“It took 20 years to process my story and to tell it. Dancing With the Stars gave me the opportunity.”
For those who don’t watch Dancing With the Stars, Anne Heche was one of the contestants, and before getting eliminated from the competition, she revealed the reason why she’s been basically off the grid for two decades. She disclosed that becaus of her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres back in the late ‘90s, “and the stigma attached to that relationship,” she was fired from her multi-million-dollar picture deal. She didn’t find another studio picture for ten years.
But Ellen is only part of Heche’s dramatic life story. Heche didn’t disappear altogether; she’s just kept a low profile while handling a number of personal issues, including a messy divorce, disturbing accusations against her father, and a breakdown in the middle of the desert.
There are many people who only know Anne Heche as Ellen’s ex-girlfriend. The two met at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in 1997. At the time, Ellen hadn’t come out publicly yet. She made her big announcement mere days later, though. Before coming out, Heche was in the films Walking and Talking, The Juror, Donnie Brasco, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Wag the Dog and Six Days, Seven Nights.
Then, all of a sudden, the two openly in-love female stars were all over the media and had to deal with a fair share of controversy as the most famous LGBTQ couple in Hollywood. Remember, this was the ‘90s when not as many people were okay with same-sex relationships.
Apparently, it was harder for Ellen to be “out” than it was for Heche. The (now-controversial) TV host didn’t feel comfortable holding her hand in public, for example. In April 1997, Heche invited Ellen to the premiere of Volcano as her date. According to Heche, 20th Century Fox then told her that such a public move (bringing her lesbian lover to the premiere) would lead them to cancel her contract.
Ellen urged her to reconsider her invitation, but Heche refused to back down. “I took Ellen to the premiere, and I was ushered out before the movie even ended and was told I was not allowed to go to my own after-party for fear that they would get pictures of me with a woman,” Heche said.
Either way, they called it quits after three and a half years in 2000. After Ellen, she didn’t date women anymore. Ellen was the first and last woman Heche has ever dated (that we know of). And, despite the cost of her relationship with Ellen, Heche still refers to it as “a beautiful part of my life and one that I wear with honor.”
“I was a part of a revolution that created social change, and I could not have done that without falling in love with her.” For Ellen, the split was devastating and confusing. “I feel betrayed” were her words. For Heche, it sent her off the edge…
There are many interesting aspects of her relationship with Ellen. What might be most intriguing is what happened literally a day after their split. On August 19, 2000, after driving from L.A. to Cantua Creek outside Fresno, Heche parked her Toyota SUV on a dusty roadside, and walked about two miles through the desert wearing only a bra and shorts.
She ended up at some ranch, where she knocked on the door, had an emotional breakdown, requested to use the shower, and declared herself God. Araceli Campiz, the woman who opened the door, was stunned, to say the least.
Campiz immediately recognized Heche from the film Six Days, Seven Nights (which had come out just two years prior). “I was thinking, Oh my God, we’re in the middle of nowhere, and she walks in,” Campiz recalled. She said that Heche gulped down glasses of water before taking off her Nikes and asking to use the shower.
Campiz did what anyone else would do if a movie star walked in and asked to take a bath – she gave the actress a towel. As far as she could tell, Heche was not drunk, on drugs, or sick. (However, Heche later confessed that she had taken ecstasy.)
After her much-needed shower, she settled down in the living room, asked for a pair of slippers, and even told Campiz to do the same. “She wanted to watch a movie, but the VCR was broken,” Campiz recalled. At first, she was amused, but Campiz grew uneasy when Heche didn’t show any signs of leaving after half an hour passed.
“I didn’t know what to do. So, I called the sheriff’s department.” When deputies arrived, Heche told them she was “God, and was going to take everyone back to heaven in a spaceship.” They then called an ambulance, and Heche was taken to Fresno’s University Medical Center.
Heche was admitted to the psychiatric unit and released after a few hours. Heche has stated that she had been “insane” for the first 31 years of her life, and it’s because of the abuse she experienced at the hands of her very own father. According to Heche, it started when she was a baby, and it carried on through her childhood.
In a series of interviews with Barbara Walters, Matt Lauer, and Larry King (to promote her film Call Me Crazy in 2001), Heche exposed her secret on national television. She explained that she created a fantasy world she called the “Fourth Dimension” – it was the only way she could feel safe.
