Who’s afraid of Fairuza Balk? Most guys would kill to spend an evening with the 23-year-old star of the upcoming film American History X. But Zev Borow didn’t have to. Imagine that.
There is a scene in “The Craft”, which is a movie about four good-looking teenage witches and probably the film you are most likely to associate with Fairuza Balk, that features the 23-year-old actress going black-magic nuts in a genuinely freaky Exorcist-type way. (She beats up on costar Robin Tunney; the two ended up winning the coveted “Best Fight” award at last year’s MTV Music Awards.) In the movie, Balk is small but not even close to frail, with the athletic body of a former tomboy/entry-level dominatrix. Her hair is very short and sort of spiky and jet black; her skin is practically Casper white. Then there’s her wide, uncanny mouth, obscenely full lips, and certifiably huge, certifiably piercing blue eyes that bulge for any old reason at all. It’s a look that seems to suit evil, especially that of the young, hot, female-witch variety. It also happens to be the way Balk looks in real life. And were you watching her in that scene from the cozy comfort of your couch a few days before you were to spend an evening together, it might be enough to make you jittery.
Okay, scared. In a good way. A healthy amount of fear is not necessarily a bad thing to feel in advance of a date. Quite the contrary. It seems more than prudent before embarking on an evening with Fairuza Balk. She has made a career of playing off-kilter, dark, often brutal characters, and even after spending some time with her during which she was nothing but charming, it’s not all that hard to see why. Simply put; It’s not that I was ever worried about her eyes rolling back in her head and (getting swept up in the moment) asking me to join her in a swig of chicken blood, before, oh, I don’t know, killing someone. But, she’s not a girl I’d ever taunt during a mean game of truth or dare. That, combined with the fact that unlike most of Hollywood’s cookie-cutter starlets, she can actually act, plus Egg was picking up the tab, made a night out with her is Los Angeles a no-brainer. So then, come, read, envy. But first…
Some Preliminary Notes on Fairuza Balk You Might Want to Know Before Going Out With Her Other than “The Craft”, you may have seen Fairuza Balk in these movies: “The Island Of Dr. Moreau” (in which Marlon Brando wears a big white sheet for most of the film, and Fairuza plays a brooding but attractive half-cat/half-possum thing); “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead”; “Imaginary Crimes” (with Harvey Keitel!); “Gas Food Lodging”; “Valmont”; and “Return To Oz” (Fairuza’s first film; she was ten and played Dorothy).
Also, she sleeps very late–don’t call her before around three in the afternoon. (And if you do, ask for Ann, her roommate, who is very nice, and usually awake.) She was once on the cover of Vanity Fair, with about fifteen other “young, hot” actresses. She has six tattoos, each of which no doubt represents something meaningful. Her family can be traced back to Eastern European gypsies and includes Black Irish, Cherokee, French and Dutch ancestry. The name “Fairuza” is an Arabic word meaning, roughly, turquoise. The best thing that’s been said about her appeared in some British magazine and was: “She’s like a Winona Ryder who won’t fuck off to make lots of bonnet movies. Hopefully.” She loves sushi, but getting stoned makes her a bit paranoid.
The Setup Phone Call
She’s a bit groggy. I apologize several times for no reason, then ask her what she’d like to do. We decide that, no matter what, we’ll need someone to drive us around, since we both like to drink. She explains that she’s been working outside of Los Angeles so much over the past year that she doesn’t think she knows anywhere particularly cool to go anymore. I explain that I’m neither particularly cool or from Los Angeles, and hence will happily defer to what is, I’m quite sure, her better judgment. In general, we chat amicably, despite the fact that she calls me “cutie” more than once. (I later discover she has a small tendency to call everybody “cutie” and attribute this to an unfortunate side effect of being a budding star.) She says she knows some little sushi dive that has the “best fucking fish you will ever have.”
