For a while, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Anne Heche – who was pronounced legally dead on August 12, aged 53, after being seriously injured in a series of car crashes in Los Angeles August 5 – was one of Hollywood’s most intriguing and magnetic young actors. Her delicate features and moon-like complexion could easily distract you from the trail of her keen intelligence. She was angelic, with an edge. Golden and fragile in appearance, she seemed ethereal, untouchable. But his timing still had an almost savage precision. She was a fascinating study in contrasts, as adept at sly comedy as she was in dramatic roles, and watching her was often a source of delight and wonder.
Heche won a Daytime Emmy in 1991 for her portrayal of twins Vicky Hudson and Marley Love on Another world, but cinephiles did not know her until a few years later: her performance in 1996 by Nicole Holofcener walk and talk, opposite Catherine Keener, was insightful and finely crafted, and the film, about lifelong best friends whose bond is shaken when one of them becomes engaged, has become a touchstone for many young women to the time. In 1997, she played the wife of undercover FBI agent Johnny Depp in Mike Newell’s mob drama. Donnie Brasco. Performance is a model of courage balanced against frailty; Heche’s Maggie may look like a porcelain figurine, but she fends off her increasingly restless husband with startling ferocity. And she looked great in Ivan Reitman’s 1998 largely forgotten rom-com Six days seven nights, as the editor of a fashion magazine who finds herself stranded on a remote island with the pilot who took her there, played by Harrison Ford. He’s a nimble, goofy pixie, perfectly matched with Ford’s deadpan, tiki-mug demeanor.
Although Heche’s career was likely derailed by her high-profile personal issues, she worked steadily over the next few decades, not just in independent films (Cedar Rapids, Catfight), but also in TV shows like Chicago PD and All stand up. In 2001, she took over the role of Catherine in David Auburn’s film Evidence on Broadway, earning acclaim in a role many thought had already been defined by her predecessors Mary-Louise Parker and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Over the years, some have enjoyed taking on the easy target of Heche’s mental health and addiction issues. But playing amateur shrink – or worse, amateur judge – is a silly race at best and cruel at worst. There is no easy way to explain why some extremely gifted people can hardly bear to live with themselves, and to err on the side of compassion is rarely a mistake. Better remember Heche as a crazed, crazy heroine marooned on an island with a gruff hottie pilot. She filled this performance to the brim with joy, at no cost to us.
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