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Actress Anne Heche.

Actress Anne Heche. She wrote and directed a segment of the upcoming HBO film “If These Walls Could Talk 2” a look at the lesbian experience thru three different decades. The segment, set in the year 2000, stars Sharon Stone, and Heche’s real-life lover, Ellen Degeneres, who is also one of the film’s executive producers. The film debuts on Sunday, March 5th. Heche and Degeneres came out publicly as a couple, three years ago at the time Degeneres’ sitcom character came out on “Ellen.” Heche’s film roles include “The Third Mile,” “Return to Paradise,” “Six Days Seven Nights,” and the upcoming “Aggie Rose.”

45:35

Other segments from the episode on March 1, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 1, 2000: Interview with Anne Heche; Commentary of the language used to discuss the millennium.

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: MARCH 01, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 030101np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Interview With Anne Heche
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Anne Heche has starred in such films as "Psycho," "Return to Paradise," "Six Days Seven Nights," "Wag the Dog," "Donnie Brascoe," "Walking and Talking," and the current film, "The Third Miracle." But she's also famous as half of the most public lesbian couple in Hollywood.

Three years ago, she and Ellen DeGeneres began a relationship that coincided with DeGeneres' coming out and her sitcom character coming out. Heche and DeGeneres appeared together in public as a couple and spoke about their love, leading to speculation about how this would affect their careers.

Now Heche has written and directed one of the three stories in the new HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2," which premieres Sunday.

The film tells three different lesbian love stories, each set in a different decade. Heche's episode is set in the year 2000. Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone star as a couple who want to have a baby and are looking for a sperm donor so that Stone can conceive.

In this scene, DeGeneres is going through the profiles of potential donors, trying to winnow down the list. She's upset that she's incapable of biologically fathering a child.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK, PART 2," HBO)

ELLEN DeGENERES, ACTRESS: If we had that kind of luck that we could say, Oops, look what we did out of our love. But we can't do that, so now we have to look at sperm and pick the guy that's closest to me, that has blue eyes and blond hair, and -- I don't care any more, I don't care. I mean, really, is his sperm going to be different because he's an electrical engineer than the guy that works at a hardware store, even? You know, that has a little red vest? What's wrong with that?

Interests: Hiking. He walks. Wow, that's special. You must be a special guy.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: You know, in the sitcom, Ellen played somebody very self-conscious, and in your movie there's a love scene that she plays opposite Sharon Stone.

ANNE HECHE, "IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK, PART 2": Right.

GROSS: How did she feel about doing that? It would have been something very out of character on "Ellen."

HECHE: It was. Oh, well, one -- and they wouldn't let her do it. You know, that's a...

GROSS: That's true.

HECHE: ... very clear thing. They put a warning label as she was holding hands with a girl, let alone partaking in anything more physical.

But yes, it was very vulnerable for her. I mean, I think it's the most vulnerable she's ever been, one, and -- one, and (ph) wanting to not shock the audience with too much. I mean, she was already showing the differences in her as a woman, and so that was more revealing of her than she had been. And I think she was nervous about giving the audience too much. So that was one of her concerns with doing the love scene.

But another concern of hers was that she didn't want me to feel -- I don't know, feel like she was cheating on me. And we had this argument over, you know, me doing love scenes when I have been in movies, and she didn't like it. And she -- the boundary of physicality is a different thing -- difficult thing for her to kind of process through. You know, she says, "Once it becomes physical, then it's real," you know, you're still kissing a person, even if you don't like that person, you're kissing the person.

And especially when it's somebody like Sharon Stone, and they got along so well and they had such a great chemistry. She was very concerned about my feelings around it.

I, of course, wrote it, and spent four months making her do it, so -- and trying to convince her every single day, like, Come on, honey, it's Sharon Stone. I mean, for pete's sakes, I could have hired somebody else.

But I gave her Sharon. You know, complain when it's somebody that you don't like at all, and it's very unattractive.

But we did, we debated it, and -- I mean, ultimately what it came down to was a decision that we were showing a truthful lesbian relationship. And to me, a very truthful part of our relationship is our passion.

GROSS: I'm wondering if your thoughts about the possibility of you becoming a mother changed when you started your relationship with Ellen and weren't in a heterosexual relationship. I don't know if you are remotely interested in being a mother.

HECHE: I was when I was writing this. I -- Ellen and I became very obsessed, kind of, with what would we -- if we had a baby, how would we do it? And I think I needed that in order to write it. I don't think my relationship -- I don't think the relationship changed my point of view on being a mother. I love children, I've always wanted to have children. And I think how it changed, actually, is that it didn't become a focus of what our relationship was going to be about.

