Anne Heche’s Best Roles: A Great Actress, Even in Bad Movies

One of Anne Heche’s best performances is in “Birth” (2004), Jonathan Glazer’s beautifully sinister drama about love, pain and the insidious power of suggestion. She arrives at the start of the film, with long brown hair, a departure from the blonde bob cuts that had become a signature look, and a face that looks more emphasized, with steeper angles than usual. Her character, Clara, is quiet and reserved, someone you might not immediately notice in a room full of other demure, light-haired Manhattanites. But then you catch her attention, and Heche gives you a quiet, haunting glimpse into who Clara is: a heartbroken lover, a dazzling rival, a determined and vengeful agent of chaos.

It’s not immediately clear what connection Clara has to this puzzle of a story, about a woman (Nicole Kidman) whose life is turned upside down by the apparent reincarnation of her late husband as a 10-year-old boy. Heche mocks the answer beautifully; appears solo a puñado de escenas, pero acusa a cada una de ellas de travesura y amenaza, y la actuación turns into a puntapié de trémula perversidad erótica: “Hubiera explored esto”, murmured Clara in el momento más divertido y más divertido de the film.

The greatness (some would say the madness) of “Birth” is that it treats an absurd, often inexplicable situation with the utmost seriousness and seriousness, a goal both fortified and expertly challenged by Heche’s performance. More than the other characters, Clara is willing to take herself seriously, and yes, explore the story’s outrageous premise. But she’s also the one who firmly rejects him, with complete skepticism about how Heche could do better than almost any other actress.

Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche and Robert De Niro in the movie “Wag the Dog”.

(PV Caruso/New Line Cinema)

The movies themselves weren’t always sure what to do with Heche, who died Friday at the age of 53, so it was exciting to find those who did. Another example, and still one of the best, was “Walking and Talking” (1996), the first of writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s many films about intelligent, witty, wonderfully uncooperative women. As Laura, a newly hired therapist who describes herself as “a total mess,” Heche is a perfect, if not prototypical, Holofcener specimen. She lusts after a client, flirts with a waiter, and complains to her fiancé about her boring sex life. Go gas trying on a wedding dress. She embodies half of a completely believable friendship (with an excellent Catherine Keener). And she evokes from Heche the kind of lively, messy human performance that American actors, especially women, rarely find outside of the indie realm.

But the Hollywood opportunities quickly appeared, at least for a time. 1997 was a huge year for Heche: she walked through ash clouds in the disaster movie “Volcano”, gutted fish in the teen thriller “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, and compared his mind to Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman. . in the sly media satire “Wag the Dog”. She was particularly lively opposite Johnny Depp in the mob drama “Donnie Brasco,” bringing unusual emotional power to the otherwise standard role of a long-suffering wife and mother. Heche could top his material without condescension; he could also propel a nonchalantly written scene by dint of his own wry wit and bristling energy.

Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in an inflatable raft, her holding binoculars and him paddling.

Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in the movie “Six Days Seven Nights”.

(Bruce McBroom/Touchstone Images)

In 1998, Heche headlined her first major studio film, the wilderness survival adventure “Six Days Seven Nights”, in which she successfully landed a plane, attacked pirates with a stick and throwing boots into the waves with Harrison Ford. . Directed by Ivan Reitman (who died earlier this year), the film was enjoyable if flabby, but Heche was by far the best, skipping his lines with winning conviction and putting every muscle in his lean, birdlike body in the mix. demanding survival scenes. Although widely criticized, the film fared better commercially than his two other big releases of 1998, the prison drama “Return to Paradise” and Gus Van Sant’s much-maligned “Psycho” (both, coincidentally, starring Vince Vaughn). ).