Heche also revealed that part of her escapism from her father’s abuse was creating an alter ego – the daughter of God and half-sister of Jesus Christ who had contacts with extraterrestrial life forms. Her alter ego’s name? Celestia.
Heche claimed that she has since recovered from her mental health issues following her episode in the desert and has put her alter ego behind her. “I’m not crazy. But it’s a crazy life,” she stated. “I was raised in a crazy family, and it took 31 years to get the crazy out of me.” The way she sees it, the mental breakdown was a long time coming.
“At that moment, I split off from myself,” she wrote in her book. What people didn’t know at the time was that while she was working on movies, she would go to her trailer to “transcribe” messages that she was receiving from God, as Celestia.
As you can imagine, Heche went through a lot of therapy, and she recalls it without any anger or bitterness. “I think people saw how hard it was for me,” she wrote. “It’s what makes me the artist that I am, it’s my bag of sorrow, of human tragedy that I’ve lived through, and I go to this well every single time I create a character. But that no longer dictates my daily life.”
The now 52-year-old was born in 1969 in Aurora, Ohio, as the youngest of five children. Her parents, Nancy and Donald, moved the family around a total of 11 times during her childhood. At one point, they were living in an Amish community. Her father was an evangelical Christian as well as a closeted gay man.
Her father was a choir director, but he insisted “until the day he died” that he was involved in the “business of gas and oil,” Heche said. But he wasn’t. Either way, the family settled in New Jersey when Heche was 12 years old.
Due to the family’s financial difficulties, Anne had to pitch in and put bread on the table. “At the time, we’d been kicked out of our house, and my family was holed up living in a bedroom in the home of a generous family from our church,” Heche explained.
She worked at a dinner theater in Swainton, where she earned $100 a week, which was more than anyone else made in her family. They would pool their money in an envelope in a drawer, eventually saving up enough cash to move out after a year.
In 1983, when Heche was 13, her 45-year-old father died of AIDS. He had never come out as homosexual. After his death, Heche’s mother became a Christian therapist, lecturing about “overcoming” homosexuality. Heche reasoned that her dad was in “complete denial” of his sexuality.
She also said they “know” he got AIDS from his gay relationships. Despite her father being gay, Heche claimed that he raped her for the first 12 years of her life and even gave her an STD. “I don’t think he was just a gay man,” she explained. “I think he was sexually deviant… The more he couldn’t be who he was, the more that came out of him in ways that it did.”
The tragedies didn’t end at her father’s grave. Three months after his death, Heche’s 18-year-old brother Nathan was killed in a car crash (which Heche believes was suicide). The family relocated to Chicago, and in 1985, when she was 16, an agent spotted her in a school play. She was offered a role on the daytime soap opera As the World Turns.
Her mother, however, didn’t let her. “My mother was very religious, and maybe she thought it was a sinner’s world,” Heche asserted. But she was done spending time with her mom “in a one-bedroom, skanky apartment.”
Heche confronted her mother Nancy about all those years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, and the pair have been estranged ever since. In her 2001 memoir, Call Me Crazy, Heche details the abuse she endured, to which her mother responded, “I find no place among the lies and blasphemies in the pages of this book.”
Heche’s sister, Abigail, pointed out that her sister has “expressed doubts herself about the accuracy of such memories” and that, in her opinion, Heche’s memories regarding their father are “untrue.” She doesn’t believe her sister’s accusation that their mother knew all along.
Nancy Heche has also denied her daughter’s allegation that Nathan took his own life. “I have talked to his youth pastor, and he said that Nathan was committed to the Lord, he loved Jesus, and I do not believe that that was suicide, but the death of his father from homosexuality three months earlier could certainly have stirred up a lot of confusion for him,” Nancy stated.
Heche said that her mother has had “a very tragic life.” Three of her five kids are dead, and her husband is dead: “That she is attempting to change gay people into straight people is, in my opinion, a way to keep the pain of the truth out.”
Heche told The Daily Telegraph in 2011 that she doubts she’ll ever repair her relationship with her mother. Once her father’s double life was exposed (after his death), Heche spent the next 20 years in a tortured search.
She said that she thinks “everything I’ve done in all my insanity was to try to get my parents to love me.” She explained that her father loved movie stars, and so she decided she needed to become famous to get his love. As for her mother, well, she loved Jesus. “That was her thing. So, I wanted to become Jesus Christ.”