And I think in the heterosexual relationships that I've had, it -- there is a very strict journey along with that. OK, you go out for a couple of years, then you move in, and then maybe you're going to talk about getting married, and then you're going to talk about having children. And that seems like a destiny that has been placed for women throughout history. I mean, that's what our job is. And I think there's an awareness of that much more in heterosexual relationships than in homosexual relationships, because it's not so easy.

As Ellen says in the movie, you -- you know, we can't make a mistake. So when a same-sex couple brings a child into their relationship, it takes so much more time, so much more thought. There are no accidents. You have to -- I mean, for some people, it's a five-year process, for some a 10-year process, as in heterosexual relationships too, but it's not just -- it doesn't -- it's not an easy goal to attain. And so you have -- it's more thought-provoking when you're thinking of having children.

And that's how my relationship influenced my understanding of having kids, just that it's a lot more difficult.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Anne Heche, and she wrote and directed one of the stories in the new installment of "If These Walls Could Talk," which will premiere on HBO Sunday, March 5. And it stars Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone.

Now, I want to ask you, your father was an itinerant fundamentalist choir director. Would you describe what he did, exactly, and what...

HECHE: And many other things. (laughs)

GROSS: Well, we'll get to the other things. But what did he do as the choir director, and why did it entail traveling around a lot?

HECHE: He sang with flair. Oh, the traveling didn't have anything to do with being in church. The traveling had to do with our financial circumstances and running away from our debt. That -- the two kind of tried to go hand in hand, as he was constantly trying to explain why we didn't have a home. But he just -- whatever town we were in, he would just go to the church. And he was a wonderful pianist and organist and had a beautiful voice and talent for making people sing.

So that just kind of happened by accident. They didn't go hand in hand.

GROSS: Why was the family always in debt?

HECHE: Because he didn't have a job other than being a choir director. (laughs) He just couldn't seem to settle down into a normal job, which, of course, we found out later, and as I understand it now, was because he had another life. He wanted to be with men, and yet he was grounded in this family. I mean, he had four children, and they were very Christian, so certainly coming out as being a gay man, especially then, was not -- it was not even allowed. I mean, certainly for him, I can't imagine how difficult that must have been.

But because he wasn't allowed to be who he was, he split off, and went to find his love elsewhere than with the family. So we kept moving to try to be with him, and never knowing why he was going away to these different places. Later found out it was to be with his lovers.

GROSS: Do you think that traveling a lot too made it more difficult for his secret life to be discovered?

HECHE: Oh, def -- oh, oh, yes, definitely, without a doubt. Oh, yes. We would move to New Jersey, and all of a sudden he had to be in New York all the time. I mean, he was just -- first we were in Ohio. He had to be in New Jersey. Then we were in New Jersey, and funnily enough, whatever he was working on went bankrupt. You know, I mean, the whole thing was just a scam to get away from his family, really, so he could be who he was.

I mean, I only have that compassion now after years of therapy, but (laughs) I had some tough days about him.

GROSS: Did you feel very rejected by him because he was always trying to be someplace else?

HECHE: Sure. I mean, sure, when you don't -- but when you don't have another experience to compare it to, you kind of think all dads are like that, until you witness it in other families. And as a child, we have such a wonderful thing as children, that we can just make the best of everything, and say, Well, this must be what everybody else is experiencing, and I've got to make the best of it.

You don't know that it's not good until you witness something that it seems better.

GROSS: Were you brought up strictly as a fundamentalist? And if so, did that affect the kind of popular culture you were exposed to, the movies you could watch, the TV shows, records?

HECHE: Really, I couldn't watch movie or TV, none of it, none of it. I couldn't watch any of it. No, books were not pushed in our direction either. There was -- yes, it was a very limited scope. And it's broadened since then. I mean, even my family because of -- you know, my mother is still a Christian, and I think she would hesitate to say that she's a fundamentalist, because it has a negative connotation. Of course, I say, well, gay does too, and I call myself a gay.

But she has broadened her perspective, and yet at that time and with my father, it was a very, very deep fundamental belief system.

GROSS: So you couldn't watch any movies or TV?

HECHE: No. I think the first movie I saw was "Star Wars."

GROSS: And how old were you?

HECHE: And we made a big deal out of it. It was a huge deal. And I was, you know, 9, maybe. So funny I got to work with him. But it was a huge deal that we could go to the movies.

GROSS: And did your friends have similar upbringings, or were they seeing lots of things that you weren't allowed to?

