Tragic Details About Anne Heche

The following article contains references to sexual abuse, mental illness, homophobia, and substance misuse 

Hollywood isn't always kind to women who don't subscribe to restrictive notions of selfhood. When it comes to Anne Heche, she faced the wrath and reprisals of studio heads, first as a woman in a same-sex relationship, then as someone struggling with mental illness. With a welcome plethora of proudly LGBTQ+ stars on our screens, it seems difficult to fathom that living one's truth was once a punishable offense in Tinseltown. At least, that was the unspoken rule before the industry progressed.

Back in 1997, there were few openly LGBTQ+ celebs in Hollywood; subsequently, when Ellen DeGeneres and Heche made it red carpet official, they were essentially pioneers, as highlighted by Mr. Warburton Magazine. "The difference between what would happen today and what happened then is that I would not have been ushered out of my own premiere and fired from a multi-million dollar picture deal with Fox for taking a girl as my date," Heche told the outlet.

Likewise, Heche was vilified in the early 2000s when she was suffering from mental illness. Again, with a modern re-evaluation of the stigmatization of celebs with mental illness (see: Britney Spears), it's hard to ascertain what the media found so hilarious about a woman suffering from the ramifications of childhood trauma. The truth is, Heche hasn't led an easy life. Her car accident in August 2022, which left her in a coma, is a reminder of the trauma and tragedy the actor has carried with her all these years. These are the tragic details about Anne Heche.

Anne Heche grew up in poverty

Anne Heche had a difficult upbringing. Her parents, Donald and Nancy, raised her in poverty, and the family was constantly moving from place to place. Soon enough, the Heches were destitute and made homeless after getting evicted, per Times Leader. Speaking with the outlet, Heche described her childhood as painful. In severe debt, Donald dabbled in get rich quick schemes and constantly lied to his wife about his supposed business deals; in reality, he was borrowing money from his own kids, per Chicago Tribune.

When she was 12, the family ended up living in one room after a church friend offered accommodation, per The Telegraph. At the time, Heche began providing for the family when she landed a theater gig, for which she was paid $100 a week, more money than her parents ever made. Now that Heche was the main provider in the household, they were able to move into an apartment. But the stress had taken its toll on the youngster. "When I was 12, I was like an old woman," she told Associated Press, branding her childhood "evil."

In an interview with CNN, Heche discussed the hopelessness in which she was raised, noting that she and her relatives had dreams and aspirations seemingly beyond their reach. "I wanted to be anything other than who I was," she said. "And so did my family ... We were poor and we wanted to be rich. We were, you know, homeless and we pretended we had a home."

As a child, she felt unloved

When Anne Heche discovered her passion for acting as a child, she was able to escape into a fantasy world and experience a happiness that she had never felt before. Indeed, as she explained to The Telegraph, she grew up in a home devoid of love and joy. Her sister, Susan Bergman, confirmed in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that their parents were strict and used physical punishment.

However, Donald and Nancy attempted to project a façade of the Heches being a happy family, something that was far from their lived reality, per the New York Post. As Heche recalled to the Tampa Bay Times, she was raised in a household filled with compulsive liars: "We were falling apart, but we said we were good Christians ... Everything we did was a lie."

Speaking to ABC News, she explained that she pursued an acting career in the hope of finally securing the love of her father, a cinephile. "My father loved movie stars. I decided I needed to become famous to get his love," she said. Her relationship with her mother was equally cold. Accordingly, she embraced religion in an attempt to appease her. "So because of ... what my relationship was with my mother, which was not a loving relationship, I set about my life to become Jesus," she told CNN. But it was in 2004 that Heche came to terms with the tragic fact that her mother never loved her, per the Los Angeles Times.

When she was 13, her dad died of AIDS

Anne Heche's father, Donald, was secretly gay, but managed to hide his sexuality from his family until he became seriously ill. When Heche was 13, Donald died of AIDS. Her sister, Susan Bergman, wrote a book about her father's hidden double life, entitled, "The Secret Life of an American Family." Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Bergman said that although her dad was visibly ill and deteriorating, he did not inform his loved ones that he had AIDS until he was in the final throes of the disease.

