At that time, few people used or had access to the internet. There was no Twitter, tagging, or hashtags, no #MeToo movement, no LGBTQIA – gay or straight were the options. A Palm Pilot was the gadget of choice for the tech-savvy consumer. It wasn’t the 1950’s by any means, but biases and bigotry were still held near dear by many, Hollywood included.
When the instinctively candid Anne Heche was accompanied by her then romantic partner Ellen DeGeneres to the Volcano movie premiere, the retribution was shockingly swift and Draconian. The wide-open doors and welcome mats spontaneously disappeared, though a few notable exceptions, including Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin, remained resolute in their support.
Beneath her ethereal beauty, Heche possessed a reservoir of strength, conviction, and talent that enabled her to forge an enduring career in independent films, television, and Broadway. She garnered Emmy and Tony nominations and evidenced herself as a notably gifted and daring artist.
Now with a major motion picture playing in theaters across the country and internationally, and a successful podcast (Better Together with Anne & Heather) Anne Heche is in a better place than ever. She’s healed her wounds, is raising a loving family, and striving to make the world a more compassionate place.
Q: You have a major film release this week with 13 Minutes. It’s a “big” movie with an ensemble cast, special effects, and lots of anticipation. It’s an exciting time for you. Do you feel nervous or anxious about its reception?
AH: I’m very excited for Lindsay (Gossling). To be able to get a theatrical release right now is so rare. And of course, coming out of a year where nobody could even go into the theaters, what I feel is a celebration and hopefulness that the movie gets received the way we all want it to. It deserves an audience. They can react and respond together like the old days. Disaster movies are meant to be seen with a large group of people because it makes it all the more terrifying and exciting. Maybe it’s just what people need right now to rally around. I’m a cheerleader for it right now and want it to be successful.
Q: While the tornado appears to be the central character on the surface, what are some of the core subject matter and themes expressed in the film?
AH: It is a story of overcoming a horrendous act of God. One of the things that Lindsay did that I think nobody has been able to achieve in a disaster film is making the storylines and the characters people you care so much about. It’s not just about the disaster. The stories are so important, and each one of them so different and diverse and meaningful. Sure, watching the film, we get scared from the tornado, but what she’s done is make it a 50/50 between the disaster and how wonderful the special effects are, and merge it with the beauty of the stories being told and the characters that are in them – I give her a lot of credit for that delicate balance.
Q: You portray someone in the film with beliefs that are the antithesis of everything you stand for. How did you prepare yourself to present her with authenticity and depth?
AH: Having stood up for equal rights, I can deeply connect with this character and the necessity for these stories to continue to be told. I play a mother who has a harsh reaction to her son coming out. With the incredible actor who plays my son (Will Peltz) and Trace (Atkins), I feel like we hit what I wanted to do – to make the audience so riled at my reaction to my son’s coming out that we keep pushing that needle so that people make the choice. When I play a character that, from the outside, I would judge very deeply, it is my job to strip myself of that judgment so that the audience can decide for themselves. What would they do in the 13 minutes after their son or daughter came out to them? It took a lot of, um, balls, I would say, to play a character that isn’t one that we embrace. It takes guts to risk not being liked.
Q: Did you draw on aspects of your own family when preparing for the role, or was that too painful?
AH: Certainly, our stories where we’re born from are the story that we need to tell vocally. I wrote a book about it, Call Me Crazy. I believe that telling our stories is the path to healing. It was not too painful for me to draw on my mother because I don’t base my characters on one person in particular. I base my characters on the soul of a culture that exists in a pool of consciousness. So everything that I am goes into a character. Everything that I have come from goes into a character. I peel away what I need and bring up what I don’t. That’s part of what I believe makes me a unique actress – the experiences I’ve had, the troubles I’ve had to overcome, and the vision that I have for a future that does not treat anybody with a lack of respect. It is part of my process to gauge and find forgiveness to go as deep as I want into character.
Q: Were you at all surprised this role came your way?
AH: I knew exactly why they wanted me to play this role. I was thrilled they gave me the opportunity. I think I’m the only person who could have done it truthfully, Lindsay and I very much agreed on that. She knows and is a fan of my advocacy, and together we thought that we could do a really cool thing by flipping what people normally would think. Anybody who looks up anything about me knows that I do not believe that we should reject any soul on this planet. But that also makes it easier for me to dive so deep because I don’t live in fear that people wonder if I’m a judgmental person. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s judgmental. It’s funny if we look at a horror film and if you play the bad guy, people say, “oh wow, what great acting. They scared the shit out of me”. But when you play somebody whose soul we look at in judgment.
