For a time, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Anne Heche—who was declared legally dead on Aug. 12, at age 53, after being critically injured in a series of car crashes in Los Angeles on Aug. 5—was one of the most intriguing and coolly magnetic young actors in Hollywood. She is a charming combination of delicate features, a lunar complexion and sharp intelligence. With an edge, she was angelic. Her fragile, golden eyes made her seem ethereal and untouchable. However, her timing is impeccable. Her ability to play both sly humor and dramatic roles was captivating. It was often an enjoyable experience to watch her perform.
Heche was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for portraying twins Vicky Hudson (and Marley Love) in 1991. Another World but moviegoers didn’t become aware of her until a few years later: Her performance in Nicole Holofcener’s 1996 Talking and WalkingCatherine Keener was opposite her. The film about two long-time friends who are thrown apart by the engagement of one another, was eloquent and well-made. It became an inspiration for many young girls. In 1997, she played the wife of undercover FBI agent Johnny Depp in Mike Newell’s mob drama Donnie Brasco. The performance is a model of grit balanced against fragility; Heche’s Maggie may look like a china figurine, but she pushes back against her increasingly agitated husband with astonishing fierceness. And she was superb in Ivan Reitman’s largely forgotten 1998 romantic comedy Six Days Seven Nights as a fashion-magazine editor who finds herself stranded on a remote island with the pilot who’d flown her there, played by Harrison Ford. She’s an agile, blipped-out pixie, perfectly matched to Ford’s stolid, tiki-mug demeanor.
Though Heche’s career was most likely derailed by her highly publicized personal problems, she worked steadily through the next few decades, not just in independent movies (Cedar Rapids CatfightHowever, it is used in TV shows such as Chicago P.D.And All are welcome. In 2001 she took over the role of Catherine in David Auburn’s You can see the proofShe was an acclaimed Broadway star who won acclaim for playing a role many believed had been defined already by Jennifer Jason Leigh or Mary-Louise Parker.
Over the years, some have taken pleasure in slugging away at the easy target of Heche’s mental-health and substance-abuse issues. But to play amateur shrink—or worse, amateur judge—is a fool’s errand at best and cruel at worst. There’s no easy way to explain why some extremely gifted people can hardly bear to live with themselves, and erring on the side of compassion is rarely a mistake. Heche is best remembered as a loopy, screwball heroine who lives on an island alongside a handsome pilot. We were not charged any extra for her performance.
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