After speaking with Donald's acquaintances following his death in 1983, Bergman discovered that he was gay, something that her mom did not deny. Donald himself came from an abusive family devoid of love, a pattern that was sadly repeated when he and his wife Nancy started a family of their own. "We didn't have a support group or anything like that in our family ... We didn't discuss my father's death ... for seven years," Bergman said. "We really did feel like we were the queens of pain."

Speaking with The Advocate, Heche claimed that her father was schizophrenic and lived two completely different lives. "One as a heterosexual man who directed the choir and had a family and one who went away ... My father was doing things that are attributed to schizophrenia — big [business] deals, delusions of grandeur," she explained. "Which I also had, so I know there's a lot of connections with the insanity that I had with my father."

Anne Heche says her dad sexually abused her

In her 2001 memoir, "Call Me Crazy," Anne Heche alleged that her father began raping her from a young age until shortly before his death when she was 13. As she revealed to ABC News, she believes the abuse began when she was a toddler, but she had repressed her trauma for years.

Speaking with The New York Times, she explained that her mom, Nancy, was reportedly oblivious to the abuse. Accordingly, she suggested that Nancy herself was a victim of emotional abuse at the hands of her father, who deliberately isolated her from reality so that he could continue allegedly violating his daughter. "I had a mother whose whole life was based on not looking around or knowing anything. If you're a man who's living with that kind of woman, you're keeping her in a bubble so that you can do whatever you want," she said. "It's not a big mystery how people hide abuse. They keep somebody in a bubble, and they go and do whatever the hell they want."

Upon learning that AIDS claimed the life of her father, Heche became terrified that she may have caught it herself. Her father had already allegedly given her herpes, and she had a rash and sores. "I went crazy! I didn't talk to anybody about it; I escaped into my fantasy world," she told The Advocate. She stated that her father being closeted had nothing to do with his alleged pedophilia. Rather, she explained, her dad was a sexual deviant.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Most of her siblings died

The youngest of five children, Anne Heche has just one surviving sibling. Her sister, Cynthia, died at two months old from a heart defect, per The Telegraph. In "Call Me Crazy," she wrote of her infant sister, "I used to fantasize that I would go to heaven and meet her ... It gave me something to look forward to." She added that she and her siblings weren't told how Cynthia died and were reportedly physically punished if they asked too many questions.

The same year that Heche's dad died, her brother, Nate, was fatally injured in a car crash (Heche believes he died by suicide). As with her earlier escape into a fantasy world as a coping mechanism, Heche channeled her grief through acting when she embarked on a Hollywood career. "My brother was killed when he was 18 and I was 13. I never got to fight for his life,″ she told the Associated Press when promoting her film "Return to Paradise."

In 2006, her sister Susan Bergman died of brain cancer, aged 48, per The Advocate. In her memoir, published five years before Bergman's death, Heche described her sister as an artistic soul who was punished for her creativity. "My father found some of her poetry and it must have been so entirely scandalous that it was burned and she was told to never write poetry again," she wrote. "Her art became her outlet, her poetry ordeal an example for us all to keep our thoughts to ourselves."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Anne Heche created an alter ego to feel safe

Anne Heche has suffered from lifelong mental illness stemming from the alleged sexual abuse she was subjected to as a child. Although her health condition hasn't been specified, she's believed to have a personality disorder, per People. During a psychotic break in August 2000, shortly after her split from Ellen DeGeneres, Heche knocked on a stranger's door in Fresno, California, declaring that she was from another planet, and asked to use the shower, per The Telegraph. She was taken to hospital when the homeowner, who soon recognized Heche from the big screen, called the authorities, per the New York Post.

When word got out, the actor was branded "crazy" by the tabloids at a time when mental illness was poorly understood. However, Heche has hit back at the stigmatization of her personality disorder. "I believe that many people may think I went insane," she told CNN. "I do not believe I am insane. I believe I went through a period of my life that was insane, and it lasted 31 years."

In order to cope with her childhood trauma, Heche created an alter ego called Celestia, whom she said was both an extra-terrestrial and spiritual life form. As Heche explained to The Advocate, Celestia was the reason she survived in the face of overwhelming adversity. "She was the consistent love that allowed me to know that I could get to the other side of my abuse," she revealed.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

The actor is estranged from her mom

When Anne Heche opened up about reportedly being a childhood sexual abuse survivor, one of the most painful aspects of reliving her trauma was being met with disbelief. Unfortunately, this skepticism came from her own mother. "She hung up the phone on me," Heche told ABC News. "To have gone through so much work to heal myself and have my mother not acknowledge ... that she was sorry for what had happened to me broke my heart."

