Anne Heche, the Emmy and Tony-nominated actor with a history of mental health struggles, died Friday of injuries sustained in a high-speed car crash on August 5 that left her in a coma and in “extreme critical condition,” according to her representative. She was 53.
Heche, best known for her breakout role as good and evil twins on the soap opera, Another World, and for such films as Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, Nicole Holofcener’s Walking and Talking, and Mike Newell’s Donnie Brasco, crashed her Mini Cooper into a two-story home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Mar Vista, the Los Angeles Fire Department reported. “Fifty-nine firefighters took 65 minutes to access, confine and fully extinguish the stubborn flames within the heavily damaged structure, and rescue one female adult found within the vehicle, who has been taken to an area hospital by LAFD Paramedics in critical condition,” the LAFD statement said. On August 12, her friends and family released an update about her condition, saying that Heche was “not expected to survive” the crash.
Following the crash, actors took to social media. James Tupper, Heche’s former partner and the father of one of her two children, Atlas, posted his “Thoughts and prayers for this lovely woman, actress and mother.” Alec Baldwin, who appeared with Heche in the thriller The Juror and later on Broadway in the 2004 comedy Twentieth Century, for which Heche was nominated for a Tony, posted on Instagram, “There’s not a lot of women I’ve worked with that are brave in the way that Anne is brave…. She would do anything; she would do anything…she was very original…. I love you, Anne. I love you. I think you’re such a talented person and I hope everything is OK; I hope you come through this.”
Heche’s bravery was forged through overcoming a traumatic childhood that she chronicled in her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, in which she said she was sexually abused as a young girl by her closeted father, who died of AIDS in 1983. In a 2001 interview with Barbara Walters, she revealed, “I had a fantasy world that I escaped to. I called my other personality Celestia. I believed I was from another planet. I think I was insane.”
In another interview to promote the book, she told Larry King that she felt schizophrenic, but that she didn’t tell anybody. “I was a perfect hider,” she said. “I was raised to hide. I was raised to pretend. I was raised to always tell everybody that everything was fine, and even though I was in therapy for years, I never told anybody that I had another personality. I never told anybody that I heard voices and spoke to God. I never told anybody any of it.”
There was no hiding when she met Ellen DeGeneres in 1997 at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. “I saw the most ravishing woman I had ever seen in my life standing across the room,” she told Walters. “Her name was Ellen DeGeneres. She was radiating. I think at certain times in people’s lives, you just radiate an energy and a glow of fabulousness. And that was her. I had never seen anybody so lit up.”
Heche, who had been in relationships with Steve Martin and Lindsey Buckingham, became tabloid fodder and was accused of being a publicity-seeking opportunist. But the relationship, which lasted three and a half years, apparently had the opposite impact on her career. While a contestant in 2020 on Dancing With the Stars, Heche said that after bringing DeGeneres as her date to the premiere of her film Volcano she was fired from her multimillion-dollar picture deal and didn’t work in a studio film for a decade.