The little dive she originally suggested was closed, so we headed to another sushi place, one near Venice Beach, practically around the corner from her house. It’s called Zipangu and is exactly what people in the Midwest imagine a sushi restaurant in Venice Beach to look like: lots of gleaming pine wood and stainless steel and warm, over-conceived lighting. We’re eating a little late because Fairuza had a minor trauma earlier in the evening. Her car broke down on the way back from taking her dogs to the veterinarian. It was raining and she got soaked and kind of flustered. (The flustered part was largely due to the fact that she was to be photographed while we were out on our date.) Nevertheless, she looked good (sexy black skirt, sexy black tank-top-ish sort of things, sexy black sweater). And we got along well from the outset, as she didn’t hesitate to order us both hot sake and one of those oversized Japanese beers, each.
“It’s traditional that you pour my glass and I pour your glass,” she tells me. She learned this in Japan, or from some other Japanese friends, or something. then she adds: “Just shut up and drink.” My kind of girl.
The conversation portion of dinner commences quite rapidly, as Fairuza leaves the order of our sushi to the discretion of the chef. (We were sitting at the bar.) Fairuza is extremely friendly, and trusting, when it comes to sushi chefs. “I’m not the gross-out type when it comes to food,” she offers. “I pretty much like everything. Actually, I just looooove food. I’d make the world’s worst chef, but one of my favorite things, maybe my absolute favorite thing, is to go out with good friends and just order every single thing. I hate those people who go to a restaurant and just order a salad.”
She also doesn’t like people who don’t vocally appreciate their sushi. As each piece of our fish was served–ankino (monkfish) liver, scallops, albacore tuna, yellowtail and eel, in that order–Fairuza oohed, ahhed and generally moaned with very near carnal delight. In between, however, she managed to lay out the abbreviated story of her life.
The Abbreviated Story Of Fairuza Balk’s Life, As Told to Me Over Sushi and Sake by Fairuza Balk
“I was born near Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco, and lived on a ranch with all these kind hippie-ish people. My dad was a traveling Middle Eastern musician and pretty much split on us. My mom was a belly dancer. After Point Reyes we kind of lived in a car, just traveling around. Finally, she got a gig in Vancouver, liked it and decided it would be a good place to raise me. I got my first acting job there, on a TV movie. I was seven. Then I got the part of Dorothy in “Return To Oz”, which was filming in England. So I moved to London with my mom until I was fourteen, then to Paris to do “Valmont” for about a year. It was wonderful, one of the best times of my life. I was very shy, very internalized, reading a lot. But I could speak French and just hang out in cafes and read and be by myself, and people respect that there.”
At this point, Fairuza excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Then she jumps ahead to her life back in Vancouver (at age sixteen), where she was enrolled in real-life high school.
“I survived for about two days. I am very dyslexic and just wasn’t a normal kid. And the kids were nasty to me. Well, not nasty, but just couldn’t relate. I wore all black and was really into punk and Goth and industrial music. And I just didn’t understand why you couldn’t smoke and have coffee in class. I kind of half dropped out and was half kicked out. I had this math teacher, and he looked like a cop on PCP, he had this red face with veins that would pop out of his neck. I don’t remember his name, which is too bad. Anyway, I just wouldn’t get math, and he was like, “What are you, retarded?” And I lost my temper and hucked my textbook at him, nailed him. I went home and told my mom I wasn’t doing this anymore, and she was like okay. I started doing correspondence classes but only made it to like grade nine. Traditional school just wasn’t for me. I have the attention span of a two-year-old.”
The Conclusion of Dinner/ A Brief Stop to Play Some Pool
We got miso soup last, which I find odd, yet somehow satisfying. Fairuza orders a bunch of California rolls and some shrimp to take home to her roommate and to give to the guy driving us around. She also asks to take home some of our leftover sushi. “I’m very big on taking home leftovers, ’cause I’ll always eat it.” she says. Obviously sated, she lets out one final moan and then decrees: “I’m in like sushi heaven. I was so stressed out, but now I feel perfect. I just want to go out and get fucked up and have a good time.” Then she tells me to finish my drink and suggests we go play some pool at a restaurant around the corner.