As Heche explained, those who attempt to discredit abuse survivors rely on the notion of false memory. Accordingly, she said it's convenient for detractors to declare that there's no evidence to back up CSA claims. As Alliance for Children highlights, it's common for children to not tell anyone about abuse when it first occurs, especially when the perpetrator is a close family member, due to feelings of shame, and many don't speak out until decades later. "It's always hard for children to talk about abuse because it is only memory. I didn't carry around a tape recorder," Heche said.

Heche's mom, Nancy, who propagates anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy, continues to deny the abuse to this day, per The Telegraph. Accordingly, she has never met Heche's children. Dallas Voice condemned Nancy for her denial of the alleged assaults, suggesting that she failed to protect her daughter. The actor's sister, Abigail, also denies that the abuse ever took place (it should be noted, however, that siblings often take the side of alleged abusers in such cases).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Anne Heche struggled with drink and drug misuse

Following the Fresno incident, speculation grew as to whether Anne Heche was misusing drugs. At the time, notorious tabloid the National Enquirer (via San Francisco Gate) alleged that Heche was responsible for Robert Downey Jr.'s relapse by supplying him with illicit substances, claims that she vehemently denied. In a statement that highlights the stigmatization of substance misuse in the early 2000s, Steve Coz, then-editor of National Enquirer, remarked, "Let's face it, Anne Heche is no stranger to a drug scandal story," per The Guardian. This was in reference to Fresno — Heche admitted to being on ecstasy at the time, speaking to God during her drug trip.

Heche has been open about her history of drug and alcohol use, which she used as a means to block out her pain. "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 told ABC News. Per CNN, she attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and fell for a man who was also recovering from alcohol misuse, a relationship that she conceded was not healthy for her.

In 2019, her ex and baby daddy, James Tupper, accused her of misusing drugs. In court documents obtained by Radar following the couple's acrimonious split, Tupper attributed his ex's allegations of emotional abuse to her drug issues. "I truly do not understand this drama and hope it isn't linked to extended drug use," he claimed.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She faced homophobia when she dated Ellen

When Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres started dating in 1997, they were one of the first same-sex Hollywood couples to go public, but their romance was met with controversy, per the Los Angeles Times. Sadly, Heche was subjected to homophobia from her mother, Nancy, who is vocally anti-LGBTQ, and denounced her daughter's relationship with DeGeneres. "Like a betrayal of an unspoken vow: We will never have anything to do with homosexuals," she told CBN.

Per The New York Times, Heche also faced reported homophobic abuse from the media, with some outlets inexplicably accusing her of dating DeGeneres as a publicity stunt. Hitting back against the claims, Heche explained that she fell deeply in love with DeGeneres, whom she saw as a refuge from the violence, trauma, and lies that blighted her childhood. "The impact that has on a child who grew up with such shame about who she was, who her father was, the disease he died of, the hatred my mother had for anything gay. And I got to participate in a loving truthful celebration of the way I thought the world should be," she said.

As Heche explained to CNN, the media was preoccupied with her being in a relationship with a woman, whereas she was elated to have found someone who was seemingly the antithesis of the toxic people she grew up around. "It was not, 'oh, dear, a woman.' It's 'Oh, my God, there's a human being who is telling the truth,'" she explained.

Anne Heche had a series of bad breakups

When she was in her 20s, Anne Heche dated well-known actor Steve Martin, who was decades older. The breakup was painful for Heche, who was reeling from childhood trauma. "I wanted the love of an older man. I wanted comfort," she reflected to ABC News. Likewise, Heche described her 2000 split from Ellen DeGeneres as "heart-breaking and miserable." As she told CNN, "I had withered myself into nothing. I was 90 pounds ... I was standing outside, fell out of my face, broke my nose and couldn't remember my name, but could remember that I had a girlfriend named Ellen DeGeneres. I was lost." She said that her childhood trauma had a detrimental effect on the relationship, with her bottling her turmoil inside for years. 

