“Catfight” director Onur Tukel remembers Anne Heche

Onur Tukel, who directed Heche opposite Sandra Oh in the 2016 comedy, recalls their intense involvement on set.

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

If anyone deserves to pay tribute to Anne Heche, it certainly isn’t me. I have neither the depth nor the talent to capture its essence. If Shakespeare were alive, maybe he could do it. Her life was certainly Shakespearean. I could relate the tragedy and drama that plagued her life, but you can learn that for yourself. She wrote memoirs about it. And surely you’ve heard the stories: how her father sexually abused her and later succumbed to AIDS, how she grew up in a cult, how her brother committed suicide, her exile from Hollywood, her weird ecstasy trip that got her there strange house. Now there is the final act, her untimely death after exploding in a large fireball.

It’s the stuff of legend. It might come as no surprise to anyone who knew Annie that she ended up dating like this. She was a beautiful inferno.

But she was also an artist. A very brilliant artist. Yes, I thought she was a little crazy, but aren’t all greats a little crazy? At least that’s how you get labeled if you don’t play by the rules, don’t play by the rules, and don’t behave. People call you crazy, especially if 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 her nemesis Veronica Salt (Sandra Oh). When we photographed her up close, we put a pillow in front of her and told her to slap it wildly like she’d completely lost control. The DP, Zoe White, set up the shoot and with my producer Gigi Graff by my side, I called action.

Sandra Oh and Anne Heche

Sandra Oh and Anne Heche

Daniel Bergeron

Annie sent her fists into that damn pillow like she was possessed. tears broke out. Her face twisted. Whatever pain she felt, it seemed real. Maybe too real. It didn’t feel like acting. As she got up and walked away, I yelled “cut” and the crew exhaled cathartically. That’s what happens sometimes on a film set: you’re filming something authentic and there’s a collective purpose in the space, like you’re doing something magical, transcendent. I went to Annie’s after the recording and the tears were still there. I asked her what was going through her mind when she hit that sack. She smiled at me and said, “I won’t tell you my secrets.”

I didn’t know the secrets of Anne Heche. But I do know that she was a brilliant actress and person. We were together on the set of Catfight for two weeks. There was laughter and stories and cigarettes and cocktails throughout the shoot and it all felt like one big celebration. Of life. Art. Insanity. That’s the beauty of filmmaking. It’s all make-believe. Ethereal. An escape from reality. And that’s what it always felt like to hang out with Annie. We stayed in touch and had plans to do other things together, but it wasn’t to be.

One night while we were partying in LA she told me that there was no reality, that this was all a simulation, or that it was preordained or something. I can’t remember exactly because I was in a cast. She could have fucked me, but from Annie’s lips it seemed possible. If anyone knew anything about “the other side”, it would be Anne Heche. Now she knows. I love you Annie! Will always!

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/08/anne-heche-catfight-onur-tukel-1234751600/ “Catfight” director Onur Tukel remembers Anne Heche

Lindsay Lowe

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