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Anne Heche dead at 53: How her life fell apart after Ellen DeGeneres affair


Anne Heche was one of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses before her high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres overshadowed her blossoming career, dooming her to become tabloid fodder for more than two decades.

In the mid-’90s, the spiky-haired blonde — who died Friday, a week after crashing her car under the influence of cocaine in Los Angeles — courted critical acclaim with scene-stealing roles in indie smash “Walking and Talking,” the political satire “Wag The Dog,” and the mobster blockbuster “Donnie Brasco” — prompting studio execs to sit up and pay attention.

By 1997, Heche — who had just turned 28 years old — was poised to become Tinseltown’s next leading lady, having inked deals to star in a rom-com opposite Harrison Ford and appear in a highly anticipated Gus Van Sant remake of “Psycho.”

But in August of that year, the starlet went public with the much older — 11 years her senior — and much more famous DeGeneres, who had publicly come out on the cover of Time magazine just four months earlier.

The couple cozied up for the cameras at the premiere of Heche’s disaster flick “Volcano” and their groundbreaking same-sex romance exploded into the public eye.

“It changed my life forever,” Heche admitted to Page Six in 2020. “The stigma attached to that relationship was so bad … I didn’t do a studio picture for 10 years. I was fired from a $10 million picture deal.”

The Emmy winner and Tony nominee further hit out at DeGeneres in a 2021 podcast interview, describing her ex-girlfriend as a money-hungry “bitch” who may have sabotaged her career in the wake of their split.

“I broke up with her because her goal was to have a lot of money. Mine was to find love, and hers was, ‘I want $60 billion,’ ” Heche said. “Good, good luck; our forks are never going to meet.”

Heche was one of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses before her high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. The former couple is pictured together in the 1990s.
Getty Images
Heche is pictured in 1997's "Donne Brasco." The actress had caught the attention of critics and was poised to become Hollywood's next leading lady.
Heche is pictured in 1997’s “Donnie Brasco.” The actress had caught the attention of critics and was poised to become Hollywood’s next leading lady.
©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett

When the couple’s forks did first meet, back in 1997, there were very few high-profile actresses who publicly identified as gay or bisexual — and even fewer that paraded their same-sex relationships at movie premieres.

Homophobia was rampant in the mid-’90s, with a 1996 Gallup poll finding just 27% of Americans approved of same-sex marriage. The same year, the Defense of Marriage Act — defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman — passed Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Heche — who previously dated Steve Martin for three years, and inspired a song by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham after a passionate “about a year” affair — met DeGeneres at the 1997 Vanity Fair Oscar party, with the two subsequently embarking on a secret relationship.

The actress later divulged that she had never been with a woman before, and slept with DeGeneres on the first night they met. She described the romp as “the best sex I’d ever had.”

After six months together, the young actress then told execs she wanted to go public with her sitcom-star girlfriend at the premiere of “Volcano” — but she faced immediate pushback.

“I was told if I took Ellen, I would lose my Fox contract,” Heche recalled in a 2020 interview with Page Six. “I took Ellen to the premiere [anyway] and I was ushered out by security before the movie even ended and was told I was not allowed to go to my own afterparty for fear they would get pictures of me with a woman.”

Against the advice of publicists and studio execs, Heche went public with her relationship with Degeneres at the 1997 premiere of "Volcano."
Against the advice of publicists and studio execs, Heche went public with her relationship with DeGeneres at the 1997 premiere of “Volcano.”
Getty Images

Their relationship was subsequently splashed across the front pages of gossip magazines, but the loved-up couple ignored warnings to tone down their amorous displays.

They soon became fixtures on the red carpet, with Heche holding DeGeneres’ hand at the premiere of “Six Days Seven Nights” — her big budget rom-com with Harrison Ford.

The film was a smash, grossing more than $160 million at the box office — but Heche found that her acting offers had dried up despite managing to draw in audiences.

Heche appeared in "Six Days, Seven Nights" opposite Harrison Ford.
The film was a smash, grossing more than $160 million at the box office — but she subsequently found her acting offers had dried up, despite managing to draw in audiences.
Heche appeared in “Six Days Seven Nights” opposite Harrison Ford. The film was a smash, grossing more than $160 million at the box office — but she subsequently found her acting offers had dried up, despite managing to draw in audiences.
©Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy
Heche held hands with DeGeneres at the premiere of her box-office smash "Six Days, Seven Nights" in 1998.
Heche held hands with DeGeneres at the premiere of her box-office smash “Six Days Seven Nights” in 1998.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Things only worsened when the high-profile pair split in August 2000, with the breakup widely documented in the media.

They released a joint statement to People at the time that read, “It is an amicable parting and we greatly value the 3 1/2 years we have spent together.”

But DeGeneres told the Los Angeles Times a year later that the split was a surprise to her.

“She walked out the door and I haven’t spoken to her since, I don’t have the answers,” she stated.

At the time, tabloids reported that Heche — who identified as bisexual and had never dated another woman — had left DeGeneres for cameraman Coleman Laffoon.

Although Heche and DeGeneres put on loved-up displays in public, the star has hinted that her comedian lover tried to control the way she dressed when they were together.

In an April 2021 TikTok video, Heche posted a photo of her from the 1998 Golden Globes and said: “Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy.”

Heche and Degeneres became fixtures on Hollywood red carpets in the late 1990s, and were known as America's most famous same-sex couple.
Heche and DeGeneres became fixtures on Hollywood red carpets in the late 1990s and were known as America’s most famous same-sex couple.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty
In an April 2021 TikTok video, Heche posted a photo of her from the 1998 Golden Globes and said: "Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy."
In an April 2021 TikTok video, Heche posted a photo of her from the 1998 Golden Globes and said: “Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy.”
Getty Images

The breakup with DeGeneres significantly impacted the actress, who was placed in a psychiatric unit one day after the split.

