Fairuza Balk was born in Point Reyes, California on a commune type of ranch. Her first name, Fairuza, means turquoise in Farsi, although she comes from German and English ancestry. Her father was a travelling musician and her mom a belly dancer, but when Fairuza was three months old, they split up. After living in a car for while, her mother finally got work in Vancouver. It was there that nine-year-old Fairuza landed her first TV role, in a movie called Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Two years later, she was chosen from thousands of little girls to play Dorothy in her first feature film—Return to Oz (1985).
By the time the film released in 1985, Fairuza was beginning a two-and-a-half year term at the Bush Davis Performing Arts School in the United Kingdom. During this time, she landed a role in the telefilm, The Worst Witch and played the role of a young Barbara Hutton in Poor Little Rich Girl.
Fairuza and her mother remained in London until she was 14, then headed to Paris to do Valmont (1989). At 16 she was back in Vancouver, where she enrolled in high school. But being incredibly shy and dyslexic didn't help matters, and she only lasted a few days. She ended up doing her courses through correspondence.
About her early years, Fairuza said at one point: "I seriously think I had a death wish. I'd done everything and anything to totally annihilate myself, and then I turned 18 and it's, like, wow, I'm obviously not gonna die, so I might as well forget the self-destruction."
Fairuza went on to appear as a rape victim living in a small town in the telefilm, Shame (1992). The performance garnered her a CableAce award for best actress. Although Fairuza had been in the business for most of her life, it wasn't until the feature The Craft (1996) that she received true notice from viewers. Playing Nancy, the cunning and treacherous leader of the witches, her performance opened up doors to other big budget films like The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), American History X (1998), The Waterboy (1998) and Almost Famous (2000).
In addition to playing Heidi in the feature film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009) starring Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes, Fairuza played roles in a number of indie films.
She returned to the mainstream in 2015 with a recurring role as Ginger on the Showtime series Ray Donovan, starring Liev Schreiber. She also played Lizzie Thomas on eight episodes of the drama series Paradise City (2019), but production came to a halt when the star of the show, Cameron Boyce, died suddenly of an epileptic seizure.
Besides acting, Fairuza enjoys reading, playing piano, guitar and singing. She has several cats and divides her time between California and New York.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Grindstone Road (2008)
Humboldt County (2008)
Wild Tigers I Have Known (2006)
A Year and a Day (2005)
Don't Come Knocking (2006)
What Is It? (2004) (voice)
Personal Velocity (2002)
Deuces Wild (2002)
What Is It? (2000) (voice)
Almost Famous (2000)
Red Letters (2000)
American History X (1998)
The Waterboy (1998)
There Is No Fish Food In Heaven (1998)
American Perfekt (1997)
The Maker (1997)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
The Craft (1996)
Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995)
Imaginary Crimes (1994)
Gas Food Lodging (1992)
The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick (1988)
Return to Oz (1985)