Anne Heche- "...tell the truth. Nothing else is worth anything."
As representatives of the actress announced that she had suffered an irrevocable brain injury, ICFH looks at the actress's work and controversial professional life.
Note: As of this blog posting, actress Anne Heche was still alive. Her reps had just announced they did not expect her to survive the car crash she was involved with on Friday, August 5, 2022. They stated that "It has long been her choice to donate her organs and she is being kept on life support to determine if any are viable."
Anne Heche began her career with the impressive portrayal of twin sisters Marley Love and Vicky Hudson on the soap opera Another World (1987-1991). Her performance earned her a Daytime Emmy Award, among other accolades during her stint on the popular soap, but her breakout year in film happened in 1997.
With a turn as Maggie Pistone, wife of Johhny Depp in Donnie Brasco (1997), Dr. Amy Barnes, aide-de-camp to Tommy Lee Jones in Volcano (1997), and Winifred Ames, a questionable "aid" to the President of the United States in Barry Levinson's Wag the Dog (1997), Heche was on track to becoming the next big name on the lips of the People magazine crowd.
One day after she was cast in her first starring role opposite Harrison Ford in Six Days, Seven Nights (1998), her manager announced to the world that Heche was in a loving relationship with comedian Ellen Degeneres and was planning to marry. Her new manager, that is. Having fired her former manager after he suggested she not go public with her newfound love, she immediately hired DeGeneres' representation. The public announcement went ahead as planned. Heche and DeGeneres had had a whirlwind 30-day courtship since meeting at The Oscars in March 1997 and appearing on Oprah in April that same year.
Despite her red hot buzz, Anne Heche's social news was a career killer. Before same-sex marriage was a yawn inducer on TMZ, in the world of 1997, it was a shocker. Audiences were not keen on watching Heche neck with Harrison Ford on a deserted island after seeing photos of her necking with her soon-to-be wife. Six Days, Seven Nights suffered because of it (some may argue it would have suffered regardless), and as a direct result, Heche's stretch as a featured actress was dead on arrival.
Anne Heche's personal life overshadowed her professional one as her three-year relationship with DeGeneres ended in 2000 and was detailed to an excruciating degree in the gossip mags. It was reported that Heche left DeGeneres for a cameraman that had worked on the comedienne's recent tour. Heche married said cameraman, had a child and divorced six years later. Heche married for a second time, had another child, and as of this writing, was legally separated from that husband.
Instead of focusing on the juicy tidbits that helped the tabloids derail Anne Heche's chances of becoming a box office A-lister, I would like to focus on her performances.
It is not for nothing that Variety recognized her for her turn as Maggie Pistone in the 1997 box office hit Donnie Brasco. Heche played a part that could have been phoned-in by any other competent actress of the time, but she brought something more to the role. Believability. Although her screentime is scant in the mob epic, she sells the character and makes the audience believe she loves her undercover husband and is perhaps the only character anchored in reality in the film.
If reality is the anchor for Anne Heche in Donnie Brasco, then she also displays an ability to live within alternate realities within the same calendar year.
Witness, Volcano (1997), where Heche plays Dr. Amy Barnes. A not unappealing egg-head that spends an equal amount of time trying to convince Tommy Lee Jones that a volcanic eruption in Los Angeles is imminent while also seemingly attempting to pretend she is attracted to his character. Both are outstanding achievements in cinematic history.
Waxing creative about Volcano isn't possible, as it is apparent Lee Jones took the role for a paycheck. Still, Heche is given an excellent opportunity to show what she can do in an actioner, not to mention being able to remember all that seismologist gobbledygook we audiences seem to eat up and relate to.
If 1997 was Heche's break-out year, then Wag the Dog (1998) was her highlight. Sandwiched between two icons of the silver screen, Anne Heche didn't look out of place trading barbs and bon mots with the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro. She looked like she belonged there, and it is perhaps this role I recall better than any other of her. Not once in 97 minutes do you say to yourself, "what is she doing." She wholly owns that role, which is nothing short of astounding, considering the role was initially written for a male.
Anne Heche would make headlines again in 1998, but this time not for her off-screen frolics.
Director Gus Van Sant cast her in his shot-for-shot remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho. The critics dumped all over the unnecessary remake, but they were also kind primarily to Heche's portrayal of Marion Crane. A character made famous by Janet Leigh in the 1960 original. A feather in Heche's cap in an otherwise milquetoast remake.
Other gossip mag scandals followed Anne Heche over the years. Most notably, a mental health crisis in 2000 that made headlines. These incidents would ultimately take over our mindset when the topic of Anne Heche is approached. There is no doubt, however it came about, that Heche suffered from mental illness. She addressed the issue in her book Call Me Crazy (2001) and was very candid about her story and her upbringing at that time and since.
Whatever the cause of the Friday, August 5, 2022, accident that Anne Heche allegedly caused, I feel like her work in film will be forgotten, despite how well she performed. As is usually the case, the tragic end overpowers the films. This is just as true today as it ever was.
But, Anne Heche had that "something." She had the look and the talent at a time just right for an actor like her to break out. Unfortunately, it was also a time of unbelievable ignorance on the part of the people and the press. Now, at the end of her career, I would like everyone to watch her performance in Wag the Dog (1998) and see what I saw some 24 years ago.
A real movie star. On the rise.
Rest in Peace
Anne Heche (1969-2022)