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Anne Heche legally dead, says spokesperson, 1 week after fiery car crash

“We have lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend,” read a statement released Friday on behalf of Heche’s family and friends.
/ Source: TODAY

One week after she was in a fiery car crash in Los Angeles, a spokesperson for Anne Heche said Friday the actor is legally dead.

The spokesperson told NBC News that Heche, 53, is legally dead according to California law, but her heart is still beating and she has not been taken off life support so that it can be determined if she is a match for organ donation.

"We have lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend," read a statement released Friday on behalf of Heche's family and friends. "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." 

Heche has two sons, Homer, 20, and Atlas, 13.

On Aug. 5, the actor was involved in a single-vehicle crash in Los Angeles. Her vehicle crashed into a home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Mar Vista, causing a serious fire.

“Anne is currently in stable condition,” a rep for the actor initially told TODAY via email. “Her family and friends ask for your thoughts and prayers and to respect her privacy during this difficult time.”

Anne Heche, Russell Todd
Anne Heche, with Russell Todd, in "Another World" in 1990.Everett Collection

A few days after that, a spokesperson updated her status to say she had gone into a coma.

“Despite previous reports that Heche was stable, shortly after the accident, Anne Heche became unconscious, slipping into a coma and is in critical condition,” the rep said. “She has a significant pulmonary injury requiring mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention.”

In a statement made to TODAY on Aug. 11, a spokesperson said Heche was not expected to survive the injuries that left her in a coma.

Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres
Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres, seen here at the Fifth Annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards in 1999 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, had a high-profile relationship.Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“Unfortunately, due to her accident, Anne Heche suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and remains in a coma, in critical condition. She is not expected to survive,” the spokesperson said. “It has long been her choice to donate her organs and she is being kept on life support to determine if any are viable.

“Anne had a huge heart and touched everyone she met with her generous spirit. More than her extraordinary talent, she saw spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work — especially moving the needle for acceptance of who you love. She will be remembered for her courageous honesty and dearly missed for her light.”

Anne Heche, Harrison Ford, in Six Days Seven Nights, 1998.
Anne Heche and Harrison Ford co-starred in "Six Days, Seven Nights" in 1998.Everett Collection

Earlier the same day, the Los Angeles Police Department said preliminary testing of Heche's blood revealed she had drugs in her system at the time of the accident.

Before Friday's update on Heche's condition was released, the LAPD told NBC News the investigation into the crash would continue.

Heche first burst onto the scene on the NBC soap opera “Another World,” in which she portrayed twins Vicky Hudson and Marley Love. During her run from 1987 to 1991, she received two Daytime Emmy Award nominations, winning once.

She made the transition to the big screen in the 1990s, starring in such films as “Donnie Brasco,” “Volcano,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Six Days, Seven Nights” and the critically panned high-profile remake of “Psycho.”

Homer Laffoon, James Tupper and Anne Heche
Heche, right, posed for photos in 2017 with son Homer, left, and James Tupper, with whom she had a second son, Atlas.Amanda Edwards / Getty Images

Heche also earned an Emmy Award nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or a movie in 2004 for her work in the TV movie “Gracie’s Choice.” That same year, she also garnered a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a play for her role in “Twentieth Century.”

Heche remained a steady presence on the small screen as well, appearing on a wide range of shows, including “Men in Trees,” “Everwood,” “Ally McBeal,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Chicago P.D.” and "All Rise." She also competed on the 29th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2020. She's also due to appear in HBO's upcoming series "The Idol," with The Weeknd and Johnny Depp's daughter, Lily-Rose Depp.

Dylan Walsh, Anne Heche, in Season 3 of Nip/Tuck.
Dylan Walsh and Anne Heche in a scene from Season Three of "Nip/Tuck."Everett Collection

Heche’s career would become overshadowed by her personal life, thanks in large part to her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. The couple, who dated from 1997 until 2000, was the subject of intense media scrutiny while they were together and after they broke up. Following their split, Heche went to the hospital after she was spotted acting disoriented while wandering around Fresno County, California.

“Our time was a beautiful part of my life and one that I wear with honor,” Heche told Mr. Warburton magazine in 2020 of their relationship. “I was a part of a revolution that created social change, and I could not have done that without falling in love with her.”

Director Anne Heche, actresses Sharon Stone and Ellen Degeneres on-set of, If These Walls Could Talk, 2000.
Anne Heche directed Sharon Stone and Ellen DeGeneres on the set of HBO's "If These Walls Could Talk 2" in 2000.Everett Collection

Heche says the romance took a toll on her own career, though.

“I was in a relationship with Ellen DeGeneres for 3 1/2 years, and the stigma attached to that relationship was so bad that I was fired from my multimillion-dollar picture deal, and I did not work in a studio picture for 10 years,” she said while appearing on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On Friday, DeGeneres tweeted, “This is a sad day. I’m sending Anne’s children, family, and friends all of my love.”

In 2001, Heche married cameraman Coleman “Coley” Laffoon, whom she reportedly met while he was working on a documentary about DeGeneres’ standup comedy tour. They welcomed son Homer together in 2002, and finalized their divorce in 2009. Heche would later have a long-term relationship with her “Men in Trees” co-star James Tupper. Together, they had son Atlas. Heche and Tupper broke up in 2018.

Heche, who penned her memoir, “Call Me Crazy,” in 2001, had been open about being abused as a child, her mental health struggles and how she battled addiction.

“I’m not crazy,” Heche told ABC’s Barbara Walters in 2001. “But it’s a crazy life. I was raised in a crazy family and it took 31 years to get the crazy out of me.”

“I drank. I smoked. I did drugs. I had sex with people. I did anything I could to get the shame out of my life,” she added.