Daytime Emmy Award-winning actress Anne Heche has passed away at age 53. Her representatives released a statement to the press on Thursday evening when the decision was made to terminate her life support once it was determined she was brain dead. Under California law that is the definition of death.
The family’s rep confirmed to PEOPLE that, while Heche is legally dead, her heart is still beating and she has not been taken off life support in order to allow OneLegacy Foundation enough time to find recipients who will be a match.
“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend,” a rep for Heche said in a statement on behalf of her 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.”
Last night, Heche’s reps released this statement:
“We want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers for Anne’s recovery and thank the dedicated staff and wonderful nurses that cared for Anne at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills hospital.
Unfortunately, due to her accident, Heche suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and remained in a coma. It had 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.”
Last Friday, Heche was removed from her burning blue Mini Cooper after she crashed into a Mar Vista residence, which ignited a fire that required 59 firefighters and took 65 minutes to extinguish the blaze, which caused catastrophic structural damage to the house. Heche suffered horrific burns and her lungs severely damaged. The resident of the home was present, but only sustained minor injuries.
TMZ reported that Heche was “flailing wildly as they put her in the ambulance” after she was removed from her burning vehicle. Prior to crashing into the home, Heche narrowly missed hitting a pedestrian who was walking on a sidewalk in the same neighborhood. Shortly after missing the pedestrian, Heche’s car struck a Jaguar and then she struck a nearby garage before putting her car in reverse and barreling away from onlookers, leaving the scene of the accident with her tires squealing. The driver of the Jaguar was not injured.
After the crash, Heche was taken to a nearby hospital where she was intubated. On Saturday, Heche’s best friend and podcast partner Heather Duffy issued a statement stating, “Anne is currently in stable condition. Her family and friends ask for your thoughts and prayers and to respect her privacy during this difficult time.”
Unfortunately, things quickly changed for the worse and her updated status was that she’s in “critical condition. Shortly after the accident, Anne Heche became unconscious, slipping into a coma,” her spokesperson said. “She has a significant pulmonary injury requiring mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention.”
According to multiple news outlets LAPD obtained a warrant to test Heche’s blood for intoxication at the time of the crash. While she was not under the influence of alcohol, there were narcotics in her system at the time of the accident.
Anne Celeste Heche was born on May 25, 1969 in Aurora, Ohio. In 1985, when Heche was 16, an agent spotted her in a school play and secured her an audition for the daytime soap opera As the World Turns. Heche flew to New York City, auditioned, and was offered a job, but her mother insisted she finish high school first.
Shortly before her high school graduation in 1987, Heche was offered a dual role on the daytime soap opera Another World. “Again I was told I couldn’t go. My mother was very religious and maybe she thought it was a sinner’s world,” Heche told The Telegraph in 2011. “But I got on the phone and said, ‘Send me the ticket. I’m getting on the plane.’ I did my time with my mom in a one-bedroom, skanky apartment and I was done.”
Heche played Marley Love/Victoria Hudson on the soap opera Another World from 1984 to 1992 before she spread her wings to pursue the big screen. After many appearances in many projects, she appeared as Maggie in the Academy Award-nominated 1997 film Donnie Brasco opposite Johnny Depp as Brosco.
Her performance in Donnie Brasco earned her a leading role in Six Days Seven Nights opposite Harrison Ford. Around the same time, Heche publicly dated Ellen DeGeneres which catapulted the two of them into the pop culture spotlight as Hollywood’s first lesbian power couple.
Heche maintained a career in Hollywood for years with recurring roles in TV shows such as Ally McBeal, Everwood, Nip/Tuck, Men in Trees, Hung, Save Me, and Chicago P.D., just to name a few. She currently has several projects in post-production as well including a Lifetime movie titled Girl In Room 13, which explores the dark underworld of the $150-billion-dollar human trafficking industry. Amy Winter, executive VP and head of programming for Lifetime Networks addressed Heche’s accident on Thursday during a panel for the film at the Television Critics Association virtual press tour. Winter said the film was still scheduled to premiere in September as planned.
“This project is important to Anne, along with each and every one of us,” Winter said.” We all sought to make a film that would bring attention to this appalling issue of human sex trafficking. We hope that this film reached you and that you are just as inspired as Anne was to help us with our mission to stop violence against women.”
Heche is survived by her two children, 20 year-old Homer, whom she shared with ex-husband Coleman Laffoon and 13-year-old Atlas Heche Tupper, whom she shared with her ex-boyfriend and popular Canadian actor, James Tupper.