As a Hitchcock-loving teenager, I eagerly sought out Van Sant’s “Psycho” in theaters, my curiosity for a shot-for-shot remake of one of my favorite films overcoming my suspicion that the result would be as terrible as the reviews suggested. It was kind of, though I haven’t forgotten the eerie, irritating intensity of Heche’s performance as bloody Marion Crane, that was all the more enthralling because it short-circuited our easy sympathy. for one of the most likable and heartbreaking characters in movie history. Marion de Heche is a decidedly cooler customer than Janet Leigh and, as befits the updated ’90s era, a decidedly more modern creature. She is less easily frightened by the police and is more open about her sexual desires. She cracks jokes, rolls her eyes, and sometimes holds the viewer in a glassy position, a position that doesn’t completely melt away until the soon-to-be-bloody shower curtain is pushed aside.

Close-up of a woman taking a shower.

Anne Heche as Marion Crane in Gus Van Sant’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

(Suzanne Tenner/Universal City Studios)

Van Sant’s film is a rare and hard-fought experience, but Heche’s unwavering performance might be the key to enjoying it. His iron intelligence forces us to see this “Psycho” in terms that go beyond the simple identification of the public, to approach the film in the most distant and formalistic terms that Van Sant, for better or for worse , had in mind. time. This underscores one of Heche’s main strengths as an actress, namely her rejection of the obvious, her willingness to unearth the hidden and unrealized possibilities of a scene.

Simply put, he was never meant to be well served by a mainstream film industry known for its committee-equipped vehicles and unique career paths. Unsurprisingly, her most emotionally satisfying work of this period was “The Third Miracle” (1999), Agnieszka Holland’s deeply moving, rigorously thoughtful and sadly hidden drama about a priest’s spiritual crisis. As Roxane, an atheist who seriously doubts her beloved mother’s candidacy for Catholic sainthood, Heche, in fabulous style, sweeps across the film’s cloistered settings like a welcome burst of gritty energy. (Skepticism, again, was his forte.)

A man and a woman on the ground covered in ash.

Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche in the movie “Volcano”.

(Lorey Sebastian/20th Century Fox)

Some time after superstar vehicles stopped crossing his path, Heche claimed in interviews that his high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres attacked his chances as a viable frontman. Given the still rampant Hollywood homophobia of the early 2000s, it was and remains difficult to refute the veracity of his claim. It wasn’t the last time she opened up about her often tumultuous personal life (much of it detailed in her 2003 memoir, “Call Me Crazy”), with a poignant candor that often left her exposed to tabloid ridicule. . It was also not the last time the melee was revealed, as evidenced last week by online speculation about the car crash that led to his untimely death. Like all useless gossip, it threatens to crush the deeper truth of a human life and obscure the work of a remarkable career.

Heche continued to work in films, sometimes to prominent effect; she was terribly moved in the independent comedy “Cedar Rapids” and the tense crime thriller “Rampart”. But the movies gave her less and less of what she gave them, and she found a more receptive audience in theater and television. He earned a Tony Award nomination for his lead performance in the 2004 Broadway production of “Twentieth Century.” He has appeared in numerous television series, including “Nip/Tuck” and “The Michael J. Fox Show”; landed major roles in ‘Men in Trees’, ‘Hung’, ‘Aftermath’ and ‘The Brave’; and took part in a season of “Dancing With the Stars”. “The Idol,” an upcoming HBO Max series, would mark its final screen appearance.

Two women, one of them in a wedding dress, are seated and lean their heads against each other.

Catherine Kenner and Anne Heche in the movie “Walking and Talking”.


Television had always been good for Heche. She made her famed acting debut on NBC’s “Another World,” playing twin sisters Vicky and Marley, two of the show’s most enduring heroines. In fact, “Another World” was one of the few soap operas that aired semi-regularly when I was growing up, around the time Heche’s breakout performance won a 1991 Daytime Emmy for Youngest Leading Actress in a Series. dramatic. . She wasn’t in Los Angeles to accept the award; as she recounted in an Associated Press video interview years later, she watched the show from a hotel room in Nebraska, where she and Jessica Lange were filming the TV movie “O Pioneers!”

Surprised that she won, Heche asked her agent, “Does that mean I’m an actress?”

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