Anne Heche, the award-winning star of “Six Days Seven Nights” and “Walking and Talking,” died Aug. 14 at the age of 53 after being involved in a car crash in Los Angeles. Her life and career were often overshadowed by tabloid coverage of her three-year relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, a union that helped usher in a new era of gay representation in media, but one that came at the expense of Heche’s privacy.
Heche never recaptured the level of stardom she had achieved in the late 1990s, but she worked at a high level on television, film and Broadway. One of her final completed features, “What Remains,” a murder mystery that co-stars Kellan Lutz and Cress Williams, wrapped in late 2021. Its director, Nathan Scoggins, shares an emotional tribute to Heche in which he praises her talent, kindness and resilience.
Anne Heche gave me her very best, and I’m forever grateful.
Anne showed up to our sets in and around Amarillo, Tex., with good humor, focus and determination. She was professional, knowing her lines and her character of a haunted small town sheriff deeply; she was playful, often laughing and joking with me and members of our crew between takes; she was proud of the work she was doing (“Oh my god, the more I read into your words the more I love this story,” she told me by text at the end of one long day), and the two of us fell very quickly into an easy rapport. She had absolutely no ego when it came to her work: “I’m here to be used,” she said more than once. “Put me where you want me.” She was enthusiastic, always up for an adventure. One night our entire crew showed up (and overwhelmed) a small karaoke bar in town, and I’ll say this — Anne loved to dance.
Anne held nothing back — in life or in performance. She was fearless, going too far in some takes just to make sure she went far enough. Cress Williams, our leading man, was up for it every step of the way, the solid rock she’d crash against. Marcus Gladney Jr., our young lead, looked like he’d gone through a workout after their scenes together. She pushed everyone to be their best, a spark plug of creativity electrifying each scene. I always tried to give her enough room to explore and play, and would then figure out how to rein it in. “Remember,” I whispered to her after the end of a take on her first day, “you do your most interesting work when you do nothing at all.” “Thanks,” she smirked back. “Can you tell that to the New York Times?” In that one moment I got a glimpse into the pain of a life spent with newspapers and tabloids chasing every troubled moment.
Anne was trusting, to a fault. I got the feeling that in her life there had been people she had trusted too much — people who had hurt or betrayed her. She was innocent, a pure soul, who let people in and sometimes suffered for it. But you can’t love without trust, and she loved with her whole heart. I was overwhelmed sometimes by her trust in me — as we waited between shots, she started letting me in. Our conversations became exhilarating and exhausting merry-go-rounds about parenting, spirituality, art, music — sometimes all in the same five-minute span. She shared with me some of her life’s struggles — I didn’t know that she’d taken my film in part because I shared the name of her brother, who had died when she was young. Our relationship took on a sibling dynamic very quickly; I certainly felt like an older brother (even though I was younger), constantly putting my arm around her, as if trying to protect her from the world.
I wish I’d been able to protect her more.
Anne loved to sing. On one particular day a plane momentarily slowed our work, and I said “Be still for the plane.” Anne immediately started singing an old hymn I knew, “Be still and know that I am God.” I started harmonizing with her, and she was gobsmacked. So was I — I didn’t know that she loved to sing old hymns. She clutched my arm and said, “Can we do that again for my social media?” We did, and the two of us stood quietly by a little river singing about the gift of stillness.
Anne struggled to be still; I’m guessing that hymn provided a little solace for a restless soul.
On our last day Anne asked if I could gather my “choir” (really just a group of crew members who gathered at my house on one of our off-days for some singing) and sing to her. I did and we did, a group of about 15 of us sitting in the pews of Victory Baptist Church while I sat at the piano and played an old hymn that goes “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me/I once was lost, but now am found/Was blind but now I see.” It was a beautiful moment in a series of beautiful moments on set, where many of us laughed, hugged, and cried in equal measure. (I made “What Remains” with my whole heart; we all did.)
I can still see her, in my mind’s eye, surrounded by cast and crew, their arms around her, her arms around them, caught in a moment of Grace, which we all need, Anne included.
Anne lived her life on the move, on the run — tragically in many ways. She had demons and struggles that I only learned a little about in our times together.
I hope she found some grace and peace along the way.
Nathan Scoggins recently wrapped production on “What Remains.” His list of credits include “The Least of These,” released in 2011 by Universal and starring Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Oscar-nominee Robert Loggia, as well as the TV movie “The Perfect Summer” starring Eric Roberts and the independent feature film “Redline.” He collaborated with a team of filmmakers to win the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest in 2012 and 2013 with “Sling Baby” and “Fashionista Daddy.” He just directed two episodes of an upcoming television series for Sony Affirm. He lives in Los Angeles.
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