Anne Heche, the star of Six Days Seven Nights Donnie Brasco, Wag the Dog and a Daytime Emmy-winning TV actress who was equally comfortable in everything from heavy dramas to sitcoms to romantic comedies, has been taken off life support. She was 53.
Declared brain dead several days ago, following her Aug. 5 fiery car crash in Los Angeles, Heche had been left on a ventilator with her heart beating so she could be evaluated for organ donation. Multiple organs were scheduled to be harvested this afternoon.
“Anne Heche has been peacefully taken off life support,” a rep for the actor said Sunday evening.
Heche sustained severe injuries when her car jumped a curb and careened into a house in West L.A., where it burst into flames. She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. After Heche was pronounced brain dead earlier this week following tests that did not detect brain activity, her family on Thursday made the difficult decision to take her off life support after any viable organs could be donated if a match was found.
On Friday, her family and friend released the following statement:
“We have lost 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.”
Heche first gained national prominence when she played twins Victoria “Vicky” Carson and Marley Love on NBC’s soap Another World from 1987-91, roles that earned her the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actress in 1991 and after nomination in 1989. She then won praise opposite Catherine Keener in Nicole Hofcenter’s buzzy indie film Walking and Talking.
By the late ‘90s, Heche had graduated to studio projects opposite A-list co-stars such as Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco, Tommy Lee Jones in Volcano, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro in Wag the Dog and Harrison Ford in Six Days, Seven Nights.
Still, Heche said leading roles weren’t the be-all, end-all of her professional ambitions.
“My goal has always been to play different parts, to change around a lot, to be a character actress,” she said in 1998 before the release of Six Days, Seven Nights, which went on to gross $164.9 million worldwide.
On the small screen, Heche had multi-episode arcs on Ally McBeal, Everwood and Nip/Tuck in the early 2000s. Her role in the 2004 Lifetime telepic Gracie’s Choice earned Heche a Primetime Emmy nom for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
In 1997, she won the National Board of Review Award for Supporting Actress for her roles in Wag the Dog and Donnie Brasco. She received GLAAD’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which is given to an openly LGBT member of the entertainment or media community for their work toward eliminating homophobia.
Heche was equally at home on Broadway, where she starred in Proof from 2000-2002. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn today called Heche’s work in that production “Honest to God, I think maybe the best acting performance I’ve ever seen in my life.” She also starred in Twentieth Century in 2004.
Honest to God, I think maybe the best acting performance I’ve ever seen in my life was Anne Heche in PROOF on Broadway. #RIP
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) August 12, 2022
Her personal life fell under a microscope when she dated Ellen DeGeneres from 1997-2000. She later was married to Coleman “Coley” Laffoon from 2001-07. The duo had one child, a son named Homer. She later had a second son, Atlas, with her Men in Trees co-star James Tupper, from whom she split in 2018.
Homer, 20, also expressed his sadness at his mother’s passing today in a statement.
“My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” he said. “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.”
He continued: “Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time.
“Rest In Peace Mom, I love you,” he added.
Heche spoke openly about her personal troubles.
In 2000, after wandering through the desert outside Fresno, CA, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital, from which she was released shortly thereafter. Promoting her memoir Call Me Crazy in 2001, Heche detailed her mental health issues, growing up in a chaotic household and what she said was childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father, who died in 1985.
“I think the main thing I learned from my upbringing is that pain can be transformed into joy,” Heche said in 1998. “If I could get through that pain and be as joyous as I am now, I’m an example of just how anything difficult can become pleasurable.”
This past June, Heche signed on to Lifetime’s Girl in Room 13, which is set to premiere this fall. She was also set to star opposite Dermot Mulroney in Full Ride, an upcoming horror-thriller, and was to recur in All Rise on OWN. Heche most recently starred in the Peter Facinelli-directed psychological thriller The Vanished for Netflix, as well as Quiver’s tornado thriller 13 Minutes.
Heche made her professional acting debut at age 12 in a dinner theater production of The Music Man. Getting the job was, for her, about necessity as much as art. She was one of five kids, and her family at that point had moved 11 times in as many years.
“At the time we’d been kicked out of our house and my family was holed up living in a bedroom in the home of a generous family from our church,” she remembered. “I got $100 a week, which was more than anyone else in my family. We all pooled our money in an envelope in a drawer and saved up enough to move out after a year.”
Heche discovered an emotional payoff in acting, as well.
“I found heaven on that stage,” she said. “I’d been given an opportunity to experience a life and a joy that was not in my family.”