The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Anne Heche’s family and friends share their love, sorrow at her death

The 53-year-old actress, who was declared brain dead after an Aug. 5 car crash, was taken off life support Sunday. Tributes and thoughts about her life and work have been pouring in.

Actress Anne Heche was taken off life support on Aug. 14, after she was pronounced brain dead due to a severe car crash in Los Angeles nine days earlier. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Reuters)

Anne Heche died Sunday evening after being taken off life support, but an outpouring of appreciation for the 53-year-old actress had already been building for days, beginning with the Aug. 5 car crash in Los Angeles that left her hospitalized. It continued all weekend after Thursday’s news that Heche had been declared brain dead and her family issued a statement mourning their loss.

“We have lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend,” her family wrote in a statement. “Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact.”

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

“After six days of unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness,” Homer Laffoon, 20, one of Heche’s two sons, wrote in a statement, issued on Friday. “Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom.”

Heche’s career spanned 35 years and included roles in television, film and theater. She first rose to fame after playing a pair of twins, one good and one evil, on the soap opera “Another World,” as a teenager in the 1980s — a performance for which she won a Daytime Emmy. Later, she went on to star in such movies as “Donnie Brasco,” “Six Days, Seven Nights” and “Volcano.”

Heche was also known for her 3½-year relationship with Ellen DeGeneres in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when to be open about gay relationships was less common in Hollywood. “Kids today don’t know what it was like, but I vividly recall when Anne Heche and Ellen Degeneres came out about their relationship back in 1997. I was in awe, and remember thinking, ‘This could really change things for people.’ Thank you for so bravely taking that step, Anne,” tweeted filmmaker Ted Geoghegan.

DeGeneres, who said she was no in longer in contact with Heche at the time of the crash, wrote on Twitter, “This is a sad day. I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.”

On Twitter, many hailed Heche as one of the first publicly bisexual stars in Hollywood. Still Bisexual posted: “To bisexuals coming of age in the 90s, she was one of the only visible role models we had. She meant the world to us.” And Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the movie theater chain, called her a “trailblazing, unabashedly queer performer” with an “eclectic” body of work.”

Many lamented the way both the media and Hollywood at large treated her during her life, particularly during and in the aftermath of her relationship with DeGeneres. Her personal life, particularly her bisexuality, became tabloid fodder and arguably began to overshadow her acting career. “Her horrific treatment in the public eye led to her being pigeon-holed as the butt of a very cruel and stupid joke that bisexual people just can’t make up their minds,” Ariel Fisher wrote in Slashfilm. “Even now in death, publications ridicule her dating history as if it’s some mystery to be solved.”

Comedian Lane Moore tweeted, “She was incredible and deserved so much more. She received so much biphobia after she broke up w/Ellen & everyone called her a fake lesbian, then wrote a book about her childhood abuse & everyone called her crazy. I’m sad she never got the apologies she deserved.”

Nancy Davis, a philanthropist and friend of the actress, shared photographs of her and Heche on Instagram. “Heaven has a new Angel,” Davis wrote, calling Heche “kind” and “endearing.”

“I will miss her terribly and cherish all the beautiful memories we have shared. Anne was always the kindest, most thoughtful person who always brought out the best in me,” she wrote.

On Instagram, Heche’s ex-husband, Coleman Laffoon, posted a photo of Heche holding their son Homer as a baby. “It’s important to remember the real love in the best times. Thank you Anne. Peace on your journey,” Laffoon wrote. James Tupper, with whom Heche had a 10-year-relationship, and had a son, Atlas, also posted a photo of Heche on Friday with the caption “love you forever.”

Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick, known for creating the Final Destination franchise, responded to online criticism of Heche after reports surfaced that police were investigating whether Heche had been driving under the influence at the time of the accident. Reddick wrote on Twitter: “This is so tragic. I’m seeing many nasty comments. To those people, just understand that people you know struggling with addiction are listening. You’re telling them they can never talk to you about their struggles or turn to you for help.” An early test found narcotics in Heche’s blood, and Los Angeles police told TMZ that cocaine was in her system at the time of the crash. The LAPD ceased its investigation on Friday, after Heche was declared brain dead.

Lynne Mishele, the woman who suffered minor injuries after Heche crashed into her house, posted a video to Instagram, saying, “The news of Anne Heche passing is devastating. Her family and her friends and her children, especially, really have suffered a great loss, and my heart goes out for them.”

“This entire situation is just tragic and there really are just no words. I’m sending love to everybody involved,” Mishele added.

Actress Rosanna Arquette also responded to the reports: “I’m very upset and sad that Anne Heche is not expected to live. And yes she would have been arrested for driving under the influence and putting lives in danger. She still is a great artist and struggled with addiction. [It’s] terribly sad for her children and for her friends.”

While Heche was best known for roles in film and television, she earned a Tony nomination for her Broadway performance as Lily Garland in the 2004 Broadway revival of “Twentieth Century.” The actress also played the lead role of Catherine in David Auburn’s “Proof.” Filmmaker James Gunn tweeted on Friday: “Honest to God, I think maybe the best acting performance I’ve ever seen in my life was Anne Heche in PROOF on Broadway. #RIP”

Alec Baldwin, who worked with Heche on the 1996 film “The Juror” and the upcoming “Supercell,” posted a video tribute on Friday. “Anne was one of those people who … really could do almost anything. She was funny, she was dramatic. She was many things on film and onstage,” he said. Acknowledging that drugs might have played a role in her death, he added, “All I know is this woman — who was my friend and I really, really admire and really cherished my relationship with her — she is gone, avoidably so.”

“Anne seemed to know a lot about what it is to be human, and the ferocious courage it takes to fully embrace that,” Levi Meaden, who played Anne’s son in the Syfy thriller “Aftermath,” wrote on Instagram. “She knew there was strength in vulnerability and she wouldn’t let anyone rob her of it. I hope she is at peace.”

At the time of her death, Heche had recently finished “Girl in Room 13,” a Lifetime movie about sex trafficking in which she plays the lead role. Following the crash, Lifetime announced that the movie would still air in September, noting the creators’ mission to stop violence against women and how “important” the film had been to Heche.