When Fairuza Balk was cast as Dorothy Gale in the Disney sequel to The Wizard of Oz, a child star was born (via The Washington Post). Balk, who was just 9 years old at the time, grew up in an artistic family and took acting classes as a child. It seemed that she was destined for stardom!
As Balk’s career continued, everything seemed to be falling into place; she acted consistently throughout the ’80s and ’90s (via IMDb). However, it wasn’t until 1996 that Balk landed a role to rival Dorothy: she was cast as Nancy in the witchy teen flick The Craft, which quickly became a cult classic (via Vulture). After that, Balk developed a reputation of being the "dark, scary, crazy girl" of Hollywood. She also was seen in more big films like Almost Famous and American History X.
However, even though Balk seemed to be everywhere back in the ’90s and early 2000s, she’s slowly faded out of the spotlight since then. With the exception of some indie films and an ongoing role in Ray Donovan in 2015, things have been fairly quiet for Balk. So, what is Fairuza Balk really up to now?
Fairuza Balk came from a seriously artistic family
Fairuza Balk’s family connections and artistic upbringing seemed to make her destined for a life in the spotlight. She started getting parts in films in 1983, and in 1985, she landed the coveted role of Dorothy in Return to Oz. By the sound of things, Fairuza’s family had been preparing her for this early success from the beginning.
According to The Washington Post, Fairuza grew up in Vancouver in Canada. Her mother, Cathryn Balk, was a former dancer, and her father was a California-based musician. Fairuza’s grandmother was also creatively-inclined; Fairuza once posted an old newspaper clipping of her on Instagram. "She was one of the youngest dance teachers in the state of CA," she wrote in the caption.
Cathryn placed Fairuza in range of artistic classes as a child, including dancing, violin, piano, horseback riding, and acting classes. No wonder this young triple threat was ready to step into Judy Garland‘s shoes in the Wizard of Oz sequel!
Starring as Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz sequel shot Fairuza Balk to stardom
After playing Dorothy in Return to Oz, Fairuza Balk’s life changed forever. In 1985, she was interviewed by The Washington Post – and she was just 11 at the time. Balk revealed that people had started treating her differently; her friends at home were asking her "if she’s rich now," and she was getting stared at in public.
Balk looked back on her early fame in 2012, in an interview with Dread Central. As an adult, Balk had a more nuanced understanding of just how huge the role was. "It was MASSIVE," Balk shared. "I think I was chosen out of something like 50,000 kids for the role of Dorothy, which is still really amazing to think about."
Balk went on to explain that as a kid, she’d never realized how popular the film was. "It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized just how special Return to Oz ended up being," she continued. "Throughout the years, fans would send me letters or even these incredible gifts with their stories about what the movie meant to them and I was absolutely shocked."
Fairuza Balk worked steadily throughout the ’80s and ’90s
After Fairuza Balk’s career took off with her role in Return to Oz, she continued to act throughout her childhood, impressing critics and filmmakers alike (via IMDb). Notably, in 1986, Balk played the starring role of Mildred Hubble in the beloved TV movie version of The Worst Witch, a children’s book about a school for witches (via The Atlantic).
Balk also starred in the 1989 film Valmont, alongside Colin Firth and Annette Bening. In this film, she played a much more grown up role as Cecile, a young convent girl who is seduced by Firth’s character. As Milos Forman, the film’s director said to Roger Ebert, "I was amazed by this girl, Fairuza Balk." He explained that she wowed him in the casting sessions. "She was perfect, and strangely enough, she was also the biggest pro of them all," Forman gushed.
Forman also explained that Balk was just 14 years old during the shoot. It seems that after her first roles, Balk was solidifying her reputation in the industry, and laying the groundwork for a spectacular career.
Fairuza Balk almost didn’t take her role in The Craft
After working consistently for ten years, Fairuza Balk landed the role that would define her career. In 1996, she starred in The Craft as Nancy (via IMDb). However, as Balk revealed in a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly, things could have gone very differently.
