Anne Heche, the Emmy-winning film and television actor whose dramatic Hollywood rise in the 1990s and accomplished career contrasted with personal chapters of turmoil, has died of injuries from a fiery car crash. She was 53.
Spokeswoman Holly Baird said Sunday night that Heche had “been peacefully taken off life support.”
Heche had been considered legally dead under California law since Friday, though she still had a heartbeat and was kept on life support to preserve her organs so they could be donated, Baird said.
Under current California law, death can be determined by the loss of all brain function and in accordance with accepted medical standards.
Heche’s Mini Cooper sped out of control, plowed into a house and burst into flames on Aug. 5.
Heche, who starred in the movies Donnie Brasco, Wag The Dog and I Know What You Did Last Summer, struggled for decades with the fallout from a troubled childhood and was part of a groundbreaking same-sex couple in the 1990s.
Winner of a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991 for her roles as identical twin sisters in the NBC soap opera Another World, Heche starred in the 1998 adventure comedy Six Days Seven Nights with Harrison Ford and played alongside Demi Moore and Cher in the HBO TV movie If These Walls Could Talk.
She became one half of Hollywood’s most famous same-sex couple at the time when she dated comedian and actress Ellen DeGeneres.
Against the wishes of her studio, Heche came out publicly at the 1997 red carpet premiere for disaster flick Volcano, taking DeGeneres along as her date.
The pair were together for more than three years before Heche ended the relationship.
In an interview with Page Six entertainment website in October 2021, Heche said she was “blacklisted” by Hollywood because of her relationship with DeGeneres.
Heche’s delicate elfin look belied her strength on screen. When she won the National Board of Review’s 1997 best supporting actress award, the board cited the one-two punch of Donnie Brasco and the political satire Wag the Dog, in which Heche portrayed a cynical White House aide and held her own against film great Robert De Niro.
Heche also utilized her apparent fragility. In 2002 she starred on Broadway in the play Proof as a woman fearful of losing her sanity just like her father, a brilliant mathematics professor. An Associated Press review praised her “touching performance, vulnerable yet funny, particularly when Catherine mocks the suspicions about her mental stability.”
“I didn’t do a studio picture for 10 years. I was fired from a $10 million picture deal and did not see the light of day in a studio picture.”
In 2001, she married Coleman Laffoon, a cameraman. After the couple divorced, Heche began a long-term relationship with actor James Tupper which ended in 2018.
‘It’s a crazy life’
Heche was born in Aurora, Ohio, on May 25, 1969, and was the youngest of five children. At age 13, she was shocked by her father’s death from AIDS and from the revelation that he had had secret gay relationships.
“He was in complete denial until the day he died,” Heche told CNN’s Larry King in 2001. She said in 1998 that his death taught her that the most important thing in life is to tell the truth.
Her brother Nathan died three months after their father in a car crash.
Heche said her father raped her as a child, causing her mental health struggles for decades after, including frequent fantasies that she was from another planet.
“I’m not crazy,” Heche told ABC News in 2001 on the release of her book Call Me Crazy: A Memoir.
“But it’s a crazy life. I was raised in a crazy family and it took 31 years to get the crazy out of me.”
Heche’s mother Nancy denied her daughter’s claim that she knew about the sexual abuse, calling it “lies and blasphemies” and her sister Abigail has said she believes the “memories regarding our father are untrue.”
She said that Heche had cast doubt herself on her own memories of that time.
Later in her career, Heche starred as a senior member of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the NBC TV series The Brave and appeared on competition show Dancing With The Stars in late 2020.
Heche is survived by her two sons, Atlas and Homer.