Q: Have you always had this ability to get into another person’s thought process and reasoning?
AH: When I was in high school, we were studying the death penalty, and we had to debate the opposite side of the argument that we believed. That so challenged me because I so adamantly disagreed with it. When we look at the other side of something, we allow ourselves to see our choices fully. If we live in denial, we are doing precisely what we don’t want to be done to us to believe that we are right. We forget that every single person who has an opinion thinks their opinion is correct. Those challenges solidified my abilities and opened up my philosophy of life, in the essence of getting to a place where human beings are fully realized for 100% of who they are. That doesn’t mean that I always perfectly go along or don’t have any opinions about right and wrong. But I do encourage myself and others to take a pause before we spew our opinions and allow people the grace to ask questions so they can tell us what they think and feel.
Q: You developed an advanced ideal of truth when much of the world was not ready to receive it.
AH: One of the things that I was so shocked by 20 years ago when I took Ellen DeGeneres to the Volcano premier was that nobody ever gave me the courtesy to ask me why I had made that choice. If they had, they would have understood more fully who I was and not rejected me for just being something they had never seen. We have to remember at that time, it was only gay or straight. For me, the movement of that needle is my greatest achievement.
Q: Looking back, what would you say to your younger self?
AH: I would say brace yourself. This is going to be a rocky ride. I would still make the same decision, but I would seek wisdom from others who had gone before me in making a decision so publicly to see how I could do it with more elegance. But, unfortunately, I did not have the people that I have in my life now. I would have told my younger self to find somebody to trust, to help me through it because it was very, very, very difficult. But now I have a group of people around me that have my back so that I don’t fall into a trap of thinking that anger or ugliness, or lack of kindness is a choice. It’s not a choice.
Q: If you could put your mature brain back in your younger self, are there things you wish you had said to people back then but could not find the words or that seemed too controversial?
AH: I wish somebody had given me the courtesy of asking why I made that choice. If they had, they would be able to open up to the heart of the girl who, at 13 years old, lost her dad to AIDS in 1983. It was only in his death that our family found out that he had lived a closeted gay life. That lie deeply affected my entire family, and when given a chance to stand up for truth, you bet your ass I was going to walk that carpet with Ellen – despite the consequences. In my mind, I had no other choice. That choice did have severe consequences. Not only was I fired from Fox and my ten million dollar picture deal, but I was blacklisted from studio pictures for ten years. If I had the compassionate language that I have now, I would have been able to find my way to speak more effectively. That may have cleared things up a little bit quicker and not felt like a death sentence because, at that time, that’s what it felt like. It is just beginning to feel like I’m on the other side of that judgment from others. It feels as if a cloak is coming off that I’ve worn for a long time.
Q: Have you found peace and forgiveness?
AH: Well, I would say what I’ve done is wrap my head around the fact that not everybody knows what they’re doing all the time, and the intention may not have been to harm me. However, the decisions made were equally made in the dark, and nobody knew what the repercussions would be. So what I’ve done is release the burden for those who treated me the way they did. However, you can look at things and be able to take responsibility. To be honest, I would appreciate it if those who punished me would take responsibility and heal from their side while I’m trying to heal from mine.
Q: How do you view your choices in retrospect?
AH: Well, the fact of the matter is, my choices made my life because I get to sit in the truth, the joy, and the exhilaration of having done something to move the needle of acceptance. I’d love for everyone to stand up for the right for people to choose who they want to love. It is what formed many moments of my life. I have the most incredible blessing — I get to be in the life I want to be. Having told the truth, having lived out loud, and been proud of the choices that I made. The roles that I played, the ones that I got after I was blacklisted, were the roles that supported my family. They were given to me because of my talents because those people had the courage to hire me regardless of what everybody else was thinking. What’s important is that I was able to continue a career.
Q: Now you have a major motion picture release and more on the way. In addition, you have a weekly podcast Better Together. Tolerance and compassion have their rewards.