The reason? Balk explained that at the time, she was already signed up to do the film Basquiat. Balk had hoped to make both roles work, but when Julian Schnabel, the director of Basquiat, found out that she was considering doing another role, he phoned her, furious. "He hung up after cursing me out, and I called my agents and they said, ‘We accepted The Craft,‘" Balk recalled. Soon enough, Balk was thrilled to be part of the film. "I found the subject absolutely fascinating," she added.
And, as things turned out, Balk couldn’t have made a better decision for her career. The Craft was a massive hit, beating Clueless in its first weekend at the box office and becoming a cult classic.
After The Craft was released, Fairuza Balk became a massive star
For Fairuza Balk, playing Nancy in The Craft alongside Neve Campbell, Rachel True, and Robin Tunny marked a defining career moment. As she explained to the Los Angeles Times, the success of the film was a big surprise. "At the time when we made this, I really had no idea it would land so hugely and it would be so influential to people," the actress explained.
Apparently, after The Craft, Balk acquired a whole new legion of fans who were completely obsessed with her character from the film. "I’ve had meetings with fans and letters and emails where [they tell me] Nancy really affected them deeply in their lives," Balk continued. Some fans even referred to her character as their "spirit animal," and explained that she’d helped them get through difficult moments.
Thanks to the film’s cult status, Balk has become an icon for multiple generations. "There was a mom and she had a daughter and then she had a daughter and they were all dressed up as Nancy," Balk recalled, adding, "That’s a trip."
Fairuza Balk made a name for herself as a voice actor
After finding success as a child star and then a young actress, Fairuza Balk found even more success as a voice actress. Her first voice role came in 1999 on the hugely popular show Family Guy. Balk voiced the character Connie D’Amico in her first two appearances on the show, although the role was taken over by Lisa Wilhoit.
In 2002, Balk played the voice of Mercedes Cortez in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Then, in 2003, she voiced Penny in Justice League and Lady T’Lak in the video game Lords of EverQuest. Two years later, she voiced three characters in What Is It?, a little-known surrealist film by Crispin Glover.
After this two or three year stint working mainly behind the mic as a voice actor, Balk returned to more on screen roles. It’s hard to say why her voice acting career was so short-lived — but it’s clear that the actress met with a lot of success in the short period that she did take on some voice roles.
Here’s why Fairuza Balk stepped back from acting in her late 20s
After starring in The Craft, Fairuza Balk went on to appear in a number of other films and TV shows, including Almost Famous, The Waterboy, and American History X. While she continued acting, she largely stepped away from doing press events. As Balk explained to the Los Angeles Times, this wasn’t all together an accident. "In my late 20s I stepped away from doing a lot of press because people just kept taking my words and rearranging them the wrong way and just depicting me as this crazy bad girl and it just really got old," Balk revealed.
Balk went on to explain that she didn’t really feel cut out for the world of Hollywood. "Some of the elements of that game are things I just couldn’t do," she continued. Eventually, the pressures of the acting world began to threaten her well-being and mental health. For Balk, the obsession with her career meant that she had compromised other aspects of her life. "At a certain point, you have to remember that there is life outside of ‘Get the job, do the job,’" Balk added.
Fairuza Balk became interested in a range of other art forms
When Fairuza Balk realized that her acting career was taking over other elements of her life, she stepped back and turned her focus to other artistic projects. "I started looking into and spending more time on other art forms that I really enjoy and I’m far happier for it," she shared in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. To that end, the actress began to spend her time painting, writing, making music, and creating mixed media projects.
During the 2020 pandemic, Balk also spent more time with her father, who had suffered from some health issues. During that time, Balk explored even more forms of art. "He is a multi-talented artist, he does a million different things," Balk said of her father. Apparently, he taught her silversmithing and goldsmithing. "I’ve been up there in the mountains learning how to work with metal," she continued. "We’re getting into blacksmithing and it’s amazing." Wow, sounds like she really has been delving into loads of new art forms!
Fairuza Balk spent her time away from acting enjoying the natural world
In addition to experimenting with new art forms, Fairuza Balk has used her time away from acting to connect with nature. By the looks of things, the natural world is one of her greatest passions.
