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Thora Birch Plays Icy Killer in ‘Winter of Frozen Dreams’

16 Mar, 2009 By: Billy Gil

Thora Birch Winter of Frozen Dreams

Actress Thora Birch has carved a place for herself in film by moving from child star — in such films as Hocus Pocus and Now and Then — to playing troubled young women in dark comedies American Beauty and Ghost World. Her latest role is as convicted murderer Barbara Hoffman in the true-crime drama Winter of Frozen Dreams, out May 5 (prebook April 7) at $26.95 from Monterey Video.

Based on the book Winter of Frozen Dreams: The True Story of Passion, Greed and Murder in Madison, Wisconsin, by Karl Harter, the film tells the story of Hoffman, a biochemistry student and a prostitute. Hoffman was convicted of the murder of one man and tried for the murder of another — both men were her clients, and both left her money in their wills.

Hoffman denied murdering the two men and has since remained silent on the matter.

“The book is very detailed and very good,” Birch said of researching the role of Hoffman. “The most helpful thing was her silence in and of itself. To me that said a lot about her and where she was coming from.”

Birch welcomed the challenge of portraying Hoffman and does so in an appropriately complex manner: calm, collected and with a wicked smile and sense of humor.

“I thought it would be a great challenge because I had no idea what I was doing,” Birch said. “As an actor, that’s what I respond to the most. If something seems impossible, that’s pretty much what I’m going to want to do.”

Birch said she felt sympathy for Hoffman, who is portrayed in the film as ambiguously guilty but also a misunderstood woman for her time and surroundings.

“I don’t know the ins and outs, and [no one knows] for sure what happened,” Birch said. “But there are some strong fact-guided speculations. … I can’t say for myself this is what happened but … I think if Barbara Hoffman was the same Barbara Hoffman going to school now, her life would be a little different because there are more opportunities for super scary smart women now than there were in the middle ’70s.

“If she was a victim of anything, she was a victim of her time. … She was someone psychologists like to study in that she was an insanely intelligent person that made really dumb decisions.”

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