AH: Right now, I look forward to picking up where I left off in-studio movies because I look better, feel better, and still have some incredible performances to give. Whatever God’s timing is never up to me, but it feels like a perfect moment right now. Actually after this I am back working with my hero Alec Baldwin in our new film, “Supercell”. Speaking of Alec I would like to send all of those impacted by this devastating tragedy all my love and support. I know how deeply Alec cares about his set family, so I understand how heartbreaking the accident is for him. He has always supported me, and I want him to know that I support him in this tragic accident. I hope he is feeling thr love and surrounds himself with it right now.
Q: You were the “patient zero” of cancel culture. Has it all just gone too far now?
AH: Let’s look at the culture and try to make it better. We only have a certain amount of time, and we have a choice to make in each one of those minutes. Let’s go back to 13 Minutes. Hopefully, people will take 13 minutes to think about how they treat people and what they want to become. Choice is our biggest superpower because we get to decide how our day will go based on what we think and feel, and act upon.
Q: How can people get to place of lucidity and understanding?
AH: We want to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions, their tone, their voice, and their compassion. When people take responsibility and have a purpose in their lives, they live longer and happier lives. So I encourage people to define for themselves what purpose is to them. I don’t think we’re asked that enough. I don’t believe we are taught that in schools enough. What is the purpose and intent of your life, and when you clarify that, it helps every decision you make. Decide who you are and what you would like that trajectory to be. We don’t ask it enough because it is very scary to decide who you are. We’re asked to join groups, cultures, clans, religions, and others in what they believe. The difficult decision, I believe, and the biggest blessing and gift we have from the universe is that we get to choose for ourselves what we think and feel. If we take on that responsibility, then we are going to have some very different decisions made. Being a part of that keeps the stories evolving so that our children can know that we’re evolving. They need the encouragement to understand how to overcome this and hopefully create the next generation of people who won’t make the same decisions we did. It’s as simple as this: If you act right, you get things good in your life. Feel good because you’re giving to others, and you’re getting it back. It’s a very simple equation. The satisfaction is the smile on my face every morning when I wake up, and I look into the eyes of my children. Along with Heather Duffy, my podcast partner, we get to go about our day looking, searching, and finding ways to better our community and the people around us and meet those doing the same. We have created a tribe of listeners on our show, and we are dedicated to learning together with them and always speaking the truth that makes us all feel less judged and less alone in this world. I end each show by saying “Until nextime live in loving kindess.”
In an excerpt from her unreleased second book, the Emmy award winning actress shares her personal poetry for the premiere issue of Gurus Magazine.
This poem is my prayer and voice for what I see the future to be — an offering to join in something other than darkness. I think that it sums up what gurus is about. Living in the light and not in the dark — coming to a place between earth and sky where we can meet in the middle.
Me = WE
I am a juniper trip, greeting the tides of sway,
In my recital of gay restless Wonder of scent and flavor and
Color-unrest within tide and ride of splendor unknown,
Awaiting the collide of bold and fervor that takes no
Prisoner but ourselves in the surprising fear that
Greets it’s mate, the thing always wanted in our debate,
Of whether or not we will courage The Fate upon its arrival.
But now, as the time of it’s happening becomes present,
we question it’s prescience as foolery and seek permission
from any other to relieve Us of our birth right’s pleasure
to choose the “yes” of our quest with not one percent doubt,
as the tiniest of “No thanks, too much for me”
Is the halt of the glee when entering the door of
Unbounded free, that can not be your experience
if any singular choice, however small,
belongs in the hands of another.
The worldly-God is funny like that, as there is no zero point
to connect, if at all relying on the key of something or someone OTHER.
The pressure of this grandeur, is the drive and force to awake
Into the spirit of the wholly Grace, that replaces fear in its wake.
Come holy ocean, scent and taste. A new life meant for You to embrace what’s true.
Running from the sun is what Society has done to transform us into puppets of abuse.
Now is the time to flip the dime, state the old as unfun, demand it undone,
and arrive at the place of joining God’s grace.
Each and everyone deserving its taste.
I say “No thanks” to the walls that have been built around,
Through towers of babble and endless mind-scrabble,
deceiving the self by teaching something else.
Goodbye sin, Hello grin, kick the lie away as of this Day.
The day I say I am here to stay and no one or sum
Can convince me any other way.
I’ll meet you where the Juniper meets the sea,
and ever more choose to be free.
Me = WE
Book to be released 2022, for more information visit www.anneheche.com