accepts, she continues to act, her latest film being ‘Hell is Where the Home Is’ (2018). She has also been part of the series ‘Ray Donovan,’ which featured her in seven episodes in 2015.
Balk had a role in the important political film ‘American History X’ (1998), which grossed $23.9 million at the box office. The American crime drama written by David McKenna and directed by Tony Kaye focused on the neo-‘Nazi’ movement and followed the trajectory of two brothers and their belief systems with regard to the same.
Her father, upon seeing her eyes when she was born, apparently exclaimed “Fairuza!” Thus, she was named “Fairuza,” which means “turquoise” in Farsi.
One of her nine tattoos is a triangle-shaped symbol, like the one used by the ‘Nazis’ to brand inmates at the Romani concentration camps. It is her tribute to her culture and the sufferings endured by her ancestors.
A ‘Columbia Pictures’ film, ‘The Craft’ grossed $55.7 million, while it was made on a budget of $15 million. Balk believes that the film’s immense popularity was because of the fact that it resonated with young girls navigating through their teenage years. Fans have told her that the film helped them accept themselves and gave them the confidence to stand up for themselves.
She once owned an occult craft shop named ‘Panpipes’ in California. This fanned the rumors that she practiced witchcraft. She eventually had to verbally address the issue and clarify that she was not a practicing witch.
In 2017, the emo puppet band ‘Fragile Rock’ performed a song titled ‘Fairuza Balk,’ which Balk loved. She “tweeted” about it, saying it was “wonderful and hilarious” and that it had made her year.