Anne Heche Taken Off Life Support, Rep Says; Dies at 53

Anne Heche Taken Off Life Support, Rep Says; Dies at 53

Anne Heche, who starred in such films as Donnie Brasco, Volcano and Wag the Dog and on TV shows including Men in Trees and Hung during a troubled life and career, was taken off life support Sunday night, her rep announced.

Heche, 53, had spent several days in a coma at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills (California) Hospital and Medical Center after her Mini Cooper ran off the road Aug. 5 and smashed into a two-story home in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles, causing “structural compromise and erupting in heavy fire,” the L.A. Fire Department said.

She was taken from her vehicle and hospitalized in critical condition, and it took nearly 60 firefighters more than an hour to extinguish the blaze.

Heche suffered burns and a severe anoxic brain injury in the crash. Later, she was determined to be brain dead — legally dead, according to California law — but had been kept on life support so that OneLegacy, an organ procurement organization, could see if she was a match for organ donation, her rep, Holly Baird, said.

“Anne Heche has been peacefully taken off life support,” Baird said Sunday night in a statement. 

A statement released Friday on behalf of her family and friends called Heche “a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother and a loyal friend. Anne will be deeply missed, but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact.”

In 1997 alone, Heche stood out as Maggie, the wife of Johnny Depp’s undercover FBI agent, in Mike Newell’s Donnie Brasco; as California seismologist Amy Barnes opposite Tommy Lee Jones and Don Cheadle in the disaster film Volcano; as presidential aide Winifred Ames in Barry Levinson’s black comedy Wag the Dog; and as Missy Egan alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar in the slasher flick I Know What You Did Last Summer.

A year later, Heche continued her hot streak, starring in the Ivan Reitman action adventure Six Days Seven Nights (1998) alongside Harrison Ford; in the romantic drama Return to Paradise (1998) with Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix; and as Marion Crane in Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho (1998).

She first came to fame as a teenager when she portrayed twins on the NBC soap opera Another World, earning a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991.

Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in 1998’s ‘Six Days Seven Nights.’

Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection

Heche was the subject of headlines for her romantic relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, whom she dated from 1997 until they split in August 2000. A day after their breakup, she knocked on a stranger’s door in Fresno, California, and was taken to a hospital, with authorities noting she appeared confused.

“I had a fantasy world that I escaped to,” she told Barbara Walters in 2001. “I called my other personality Celestia. I believed I was from that world. I believed I was from another planet. I think I was insane.”

With her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, she opened up about mental-health struggles and described incidents of childhood sexual abuse.

The youngest of five children, Anne Celeste Heche was born May 25, 1969, in Aurora, Ohio. Her family moved often when she was young and lived for a time in an Amish community. 

Her first professional gig came in a New Jersey dinner theater production of The Music Man at age 12.

“I got $100 a week, which was more than anyone else in my family,” she told The Telegraph in 2012. “We all pooled our money in an envelope in a drawer and saved up enough to move out after a year.”

In March 1983, her father, Don, died of AIDS. (In a 2001 interview with The Advocate, she called him a “sexual deviant” and said he had raped her until she was 12.) Three months after his death, her 18-year-old brother, Nathan, was killed in a car crash.

(Her sister Cynthia had already died of a heart defect, and another sister, Susan, would die of brain cancer in 2006.) 

While acting in a play at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, Heche was spotted by an agent and sent to New York for an audition. A year later, she accepted the dual role of Vicky and Marley Hudson on Another World and remained with the soap opera through 1991.

She and Steve Martin dated for a couple of years before she met DeGeneres; she said her relationship with the future talk show host led Fox to terminate her multimillion-dollar movie deal.

On Friday, DeGeneres wrote on Twitter: “This is a sad day. I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.”

Heche recurred as teacher Melanie West on ABC’s Ally McBeal in 2001 and received a Primetime Emmy nomination for her turn in the 2004 Lifetime telefilm Gracie’s Choice.

She played relationship coach Marin Frist on the Alaska-set ABC romantic comedy-drama Men in Trees for two seasons (2006-08) and former beauty queen Jessica Haxon on HBO’s Hung for three seasons (2009-11).

Her TV résumé also included EverwoodSave MeThe Michael J. Fox ShowDigAftermathThe BraveChicago P.D. and, as police union lawyer Corrine Cuthbert in All Rise.

On the big screen, she was in The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993) — as Mary Jane Wilks — James L. Brooks’ I’ll Do Anything (1994), Milk Money (1994), The Juror (1996), Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking (1996), John Q (2002), Cedar Rapids (2011), Opening Night (2016), The Best of Enemies (2019) and lots more.

Heche earned excellent reviews when she made her Broadway debut in 2002 at age 33 as a replacement actor in Proof and earned a Tony nomination for her 2004 performance opposite Alec Baldwin in a revival of Twentieth Century.

In 2020, she competed on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and began hosting a podcast, Better Together, with her good friend Heather Duffy.

Heche will be seen next month in the Lifetime movie Girl in Room 13, in which she stars as a mother in search of her daughter, a human trafficking victim. Director Elisabeth Rohm said the actor gave a “phenomenal” performance in it. “We talked every day about our mission” to portray the realities of trafficking accurately, Rohm added.

Her other upcoming projects listed on IMDb include Wake with Kathy Baker, Full Ride with Dermot MulroneySupercell with Baldwin and Skeet Ulrich and Chasing Nightmares with Graham McTavish.

Heche filmed a recurring part on the forthcoming HBO series The Idol, set in the music industry, but her character was written out when the show was retooled.

Soon after she and DeGeneres broke up, she married cameraman Coleman Laffoon in 2001, and they welcomed a son, Homer, before divorcing in 2007.

She later had another son, Atlas, with longtime partner James Tupper, whom she began dating after they first met on Men in Trees. She and the Canadian actor ended things in 2018.

Homer, 20, told THR in a statement on Friday: “After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom.”

In her interview with Walters, Heche said she wrote her book “to say goodbye, once and for all, to my story of shame and embrace my life choice of love. The fact that there are people hearing my story is the icing on the most beautiful cake in the world that I imagine says, ‘Happy freedom, Anne. You have made it to the other side.’”

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