Naturally, Heche had to do whatever she could to escape the memories of her painful upbringing. That’s why she drank, smoked, did drugs, had sex – she “did anything [she] could to get the shame out of [her] life.”
Acting was another form of escape. Playing twins on the soap opera Another World from 1988 to 1992 was a great distraction for Heche. But as her career began to flourish, her past continued to haunt her. By the time Heche was 25, her personality had begun to fragment, shattering into moments of madness.
Heche believed that her alter ego, Celestia, was the reincarnation of God and could speak a different language and had special powers. “You name it; I could do it. I could see into the future. I could heal people,” she said.
“I don’t know where it came from. I was, in my mind, learning it from God.” Eventually, though, she knew that she needed to start a long process of self-healing. After years of therapy – seven to be exact – she confronted her mother about her father’s sexual abuse.
Heche and her mother have been estranged ever since their confrontational conversation, which Nancy ended with, “Jesus loves you, Anne,” before hanging up. It was a devastating blow to the actress.
“To have gone through so much work to heal myself and have my mother not acknowledge in any way that she was sorry for what had happened to me broke my heart. And at that moment, I split off from myself.” She wasn’t really able to speak with her siblings, as three of them were dead. The eldest Heche child, Susan, died of brain cancer in 2006.
The second child, Cynthia, died in infancy from a heart defect. Nathan, the one who died in the car crash, was the only son. Abigail is now a jewelry designer in Michigan, and Anne was the baby. Nancy has a memoir of her own called The Truth Comes Out (from 2006), and in it, she wrote that she essentially “missed the Sixties.”
She never read a newspaper, listened to the radio or watched television. Nancy Heche never addressed the issue of her daughter’s abuse in her memoir. Heche admitted that she never even read her mother’s book. And since they’re now estranged, Heche’s sons have never met their maternal grandmother.
Starting in 1987, Heche had a four-year career as a soap star, which led her to Hollywood, where she had a string of blockbuster hits. In 2001, barely a year after splitting up with Ellen, Heche married Coleman Laffoon, a cameraman whom she met while working on the documentary she was making on Ellen’s stand-up tour.
Heche doesn’t want to put a label on her sexuality. At the time, Heche told Barbara Walters that she wasn’t limiting whom she loved: “You fall in love with a person, not a sex.” But she and Laffoon divorced in 2007.
Their initial arrangement when starting a family was that she would be the breadwinner, and he would stay home with their son Homer. Their divorce turned nasty when Laffoon claimed Heche was incapable of caring for their son Homer. Heche saw a piece in the San Jose Mercury News stating, “Anne Heche’s Husband Says Actress Is a Bad Mother.”
What didn’t help Heche’s case was that she had previously documented her mental instability in her memoir. To add insult to injury, Laffoon demanded money from Heche to accommodate his already plush lifestyle.
According to Heche’s publicist, “The child’s father has refused to get a job in order to contribute financially to the child’s care.” He was requesting $28,000 a month in spousal support, $10,000 in mortgage money, and primary custody. The drama came to an end in 2009, when the exes reached a settlement.
She agreed to pay $3,700 a month in child support, and they were to split custody of their son. Laffoon didn’t receive spousal support, but he did get a $515,000 lump sum from Heche. When Laffoon, now a registered real estate agent in Los Angeles, was questioned about it, he said, “I’m glad it’s over, and everyone seems to be moving on with their lives.”
Heche happened to agree with that last note – moving on was exactly what she was doing. In 2009, she started dating actor James Tupper, with whom she co-starred in the ABC series Men in Trees (which was canceled after two seasons).
Men in Trees was where the two met. They had a son together, too, a boy they chose to name Atlas. And considering she had just gone through a nasty divorce, Heche took a quiet approach this time around. The couple ended up staying together for about 11 years. They split in 2018.
Heche’s career was in a lull until 2011 when she started a 30-episode run in the series Hung. Despite having a steady job, she was facing financial struggles. In 2016, she filed papers suggesting she could no longer afford the $3,700 a month to her ex-husband. The payment was then lowered to $1,175 a month.
Anne Heche and Thomas Jane, her former co-star on Hung, have been an item for about two years now. They first became friends over a decade ago when they played a divorced couple on the (failed) HBO series. In 2019, they started working together again on a movie called Hour of Lead.
As a child of abuse, she turned to parental figures for love. She thought she had found love with Steve Martin, her boyfriend of two years between 1994 and ’96, although he is 24 years older than her. Perhaps the age gap was a little too much since the couple parted ways after a couple of years.
