Anne Heche, wide-ranging actress, dies at 53 after car crash

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Anne Hatch, an actress whose roles ranged from a White House aide in Wag the Dog to a Bates Motel stabbing victim in the Psycho remake, but who claims she was “blacklisted” by major studios projects in the late 1990s, after she and Ellen DeGeneres began becoming a same-sex celebrity couple, was taken off life support on August 14. She was 53.

Her death at a Los Angeles hospital was confirmed by her publicist Holly Baird. Ms Heche was hospitalized after she crashed her car into a house in the city’s Mar Vista neighborhood on August 5. The car was engulfed in flames and she was extricated from the vehicle with severe burns. According to a statement from one of her representatives released Friday, she suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and was declared brain dead and kept on life support so her organs could be donated.

An initial blood test found drugs in her system, Los Angeles police spokesman Tony Im told The Washington Post Thursday evening, but a full toxicology report is pending to determine if any substance was related to medical treatment.

Mrs. Hatch (pronounced “hesh”) first gained recognition in the 1990s in a supporting role as the beleaguered wife of an undercover cop (played by Johnny Depp) in the 1997 crime drama. Donnie Brasco and as a soundly wounded presidential staffer in political satire “Waving the Dog”, with Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro later that year. She often used her thin and sprite-like appearance to contrast the sharp edges of her dramatic characters and as a comedic asset while taking on quirky roles in rom-coms and other films.

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Her breakthrough came with leading roles in several films released in 1998 including “Six Days and Seven Nights”, in which she plays a New York journalist stranded on a deserted Pacific island with a small plane pilot (Harrison Ford) and “Psycho”, as con artist Marion Crane, whose stabbing death in the shower, with blood running down the drain, earned Janet Leigh a place in Hollywood fame in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 original.

Ms Hatch claims the film industry turned its back on her after her relationship with DeGeneres, a comedian who starred in the ABC sitcom “Ellen” went public just as Six Days began filming – although she praised Ford for standing by her and ensuring she remained in the cast.

She insisted on this opportunities for leading roles began to dry up due to the romance at a time when few celebrities who were gay felt comfortable discussing their sexuality openly. Ms. Heche, in a 2021 interview with the New York Post, said he felt like “patient zero in the cancellation culture.” DeGeneres’ Ellen was axed after the show’s character — and the real DeGeneres — came out as gay. Advertisers fled, ratings plummeted, and DeGeneres continued to host “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” a long-running talk and variety program.

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Ms. Heche and DeGeneres attended the 1997 premiere “Volcano,” in which Ms. Hatch plays a scientist trying to save Los Angeles from lava after a volcanic eruption. Ms Hatch claims they were advised not to attend as a couple by executives at US distributor Fox. They soon became in-demand stars at fundraisers and rallies for same-sex equality.

Ms. Heche and DeGeneres announced plans in 1999 for a civil union in Vermont if the state legalize the partnership, but they ended their relationship the following year. Mrs. Heche continued to marry cameraman Coleman “Cowley” Lafon in 2001. They divorced in 2009.

“I was part of a revolution that created social change,” Ms. Heche said Mr. Warburton magazine in 2020, “and I couldn’t do that without falling in love [DeGeneres].”

At times, Ms. Heche made headlines for unusual behavior that she attributed to psychological problems caused by her father, an organist and choirmaster, whom she accused of sexually abusing her. Ms Hatch’s mother, Nancy, and sister, Abigail, denied any such abuse had taken place. (Ms. Heche’s father died in 1983 of what she described as AIDS-related causes.)

In August 2000, Ms. Heche wandered the desert outside Fresno, California, wearing only a bra, shorts and sneakers, and ended up knocking on the door of a house. Eventually the police were called and according to Ms. Heche television station KSEEoffered a rambling statement that included references to a spaceship trip to heaven.

In her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, she described creating alter egos, including one as Jesus Christ’s half-sister named “Celestia,” as a way to deal with her inner demons. On CNN “Larry King Live” in 2001, she said she felt “crazy” for 31 years before finding “peace and balance.” Not even her therapist knew about her struggles, she said.

“I was raised to always tell everyone that everything was fine,” she said, “and even though I’d been in therapy for years, I never told anyone that I had another personality. I never told anyone that I heard voices and talked to God. I never told anyone any of this.

Ann Celeste Hatch was born in Aurora, Ohio, on May 25, 1969, the youngest of five children in a family that, according to Ms. Hatch’s accounts, moved frequently and often did not have enough money for rent and things of first necessity.

She said Daily Telegraph that when she was 12, the family was forced to live for a time in a room at the home of a member of their church congregation in Ocean City, New Jersey. During this time, she got a job at a hamburger stand on the boardwalk.

“That’s where I first became an actress,” she said Suburban Life Magazine. “I literally started singing about my dinner, right on the boardwalk. I was flipping burgers and singing songs to get people to come to our booth.”

After moving to Chicago as a teenager, an agent spots Ms. Hatch in a play at the Francis W. Parker School and asks her to bring her to New York for daytime soap opera auditions. Her mother insisted she finish high school, Ms. Heche recalled.

The day after graduation, she landed a double role at NBC “Another world” playing identical twins Vicki Hudson (creepy) and Marley Love (straight) from 1987 to 1991

Ms. Hatch has rarely been without a role or project since the 1990s, appearing in dozens of films and television shows and several Broadway productions, including with Alec Baldwin in “Twentieth Century.” She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her portrayal of the narcissistic and glamorous leading lady.

She has appeared in many independent films. In 2004, Ms. Heche played a supporting role in “Birth” alongside Nicole Kidman, about a woman who believes her dead husband has reincarnated as a 10-year-old boy. In the 2016 black comedy “Catfight”, Mrs. Heche and Sandra Oh portray feuding rivals locked for life in dirty tricks and settling grievances.

In addition to Mrs. Heche’s mother and sister, survivors include a son, Homer, from her marriage to Laffoon, and another son, Atlas, from a relationship with actor James Tupper.

In a life marked by hardship, Ms. Heche expressed a lasting regret that she never had the opportunity to attend college. But she found satisfaction and fulfillment in her work.

“My training base at school was at the best acting school,” she said in an interview interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” in 2000. “There’s nothing better than working five days a week and being in front of the camera every day.”