Anne Heche, actress known for ’90s film roles, dies at 53
By Richard Sandomir
Anne Heche, an actress who was as well known for her roles in films like “Six Days, Seven Nights” and “Donnie Brasco” as for her personal life, which included a three-year romance with comedian Ellen DeGeneres, died Sunday in Los Angeles, nine days after she was in a devastating car crash there. She was 53.
Her death was announced by a representative, Holly Baird, who said late Sunday in an email that Heche had been “peacefully taken off life support.”
Heche was critically injured Aug. 5 when a Mini Cooper she was driving crashed into a two-story home in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, causing a fire that took firefighters more than an hour to extinguish. Heche, who was alone in the car, suffered burns and a severe anoxic brain injury, caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police said the department was continuing to investigate whether drug use contributed to the crash.
A statement released by her publicist on behalf of her family Thursday night said Heche had remained in a coma at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital in Los Angeles.
“It has long been her choice to donate her organs, and she is being kept on life support to determine if any are viable,” the statement said.
On Friday, a representative said Heche had been declared brain-dead Thursday night.
Heche was a soap opera star before she became known to movie audiences. In the late 1980s, soon after she graduated from high school, she joined the cast of the daytime drama “Another World,” where she played the good and evil twins Vicky Hudson and Marley Love. She won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991 for outstanding younger actress in a drama series.
By the mid-1990s, she was a rising star in Hollywood. She played Catherine Keener’s best friend in “Walking and Talking” (1996); Johnny Depp’s wife in “Donnie Brasco” (1997); a presidential aide in the political satire “Wag the Dog” (1997), with Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro; and a fashion magazine editor who crash-lands on a South Seas island in an airplane piloted by Harrison Ford in “Six Days, Seven Nights” (1998).
“Romantic comedies don’t get more formulaic than this bouncing-screwball valentine, but they don’t get much more delightful, either,” Rita Kempley wrote in her review of “Six Days, Seven Nights” in The Washington Post. “The same goes for Heche and Ford as squabbling opposites drawn together during this tropical adventure.”
Heche began a relationship with DeGeneres in 1997, at a time when same-sex relationships in Hollywood were not fully accepted. The relationship became widely known in April of that year when they appeared, hand in hand, at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington. A few days later, DeGeneres’ character on her sitcom, “Ellen,” came out as gay.
Heche’s decision to reveal that she was in a lesbian relationship, The New York Times wrote, “confronted Hollywood with a highly delicate problem: how to deal with a gay actress whose career has been built on playing heterosexual roles.”
After that relationship ended, Heche married and later divorced a man, Coleman Laffoon, with whom she had a son, Homer. She also had a son, Atlas Heche Tupper, from her relationship with actor James Tupper.
Complete information on her survivors was not immediately available.
Heche told The New York Post in 2021 that she had been “blacklisted” in Hollywood because of her relationship with DeGeneres.
“I didn’t do a studio picture for 10 years,” she was quoted as saying. “I was fired from a $10 million picture deal and did not see the light of day in a studio picture.”
She appeared on Broadway in the play “Proof” from 2002 until it closed in 2003, then in the 2004 revival of “Twentieth Century,” the 1932 comedy about a Broadway producer (Alec Baldwin) who, as a passenger on the Twentieth Century Limited train, meets a former discovery, Lily Garland (Heche), who has become a Hollywood star. The role earned Heche a Tony Award nomination for best performance by a leading actress in a play.
She appeared most recently in the films “The Vanished” (2020), a psychological thriller, and “13 Minutes” (2021), which centers on a tornado, as well as several episodes of the courtroom drama “All Rise.”
Anne Celeste Heche was born May 25, 1969, in Aurora, Ohio, to Nancy and Donald Heche. Her father was an evangelical Christian and, it turned out, a closeted gay man. Her first acting role was in a New Jersey dinner theater production of “The Music Man,” which paid her $100 a week.
In 1983, after her father died of AIDS, her mother became a Christian therapist and lectured on behalf of James Dobson’s organization Focus on the Family about “overcoming” homosexuality.
Heche wrote in her 2001 memoir, “Call Me Crazy,” about being sexually abused by her father, and about her mother’s denial of that abuse. She said that when she called her mother after years of therapy to confront her about it, her mother ended the conversation by saying, “Jesus loves you, Anne,” before hanging up.
“People wonder why I am so forthcoming with the truths that have happened in my life,” Heche said in an interview with the Times in 2009. “And it’s because the lies that I have been surrounded with and the denial that I was raised in, for better or worse, bore a child of truth and love.”
In 2018, she said she had been fired from a job at Miramax when she refused to give oral sex to Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced film magnate who founded the company with his brother, Bob, and who was accused of sexual assault by dozens of women. He was convicted of two felony sex crimes in 2020 and is serving a 23-year prison sentence.
“If I wasn’t sexually abused as a child, I don’t know if I would have had the strength to stand up to Harvey — and many others, by the way,” she told the podcast “Allegedly … With Theo Von & Matthew Cole Weiss.” “It was not just Harvey, and I will say that.”