LOS ANGELES — Anne Heche, the Emmy-winning film and television actor whose dramatic Hollywood rise in the 1990s and completed career contrasted with personal chapters of turmoil, died of injuries from a fiery car accident. She was 53.
Heche was “peacefully taken off the ventilator,” spokeswoman Holly Baird said in a statement Sunday night.
Heche was on a ventilator at a Los Angeles burn center after she suffered a “severe anoxic brain injury” caused by a lack of oxygen when her car crashed into a home on Aug. 5, according to a statement released Thursday by a representative on behalf of her family and friends.
She was pronounced brain dead on Friday but was kept on a ventilator in case her organs could be donated, a assessment that took nine days. In the US, most organ transplants are performed after such a determination.
Born in Ohio, whose family moved across the country, Heche endured a violent and tragic childhood, one that prompted her to act as a way to escape her own life. Showing enough promise early on to be offered professional work in high school, she first rose to prominence in the NBC soap opera “Another World” from 1987 to 1991, winning a Daytime Emmy Award for the role of the twins Marley. and Vicky Hudson, who show persistent injuries expected from Heche: Vicky falls into a coma for months after a car accident.
By the late 1990s, Heche was one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, a constant on magazine covers and in big-budget movies. In 1997 alone, she starred opposite Johnny Depp as his wife in “Donnie Brasco” and Tommy Lee Jones in “Volcano” and was part of the cast in the original “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
The following year, she starred with Ford in “Six Days, Seven Nights” and appeared with Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix in “Return to Paradise.” She also played one of cinema’s most famous murder victims, Marion Crane of “Psycho,” in Gus Van Sant’s remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, and co-starred in the indie favorite “Walking and Talking.”
Around the same time, her personal life led to even greater fame, and both personal and professional upheaval. She met Ellen DeGeneres at a Vanity Fair Oscar party in 1997, fell in love and began a 3-year relationship that made it one of Hollywood’s first openly gay couples. But Heche later said her career was damaged by an industry wary of casting her in lead roles. She recalled advisers opposing her decision to let DeGeneres accompany her to the “Volcano” premiere.
“We were tapped on the shoulder, put in her limousine in Act 3 and told not to have our photos taken at the press meeting,” Heche said on the Irish Goodbye podcast in 2018.
After she and DeGeneres broke up, Heche had a public breakdown and spoke candidly about her mental health issues.
Heche’s subtly elfin look belied her on-screen strength. When she won the National Board of Review’s Best Supporting Actress award in 1997, the board named the one-two punch of “Donnie Brasco” and the political satire “Wag the Dog,” in which Heche portrayed a cynical White House aide. and her man stood. against movie great Robert De Niro.
Heche also effectively appealed to her apparent vulnerability. In 2002, she starred on Broadway in the play “Proof” as a woman who was afraid of losing her mind, like her father, a brilliant math professor. An Associated Press review praised her “touching performance, vulnerable yet funny, especially when Catherine makes fun of suspicions about her mental stability.”
In the fall of 2000, shortly after her split from DeGeneres, Heche was hospitalized after knocking on a stranger’s door in a rural area near Fresno, California. According to authorities, she was shocked and disoriented and spoke incoherently with the residents.
In a memoir released the following year, “Call Me Crazy,” Heche spoke of her lifelong battles. During a 2001 interview with TV journalist Barbara Walters, Heche recounted in painful detail the alleged sexual abuse by her father, Donald Heche, who claimed to be devoutly religious and died in 1983 of complications from AIDS. Heche described her suffering as so extreme that she developed a distinct personality and imagined that she was descended from another planet.
In the last days of his life, Heche said, she learned that he was secretly gay and that she believed his inability to live honestly fueled his anger and hurtful behavior. No longer did her father die, her brother Nathan – one of her four siblings – died in a car accident.
“I’m not crazy. But it’s a crazy life. I grew up in a crazy family and it took 31 years to get the crazy out of me,” Heche told Walters. In an effort to escape the past, ‘I drank. I smoked. I’ve been on drugs. I had sex with people. I did everything I could to banish the shame from my life.”
Heche dated Steve Martin in the 1990s and is widely believed to have inspired the childish yet ambitious aspiring actor played by Heather Graham in his Hollywood parody “Bowfinger.” She later had a son with cinematographer Coleman Laffoon, whom she was married to from 2001 to 2009. She had another son while dating actor James Tupper, her co-star on the TV series “Men In Trees.”
Heche has consistently worked in smaller films, on Broadway and in TV shows for the past two decades. She recently had recurring roles on the network series “Chicago PD” and “All Rise”, and in 2020 she was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars”.