On our way there she mentions her semi-ex-boyfriend, British actor David Thewlis, by way of talking about how much she’d like to move from Los Angeles to New York, or perhaps London. She’s not especially keen on talking at all about Thewlis, whom she met on the set of “Dr. Moreau” and with whom she stars, along with her good friend Amanda Plummer, in “American Perfekt”. About Thewlis, she simply notes: “He’s fucking fantastic.” Then we go play some pool and drink some Heineken. We play three games; she wins two. Fairuza, like many attractive women, let alone actresses, plays with flair and looks good doing it. Both times I lose it is because I scratch on the eight ball. Go figure.
Live Music! With Harry Dean Stanton!
I had heard for years about the actor Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man, Wild at Heart, etc.) and his notoriously hip band. So, when Fairuza mentions him, they are actually playing on the very night of our date, and that she is actually a friend of Harry Dean’s, well, our fate is sealed. We both decided that we’d first have to ditch the photo crew, which wasn’t really a problem since our driver was French, and well, while they can’t fight a war worth a damn, Renaults or not, they sure can drive.
Harry Dean’s at a place called the Mint, which is a small wannabe dive that’s slightly less annoying than most of the other small wannabe dives in West Hollywood. The place is rocking to Harry Dean’s inebriated roadhouse-swing versions of various country-blues standards. (Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” is a particular highlight.) At one point, Fairuza cajoles me into trying to dance with her. This was a brief, but still painful, experience. Afterwards, I sit and soak up the show, which takes place as much offstage as on. Harry Dean has a minor gaggle of very good-looking, not un-groupie-ish women who apparently go to all his gigs. They dress revealing, dance suggestively, and ogle him adoringly. Fairuza fits in just fine. I drink whiskey in homage to Harry Dean, tap my toe, and think, yet again, about how much I wished I played guitar.
Some Other Things About Fairuza Balk That Might Not Make You a Better Person but You Really Ought To Know
She’s got a deep raspy, intimidating laugh. She reads a lot of psychology and is even about to quote some to me until she stops herself and says, “I don’t want this to sound like a lot of interviews where people are totally quoting books they’ve never read. I hate that, and women especially do it all the time. Have you noticed that? It’s like they just bought a book of quotations.” She’s glad she never went to high school. she sang at the Royal Albert Hall as a part of a choir when she was nine. She’s not a low-salt kind of person; she’s a “more is more is more kind of person.” She knows the difference between Vulcans and Romulans. She likes gory comics. She spends her money on restaurants, books and CDs, “in that order.” Yet, she often doesn’t remember to eat (“sometimes I get really lazy and just won’t want to deal,”) and she sometimes “lives off 7-Eleven burritos.” She says “fan-perfect,” which is like perfect and fantastic together, but better, sort of. She has met her dad only once but harbors no ill will toward him. She’s still very close to her mom. She would love to be Sharon Stone “for like a second.” She has just started working out again, and, secretly, she has always wanted to be a ballerina.
Oh, and her next movie is called “American History X”, a film about white supremacists, and she costars with Edward Norton and Edward Furlong. It comes out in July. She’s currently working in Orlando, Florida, filming “The Waterboy”, a Disney movie with Adam Sandler about a waterboy for a football team.
Back at Fairuza Balk’s House
After Harry Dean finishes up and the lights go on at the Mint, Fairuza and I get back in the car and head toward Venice. She thinks she might know of an after-hours-type place that would still serve us liquor, but we drive by and it’s closed. So we go back to her place, which is a very cute, little wooden house on a small block off the beach. Her roommate, Ann, is there with her friend John. Fairuza lights about fifteen candles as well as a fire in the fireplace then goes to her room to change. When she gets back, she’s in black leggings and a T-shirt, and she’s got glasses of Amaretto, which she likes a whole lot, for everybody. By this time we are all pretty drunk and are laughing quite heartily at things I can’t really remember. I think MTV may have been on and we were all making fun of it. Kind of like Beavis & Butthead, but, you know, much, much smarter and funnier. Soon after, I leave, with a hug, a friendly hug.*
Concluding and Possibly Meaningful/Revelatory Quote from Fairuza Balk
“Half of the people say they love me, and then half say they don’t want to deal with me ever again. I don’t know. You had fun though, right?”
* – Of course, I could be lying about this, forgoing any kind of cheap fame that comes with announcing a minor dalliance with a celebrity for the sake of seeming, uh, all gentleman-like. Really. Think about it.