Although Heche usually reflected on her relationship with DeGeneres with positivity, she also hinted at her ex having a darker, shady side. For instance, she told The Advocate that DeGeneres, much like the public, questioned her sanity when she told her about Celestia. In fact, DeGeneres tried to break up with Heche when she made a short film that served as an allegory for her sexual abuse, and even threw out the copy she gave her, warning her girlfriend to never let anyone see the film.

Thereafter, she had difficult relationships with husband Coleman Laffoon, with whom she had a toxic divorce, and boyfriend James Tupper, who apparently locked Heche out of her home and attempted to sell it without her consent following their breakup.

The actor was branded a bad mother

In 2007, Anne Heche and then-husband Coleman Laffoon — who welcomed son Homer in 2002 — divorced and things soon turned ugly, per People. Laffoon began questioning her proficiency as a mother. "I have serious concerns about whether she is psychologically capable of caring for Homer for an extended period of time," he said. Thus began a bitter custody battle, as Laffoon sought primary custody of Homer. Per Mercury News, Laffoon branded Heche a bad mom, claiming that she left the couple's son with nannies, made him meals that he disliked, and misplaced his beloved stuffed animal, causing the boy distress.

At the time, there were claims that Heche had lost custody of her son. Although she very nearly did lose custody, she was instead given joint custody with her ex, per TMZ. She was ordered to pay Laffoon $515,000, plus $3,700 per month in child support, per The Telegraph. Heche accused Coleman of deliberately seeking primary custody as a means of avoiding having to work. "I pay an extraordinary amount of money to him, and it's unfortunate because it is what I believe keeps him from getting a job," she told The New York Times.

The custody disputes sadly didn't end there. In 2020, she pursued legal action against her ex, James Tupper, over custody of their son, per Us Weekly. Heche accused Tupper of being involved in shady deals and sneakily taking $450,000 off her, per Radar.

The star's career downfall

Anne Heche claimed she was blacklisted from Hollywood due to her sexuality. Appearing on "The Real Daytime," she said that she was "canceled" for being in a relationship with Ellen DeGeneres.

"I didn't do a studio picture for 10 years," she told Page Six, citing Hollywood's alleged homophobia. "I was fired from a $10 million picture deal and did not see the light of day in a studio picture." After going public with DeGeneres, studio execs wanted to fire Heche from what would become one of her most famous roles: desert island romcom "Six Days, Seven Nights." However, thanks to co-star Harrison Ford, who called Heche saying that her personal life was of no interest to him, she secured the flick. "That is why Harrison Ford is my hero," she enthused. "To stand behind me at such a time when the force of what I was standing up for could have been toppled."

Her career decline was also compounded by stigma surrounding her history of mental illness. Although she appeared in TV series "Men in Trees" and "Hung," she was habitually reduced to minor roles. In 2010, The Guardian attributed this decline to Hollywood's unease with Heche's history of mental illness. The outlet argued that this is reflective of a sexist double standard, highlighting how Joaquin Phoenix faked the disintegration of his mental health (via mockumentary "I'm Still Here") and was welcomed into the industry with open arms thereafter, while genuinely unwell female celebs like Heche are shunned and shamed.

Anne Heche was critically injured in a car crash

In August 2022, Anne Heche was involved in two car accidents. First, she was spotted driving erratically before crashing into a garage, per TMZ. After speeding from the scene, she crashed into a person's home, causing a huge fire. Trapped in her car for over an hour as firefighters battled the blaze, Heche was eventually rescued and taken to the hospital, per Fox Los Angeles. Video footage captured the moment Heche, visibly distraught and injured, emerged from her stretcher before being subdued by emergency services.

Lynne Mishele, the owner of the property, had a Go Fund Me set up by her neighbors to cover the costs of the damage. The fundraising page notes that Mishele effectively lost everything in the aftermath of the fiery crash, including the laptop she is reliant on for work and family photos, which were left scorched. Mishele and her pets were thankfully in the back of the house during the crash; otherwise, neighbors told People, they would likely have been killed.

Four days later, Heche's rep confirmed that, contrary to initial claims that the actor was stable and likely to make it, she was in a coma and hadn't regained consciousness since the day of the accident, per The Guardian. "She has a significant pulmonary injury requiring mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention," her rep stated. Authorities are currently investigating the incident, and an LAPD spokesperson later revealed that drugs were found in her blood.