Anne Heche, star of “Six Days, Seven Nights” and an early LGBT role model for openly dating TV host Ellen DeGeneres in the 1990s, died Friday from injuries she sustained in a horrific car crash a week before. She was 53.
Her death was first noted by friend Nancy Davis, who posted a tribute on Instagram Friday morning. TMZ later reported that she was brain-dead, which is legally considered dead in California. A rep for Heche confirmed to TheWrap that she had no brain function, but had no update as to whether she was still on life support.
Before she was formally declared dead, her representatives said in a statement released Thursday that the actress was unlikely to survive due to severe brain injuries. With her heart still beating, she was kept on life support for several hours after that diagnosis, while doctors determined if any of her organs were viable to be donated as per her wishes.
On Friday, Aug. 5, I crashed her car into a residence in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista neighborhood, doing significant damage and setting the structure ablaze. No one else was hurt, though the homeowner was in the back yard and later said she had been mildly injured.
Firefighters struggled to douse the flames for several excruciating minutes while Heche sat pinned in the charred and rumpled vehicle, which was finally yanked out by a giant LAFD crane. In a bizarre moment that played out on live TV, Heche sprang from her covering and restraints as firefighters loaded the gurney into an ambulance.
Heche was only briefly conscious however; she soon slipped into a coma, where she remained until her death.
Police opened a DUI investigation as Heche struggled to hold on, saying Thursday that narcotics had been found in her system, but that more toxicology tests would be needed to determine whether she was under the influence. Earlier this week, a Venice hair-salon owner said Heche seemed “coherent” and not in any way impaired during a shopping visit to buy a red wig and some supplies a mere 20 minutes before the wreck.
She broke into acting when she was scouted for the soap opera “Another World” in which she played twins Marley and Vicky Hudson. Heche portrayed the identical twins’ very different personalities well enough to earn a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991.
She later moved into film with a debut in 1993’s “Ambush of Ghosts” followed by roles in “Donnie Brasco” (1997) alongside Johnny Depp. Next came roles in “Volcano,” “Wag the Dog” and “Six Days Seven Nights.”
The actress next took on “Return to Paradise” (1998) with Vince Vaughn, who also worked alongside in “Psycho” remade by Gus Van Zant. She earned a Tony nomination for her appearance by Ella in the 2004 revival of “Twentieth Century.”
Heche, who famously dated DeGeneres from 1997 to 2000, recounted tales of abuse and other childhood trauma in several interviews over the years. She released a memoir in 2003 titled “Call Me Crazy,” and is open about her history of personal troubles and mental health challenges.
Her father, who she says sexually abused her from infancy, died from HIV/AIDS in 1985. That same year, her 18-year-old brother died in a car accident that was ruled accidental, though Heche always maintained it was a suicide, which her stranded mother disputed.
In 2000, she drove from Los Angeles to a small town outside of Fresno, parked on the roadside and knocked on the door of a random home. The woman who answered recognized Heche, giving her water, a pair of slippers and letting her take a shower. When Heche settled in her living room and asked her to watch a movie, the woman called police.
According to a police report, Heche told deputies she was “God, and was going to take everyone back to heaven in a spaceship.” She was taken to a psychiatric unit in Fresno and released.
Her 2001 wedding to Coleman Laffoon led to a son Homer in 2002. The pair later split in 2009. She was married to actor James Tupper from 2007 to 2018, and the two had a son together.