Fairuza Balk: How She Survived Returning To Oz

By Rick Gonzales | 8 months ago

Often when you hear the words “80s child star” it has bad connotations. Corey Haim, Dustin Diamond, Gary Coleman, and Corey Feldman are just a few who either didn’t last, died at an early age, or continued to struggle as the decades wore on. Actress Fairuza Balk was an 80s child star, but unlike so many others she found a way to avoid trouble and endure.

Here’s where Fairuza Balk has been and where she’s going now.


Fairuza Balk got her start as a nine-year-old in the TV movie The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Balk was then cast in a huge role as Dorothy Gale in the unofficial sequel to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. The 1985 movie was called Return to Oz and was a Walt Disney production.

The movie’s production was fraught with issues, mainly stemming from writer-director Walter Murch’s decision to go with a darker take on the material than what the 1939 classic portrayed. He stayed much closer to the source material, basing his script on L. Frank Baum’s early Oz novels The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz.

Fairuza Balk in Return to Oz

The movie was a disaster from the start. A few weeks into the movie’s production, Disney was very unhappy with the footage and decided to replace Murch. Heavy-hitters George Lucas (Star Wars fame) and Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather franchise) stepped in to support Murch and after his brief firing, Murch returned to finish the film. Sadly, it didn’t get any better. It bombed spectacularly at the box office, none of it being Fairuza Balk’s fault.

Speaking of those famous ruby red shoes, this was a Disney production and the original film’s production company, MGM, held the copyright for the shoes (in Baum’s stories, the red shoes were actually silver, MGM created the ruby shoes). So for Disney to use their likeness on Fairuza Balk’s feet, they had to pay a pretty price.


With Oz coming early in her career, Fairuza Balk slowly grew up around movies. She was seen in The Worst Witch, Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story, Valmont (which she moved to Paris for), and Gas, Food, Lodging. She was also beginning to gain some recognition as Balk received an Independent Spirit Award for Gas, Food, Lodging.

This led Fairuza Balk to bigger, more prominent roles. One of her biggies was as Nancy Downs in the horror/drama film The Craft. This movie not only starred Balk but a handful of up and coming young stars such as Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Christine Taylor, and Breckin Meyer.

Fairuza Balk in The Island of Dr. Moreau

Fairuza Balk then went on to be the only standout in the horrible remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau, the one that starred a horribly miscast Marlon Brando in what was one of his final roles. It also starred Val Kilmer.

Fairuz Balk went on to other big-name films such as American Perfekt, American History X, and the classic Adam Sandler comedy as Vicki Vallencourt in The Waterboy. All this was before the turn of the century.


Fairuza Balk’s career after the turn of the century has been what could be described as steady. She was seen in the Cameron Crowe hit Almost Famous, and Red Letters before a two-year hiatus brought her Personal Velocity and Deuces Wild.

Fairuza Balk in Almost Famous

During this time Balk also lent her voice on video game projects such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Lords of EverQuest. She also lent her voice to Justice League and What Is It? Her time during the decade of the 2000s was filled with more features but also with a lot of time where she wasn’t in front of the camera.

Fairuza Balk in Bad Lieutenant

Fairuza Balk was seen in movies like Don’t Come Knocking, A Year and a Day, Humbolt County, Grindstone Road, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. There could be a good reason for Balk’s lack of movie work. She is also a singer/songwriter.


Armed Love Militia is the name of the band Fairuza Balk fronts. They have produced quite a few singles that have been released as EPs and her work at writing and singing continues. Armed Love Militia last year released the EP Raw Live Lo-Fi and much of her work is shared on YouTube as well as her own website.

Fairuza Balk blogs consistently about her musical journey. “Music is such a mysterious thing. I truly do believe that sometimes if you’re lucky it does just arrive or comes through you from another place entirely,” she writes. “Perhaps it lives in the collective unconscious already and we just tap into it from time to time. When you listen to Mozart or Bach it seems like they must have been tapped into some other sphere of consciousness to be able to write such incredible music and so prolifically. Of course, having training in classical music and theory is a huge part of it for geniuses like them, but there is something otherworldly in their music for sure.”

For Armed Love Militia, Fairuza Balk has teamed up with singer/songwriter Mel Sanson in what is described as an amazing track titled White Lillies. Balk spoke of the lyrics, “The lyrics speak of a lover mourning the loss of the beloved, eternally searching for them through eternity, calling out to them through song like a Siren to try and find them again, to be reunited. Also a warning that should the song be heard by a strangers ears the curse that befell the beloved could land on them as well.”

Her band has enjoyed some longevity as they have been producing music since 2010. It hasn’t always been easy for Fairuza Balk as a songwriter, as she blogged about “creative ruts”. “The biggest lesson I’ve been learning lately is that when you find yourself unable or unsure as to how to move forward, a good way to help get you through it is to just start doing, start experimenting without any expectations,” she wrote. “It’s not something that I do easily as I am by nature a perfectionist and very harsh judge of my own work. If you work/play solely with the intent of exploring, you open yourself up, give yourself room to just explore and have fun. Remember fun? Yeah exactly. I love that saying ‘Dance like no one’s watching.’ It’s that feeling applied to whatever form of creativity you choose. It’s been working well for me.”


When she isn’t singing Fairuza Balk is still acting. Now 46-years-old she recently grabbed a nice recurring role in the Showtime hit Ray Donovan, then moved on to August Falls, Trespassers, and then will be seen in the upcoming series Paradise City.