Anne Heche remembers ‘Catfight’ director Onur Tukel

Onur Tukel, who directed Heche alongside Sandra Oh in the 2016 comedy, remembers her intense on-set commitment.

Actress Anne Heche was pronounced legally dead at 53 this week after suffering severe burns following a collision in Los Angeles. Among her recent roles was “Catfight,” in which she starred alongside Sandra Oh as two women in a series of physical altercations over many years. The film’s director, Onur Tukel, sent this reminiscence to IndieWire.

If anyone deserves to write a tribute to Anne Heche, it’s definitely not me. I don’t have the depth or talent to capture its essence. If Shakespeare were alive, maybe he could do it. His life was definitely Shakespearean. I could recount the tragedies and dramas that plagued his life, but you can find out for yourself. She wrote a memoir about it. And certainly you have heard the stories: how her father sexually abused her and then succumbed to AIDS, how she was raised in a cult, how her brother committed suicide, her exile from Hollywood, her strange journey of ecstasy that brought her to a stranger’s house. Now there’s the final act, his untimely death after exploding in a big ball of fire.

It’s the stuff of legend. For anyone who knew Annie, it might come as no surprise that she came out like this. She was a beautiful hell.

But she was also an artist. A very brilliant artist. Yes, in my opinion, she was a little crazy, but aren’t all grown-ups a little crazy? At least that’s what you’re labeled for when you break the rules, when you break the rules and don’t behave yourself. People call you crazy, especially when you’re a woman.

I had the privilege of working with her on a film called “Catfight”. In one scene, her character Ashley Miller beats the hell out of her nemesis Veronica Salt (Sandra Oh). When we took her in close-up, we placed a pillow in front of her and told her to smack it wildly, as if she had completely lost control. The DP, Zoe White, prepared the plan and with my producer Gigi Graff at my side, I called “action”.

Sandra Oh and Anne Heche

Daniel Bergeron

Annie slammed her fists into that fucking pillow like she was possessed. Tears burst. Her face twisted. Whatever pain she felt seemed to be real. Maybe too real. I didn’t want to act. When she got up and walked away, I yelled “cut” and the crew exhaled cathartically. It happens sometimes on a film set: you’re filming something authentic and there’s a collective sense of purpose in the room, like you’re doing something magical, something transcendent. I approached Annie after the take and the tears were still there. I asked her what was going through her mind as she punched that bag. She smiled at me and said, “I’m not going to tell you my secrets.

I didn’t know Anne Heche’s secrets. But I know she was a brilliant actress and a human being. We were together for two weeks on the set of “Catfight”. Throughout filming, there were laughs, stories, cigarettes and cocktails and it all felt like one big party. Of life. Art. Madness. That’s the beauty of cinema. Everything is imaginary. Ethereal. An escape from reality. And that was always what it was like hanging out with Annie. We stayed in touch and planned to do other things together, but that was not to be.

One night when we were partying in Los Angeles she told me there was no reality, it was all just a simulation or it was predestined or something . I don’t remember exactly because I was in plaster. She could have fucked me, but coming from Annie’s lips, it seemed possible. If anyone had knowledge of “the other side”, it would be Anne Heche. Now she knows. I love you Anne! Will always be!

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