In 2019, Balk set off on a springtime road trip across America. "All the wild flowers are blooming and it’s all so green," she wrote on Twitter. "Georgia has entire miles of Purple wisteria that’s grown up the trees." Additionally, Balk’s Instagram is filled with odes to the natural world. In February of 2020, she posted a closeup picture of a tulip, writing, "The inner private universe of a tulip. Fascinating nature everywhere." It’s lovely to see that Balk’s time off has given her the space to appreciate nature.
Furthermore, when the young Balk was interviewed for The Washington Post as part of the promotion for Return to Oz, she expressed her love of animals — and that hasn’t changed! Balk now has her own rescue cat named Turtle, also called Toogs. As she wrote on Instagram, "She is quite brilliant, very clever, inquisitive, and I love her more everyday." How sweet!
Fairuza Balk records music under the name Armed Love Militia
Since 2016, Fairuza Balk has been recording and releasing her own music on Bandcamp under the artistic name Armed Love Militia.
In 2019, Balk released an EP with three songs, including the song "White Lillies," which she wrote as a duet with her friend Mel Sanson. Feroce reviewed the song, writing, "In a nutshell the track is down to earth, mellow, and every aspect of the track is beautifully defined." For Balk, the folk song tells the story of someone mourning a lost love. As she put it, they are "eternally searching for them through eternity, calling out to them through song like a Siren to try and find them again, to be reunited." In the end, Balk was pleased with the song — even though it took eight years to record. "This felt beyond right and it was like breathing a huge sigh of relief that it was finally done," she said.
It’s clear that making music is an important creative outlet for Balk. As she wrote on Twitter, "It’s exposing your soul, your true inner heart."
In 2020, Fairuza Balk reprised her role from The Craft
When a sequel of The Craft came along in 2020, fans were thrilled to discover that the original Nancy would be making an appearance. For Fairuza Balk, deciding whether to return to the world of The Craft wasn’t easy. As she told Entertainment Weekly, when she was initially approached about a sequel by producer Jason Blum, her response had been, "Eh, I don’t know."
However, when Balk met the director, Zoe Lister-Jones, she was sold by her idea to make the film about "women supporting women as opposed to women fighting women." For Balk, this signified a shift from the first film, which changed her mind. Lister-Jones also spoke to Entertainment Weekly, and explained why having Balk on board was so important. "Nancy is everything. She is The Craft to me," she shared.
In the film, set 20 years after the events of the first movie, Nancy is living in an insane asylum. It is revealed that she is the mother of the central character.
Fairuza Balk’s acting career is still going strong, with roles in Ray Donovan and Paradise City
Even though Fairuza Balk is open about having taken a step back from acting, she certainly hasn’t given it up altogether. In 2015, she took on a recurring role in season 3 of Showtime’s Ray Donovan (via Collider). At the time, Balk was thrilled to be a part of the series. "I’m going to be on Ray Donovan and I’m really looking forward to it," she gushed on Twitter. "Great cast on this show." Balk played Ginger in the show, a sex worker who befriended Mickey (via Digital Spy).
In 2020, fans learned that Balk would also be appearing in the series Paradise City as Lizzie Thomas. The show also stars Andy Biersack, Bella Thorn, and Cameron Boyce. According to the first official trailer, the series deals with "rockstar with ties to the occult." Black magic in Hollywood? Sounds right up Balk’s alley! By the looks of things, we’ll be seeing plenty more of Balk on our screens in the future.
Fairuza Balk hopes to keep acting in the future
Even though Fairuza Balk stepped back from acting in the early 2000s, she certainly hasn’t given up the profession altogether. In fact, her 2020 roles in The Craft: Legacy and Paradise City might just be the beginning of a serious comeback. "Acting, hopefully, I’ll be able to do for the rest of my life," she shared in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. She added that while she’s definitely slowed down, she’s really just become more selective in choosing parts. It sounds like Balk’s future roles will have to be worthwhile if they’re going to make the cut!
Apparently, we might even get to see more of Balk as Nancy from The Craft in the future. According to Entertainment Weekly, the film’s director, Zoe Lister-Jones, has toyed with the idea of creating another sequel. When asked if she’d be interested, Balk was non-committal, saying she’d do it "if it would be a challenge and something fun." Let’s hope the third installment of The Craft gives Balk a version of Nancy she can’t refuse!