In an interview, Heche revealed that she dated Martin because she “wanted the love of an older man.” She explained that she wanted comfort, humor – “all the things that he offered.” She said there was nothing wrong with the man – he just wasn’t who she wanted to commit her life to.
Back in 1997, on Oscar night, she saw “the most ravishing woman” she had ever seen in her life standing across the room. To Heche, Ellen was “radiating.” It was a week before Ellen’s sitcom character was going to come out on national TV and announce that she was a lesbian.
“Ellen represented everything that my father never was,” Heche asserted. “She was free. She owned her sexuality.” Heche, who said she had never been with a woman before then, went home with Ellen that night. Heche said she had never felt so free.
It’s pretty much old news now that Ellen got some backlash over her allegedly toxic work environment. But we haven’t really heard what her ex has to say about it all. Heche admitted to not having spoken to Ellen “for years.”
But she also stated in an interview with Mr. Warburton Magazine that, “I’d listen to the people who have.” Those people include former and current staffers who describe toxicity in the workplace, which led to a third-party investigation. There were even charges of discrimination and sexual harassment backstage on the Ellen show.
Ellen has been accused of turning a blind eye to her staff and the shady incidents that were apparently going on. Heche said:, “If I’m standing someplace and I don’t like what’s going on there, and I stay there, it’s my fault. So, what are the actions that got me there, and why can’t I get out of it easily if that’s not something that I want to be engaged in?”
Still, she has nice things to say about their time as a couple all those years ago. “Our time was a beautiful part of my life and one that I wear with honor.” The way she sees it, she was part of a “revolution.”
In a recent TikTok video, Heche went over some of her favorite looks from over the years, including the 1998 VH1 Fashion Awards. She was enthusiastically nostalgic up until she came upon a photo of her and Ellen from the 1998 Golden Globe Awards.
They were in color-coordinated outfits, with Ellen in a navy suit and Heche in a blue velvet gown and matching coat. “Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy,” Heche said in her video. She gave the look a zero out of 10 and a thumbs down, adding, “Bye, no!”
When Heche was asked why they broke up, she said they had gotten to the point where they just weren’t happy together anymore. Together, they grew isolated from the world. Heche herself admitted to being “insane” throughout their three-year relationship.
Ellen knew everything about Heche’s past, including her identity as Celestia, and her belief that she could speak to the dead. When she found herself in the desert the day after the breakup, Heche said she “was told to go to a place where I would meet a spaceship” which is where she was “told” to take a “hit of ecstasy.”
Apparently, we have Harrison Ford to thank for getting Heche her role in 1998’s Six Days, Seven Nights. It came after being subjected to Hollywood prejudice in the wake of her romance with Ellen. Heche told Entertainment Tonight that Ford was a “hero.”
Ford had called her the day after the premiere of 1997’s Volcano (where she was kicked out) to reassure her they would go ahead with the upcoming movie. He told her, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn who you’re sleeping with. We’re gonna make the best romantic comedy there is and I’ll see you on the set.” Heche went on to say that he “fought a battle for her” and that she would be “on any desert island with him any day.”
In 2017, Heche started playing Deputy Director Patricia Campbell of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the military/spy thriller series The Brave. She didn’t even need to audition for the role – she was offered the part by Dean Georgaris, the creator of the show.
Playing a real go-getter role was easy for Heche, who knows what it’s like to hustle and make ends meet. She used to have to babysit for a family to make money for her parents’ rent.
When Heche moved to Chicago, she worked two jobs there: She “scooped Häagen-Dazs ice cream and bagged groceries.” Then, as she recalled, once she was old enough to lie about her age and get away with it, she became a hostess.
When asked what special skills she has, Heche said that she learned how to shoot a gun, thanks to all her roles in action films: “I know more about weaponry now than I would have had I not done The Brave.” If you’ve seen the show, then you know she does a lot of running away from bombs.
One of Heche’s less flattering roles was in 1998’s Psycho, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film. Not only was the film itself both a critical and commercial failure (it got three Golden Raspberry nominations and won for Worst Remake and Worst Director), but Heche was nominated for Worst Actress.
She “lost,” though, to the Spice Girls (who took home the Worst Actress awards for Spice World). Literary critic Camille Paglia wrote that the only reason to watch the film is “to see Anne Heche being assassinated.” Ouch.