Heche had driven into the desert after taking ecstasy before knocking on the door of a stranger, who welcomed her in, according to reports. The homeowner called the cops, with Heche telling the arriving deputies that “God was going to take everyone back to heaven in a spaceship.” She was then taken by ambulance to the hospital and admitted to a psychiatric unit before being released hours later.

The following year, Heche released an autobiography titled “Call Me Crazy,” detailing her turbulent childhood.

The actress alleged that she was sexually abused by her father — a closeted gay man who died from AIDS when she was just 13. A year after her dad’s death, her older brother died after driving into a tree — an act that Heche believed to be suicide.

Heche — who had never been with a woman before — described DeGeneres as "the best sex of my life." They are pictured in 1999.
Heche — who had never been with a woman before — described DeGeneres as “the best sex of my life.” They are pictured in 1999.
WireImage

In an interview promoting the book, Heche told Barbara Walters: “I had a fantasy world that I escaped to. I called my other personality Celestia,” she explains. “I believed I was from that world. I believed I was from another planet. I think I was insane.”

At the time, one newspaper claimed Heche had “spilled enough beans to worry Taco Bell” — with her film career taking a backseat to stories about her personal life.

In 2003, DeGeneres began headlining her own eponymous daytime talk show, which instantly turned into a beloved, dance-along hit — and gave her significant mainstream power in Hollywood.

The show became an important promotional tool for a star’s latest film or movie, but as Heche was unable to appear on her ex’s press junket juggernaut, it likely made her less marketable to movie bosses who would have hired her for roles.

Last year, Heche’s podcast co-star spoke out about how the system worked, stating: “If you’re on a show or in a film, they’ve got to go through ‘The Ellen [DeGeneres] Show’ to promote it — and guess what? Ellen blocked you from the show. And everybody knows that.”

Heche agreed, imitating DeGeneres by adding: “That’s right. ‘You have her in your movie, you have her in your show? You ain’t gonna get promo on mine!’”

Heche and Laffoon are pictured on their wedding day in September 2001.
Heche and Laffoon are pictured on their wedding day in Sept. 2001.
AP

A year after her split from DeGeneres, Heche went on to wed Laffoon. The pair welcomed a son, Homer, in 2002.

Although Heche was now in a heterosexual relationship, offers for roles in high-profile films did not return.

Instead, the star was confined to small-budget indie flicks, many of which were critically panned. In 2006, she signed on to star in the ABC drama “Men in Trees” — perhaps her most notable role following her breakup from DeGeneres.

In 2007, Heche was in the headlines again when she reported having left Laffoon for her Canadian co-star James Tupper — although the rumors were never confirmed.

Heche and Tupper welcomed a son named Atlas together in 2009. They split in 2018.

Heche was in a 9-year relationship with her "Men In Trees" co-star, James Tupper before their split in 2018. The pair have a son, Atlas, together.
Heche was in a 9-year relationship with her “Men in Trees” co-star James Tupper before their split in 2018. The pair have a son, Atlas, together.
Getty Images
Heche is seen with Tupper and their son Atlas (back), as well as Heche's oldest son, Homer (front) in 2012 snap. The girl in the image is unidentified.
Heche is seen with Tupper and their son Atlas (back), as well as Heche’s oldest son, Homer (front) in this 2012 snap. The girl in the image is unidentified.
FilmMagic

According to reports, Heche feuded with both ex-husband Laffoon and ex-partner Tupper over child support payments for the sons she had with each of them.

According to the Daily Mail, Laffoon accused Heche of having poor parenting skills and being “mentally unstable.” She blasted back by accusing him of being addicted to pornography and online poker.

Meanwhile, her financial feud with Tupper ended up in court, with the actress demanding to see her ex’s tax returns to work out how much child support he needed to pay.

Heche’s last relationship was with the actor Thomas Jane, her former co-star on HBO’s “Hung” from 2009 to 2011, whom she began dating in 2019.

The pair split earlier this year, the Daily Mail reports, with a source stating: “She was crazy in love with him. After so many failed relationships she thought she finally found her person – the guy who would be in her life forever.”

“And when they couldn’t make it work, she started falling apart,” the insider ominously added.

Heche's last relationship was with the actor Thomas Jane, whom she began dating in 2019. They are pictured that same year.
Heche’s last relationship was with the actor Thomas Jane, whom she began dating in 2019. They are pictured that same year.
Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for 2019 Sarasota Film Festival

Meanwhile, Heche juggled the raising of her two sons with on-off work in Hollywood.

Despite failing to return to the A-list, she did have guest roles on shows including “All Rise,” “Chicago P.D.” and “The Brave.” Heche also secured a role on the upcoming Lifetime movie titled “Girl in Room 13,” scheduled to air in September — and was set to co-star opposite The Weeknd in HBO’s much buzzed about “The Idol.”

Alas, her professional and personal trajectory took a very tragic turn. Heche was rushed to hospital late last week after suffering a severe anoxic brain injury in a fiery car crash in Los Angeles. The star — who was in a coma — was placed on life support, which was turned off on Friday.

As Heche lay in a coma, DeGeneres was asked about the condition of her famous ex, before responding: “We’re not in touch with each other, so I wouldn’t know.”

Amid accusations of being “callous” to her former partner’s tragic fate, DeGeneres later tweeted out a more affectionate message: “This is a sad day,” she wrote. “I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.”





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