Anne Heche: A "Beautiful, Talented, Funny Woman Over 35"S

In a profile that is at times weirder than Anne Heche's famous alter ego, Celestia, Alex Witchel explores the actress's comeback — as an "older woman" who gets plastic surgery on her vagina.

Heche is 40, and seems very happy with a new relationship, new baby, and several new roles, including the ex-wife of a male prostitute in HBO's "Hung," and a star turn opposite Ashton Kutcher in the new movie Spread. Unfortunately, Spread sounds totally upsetting: Witchel says Anne Heche plays "a corporate lawyer in L.A., a savvy older woman who relishes the control of "keeping" Kutcher as her boy toy even as she frantically tries to appear his contemporary physically." Her efforts include vaginal rejuvenation surgery, which seems especially disturbing given that Heche was sexually abused by her father and got herpes from him while still in diapers. Heche sounds game — she says,

It's interesting when all of a sudden you're the older woman. I had to ask myself: ‘What am I not confident about? Why does this scare me?' As a theme in my life, I've always looked at how I can rid myself of shame, so I definitely saw this character as a way to get rid of shame about getting older. Did I understand that there was a person who wanted so desperately to feel loved that they would put themselves through almost any trial, hers ended up being surgery, to stay connected to her youth? Sure. So I had a lot of compassion for this woman.

Still, it's a little sad that Heche's comeback from mental illness (stemming from her abuse and her mother's unwillingness to acknowledge it) has arrived in the form of a role that requires her character to undergo plastic surgery "to remain appealing to younger men." It's even sadder that "Hung" co-creator Colette Burson says of Heche's role,

We auditioned a lot of people. It is incredibly difficult to find beautiful, talented, funny women over 35.

Witchel doesn't interrogate this statement, preferring to quip, "the hardest part may be getting them to admit they're over 35." And while she is sensitive in dealing with Heche's horrific childhood, her relationships with Ellen DeGeneres and ex-husband Coleman Laffoon, and her current family life, Witchel's description of Heche's looks verges on the bizarre. She writes,

her face had no discernible pores or oil glands. People have killed for less, but the urge never quite struck - maybe because she makes no distinctions between herself as a celebrity and the mere mortals she encounters in the course of a day.

It's certainly charitable of Witchel that she never wanted to kill her subject during their interview. But she could've gone a little farther and actually questioned the notion that Heche is part of some rare breed of talented over-35 women — and instead examined a system that reduces a woman with an incredibly complex and often painful life to an age and a lack of oil glands.

Anne Heche Is Playing It Normal Now [NYT]