HECHE: You know what? We -- yes, oh, definitely. We moved a lot, so I was constantly changing schools, so I didn't even gather a group of friends, really, when I was younger. But yes, definitely. As soon as I would walk into the schools, and what they were talking about, I had -- I was very, very naive about the world, didn't even know, for example, that -- what Jewish people were.

And I went to a school when I was -- we moved to New Jersey and I was 7 or 8 years old, and met a Jewish girl who became my best friend, and didn't understand when my parents were saying, Well, you have to bring her to church and have her accept the Lord as her savior.

And to me, then I was saving this Jewish girl, and then she took me to temple. And I was, like, This is cool! Which, of course, didn't go over well with my parents.

But somehow -- I mean, we were so, so strict in this belief system that I got her to come to church, convincing her that she was a sinner, to get down on her knees and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come into her heart. She had no idea what she was talking about, and neither did I. And yet I had been taught that she was a sinner.

GROSS: My guest is Anne Heche. She wrote and directed one of the three stories in the new HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2," which premieres on Sunday. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is actress Anne Heche, and she wrote and directed one of the stories in the new HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2," which premieres Sunday, March 5.

So your father was a choir director who traveled a lot because he was living this secret life as a homosexual.

HECHE: Right.

GROSS: How did you find out?

HECHE: He was dying of AIDS in '83. It was still not named anything yet right at that time. It was the "gay disease." It was just starting to get known as AIDS. And there were starting to be articles in newspapers about it, and of course at that time it was -- you know, you can get AIDS by touching somebody, and you can get AIDS by hugging somebody, it just -- whatever it was, you could AIDS if you were around this person.

My father was never open about his relationships or his disease with us. It was the doctors that told us about two weeks before he died. And by that point, he was so delirious he didn't even know who we were, so we never were able to confront him about it, and it's a very tragic story about somebody who has to hide so far that they -- you know, I do believe that we create disease in our bodies because of shame.

And I think the shame was so huge for him, and the running and the hiding and hiding who you are is death, really. And I learned that very soon on, and I think that's why I'm able to be as open about myself as I am, because if you're not, I've already witnessed what can happen.

And in that, he gave me an amazing gift.

GROSS: You were -- what, you said 12 when your father died. When you realized that he...

HECHE: I was 13.

GROSS: Thirteen. When you realized that he had a secret life and that his secret life contradicted his own religious beliefs, did it affect your religious beliefs? I don't know how strongly you identified as a Christian at the time.

HECHE: I was a very big questioner of religion, even though I was a good girl, and so I did was I was told and believed what I was told, until this future time, I knew, when I would be able to explore my own arenas of life. Certainly by that point, there -- we were on shaky ground anyway as a family, and so our religious beliefs did not seem to really help us. I mean, I think it helped my mother, and I think it still does.

I -- for me, it was a very discouraging time. A lot of questions about God and who God is. But started me on my journey of my own spirituality, which was also one of the gifts I received from that death.

GROSS: How did your family life change after he died? Did you stop moving around a lot?

HECHE: We moved -- we did, actually. I got to go to high school for four years in one city. We moved after he died, and it was my mom and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and -- in Chicago, and so that was interesting. We kind of became roommates, and I think we were both adrift in knowing how to express our emotions to each other.

It was very difficult, and we were trying to stay afloat and make enough money to pay our rent. So it was a strange time for us.

GROSS: What did your mother do to make a living?

HECHE: She actually became -- she was a secretary, and then -- for a stockbroker, and the stockbroker said, You're too smart to be a secretary, why don't you become a stockbroker? So he sent her to school. There's my mother, who was a housewife for 26 years. It was pretty phenomenal what she was doing. And she didn't like being a stockbroker, so she doesn't do that any more, but that's certainly what got us through four years of life, until I started on a soap opera.

GROSS: I think your brother was killed in a car crash a few months after your father's death?

HECHE: Yes. How do you know all this information? Yes, he was. He was...

GROSS: So that -- that -- and (inaudible)...

HECHE: ... three months to the day.

GROSS: That must have been pretty devastating to have to deal with those two blows back to back and handle it as a kid. Did you think that you were, like, being singled out by God for suffering?

HECHE: I don't think I'd put it in those terms, no. I certainly think that those questions were floating around, the Why us? issues that so many of us have. And certainly that was an issue, you know, why us? I mean, this is too close a period of time, and we haven't mourned the first death, and how do we mourn this one? And, you know, it was very confusing, and very baffling as to why it was happening, certainly.

GROSS: You had said that when you were young, seeing movies and TV shows kind of violated the religious principles in your house. You weren't exposed to much of that. After your father's death, did those ground rules change, and were you able to have more freedom?

HECHE: Oh, certainly, by the time my dad died, a lot of things were opening up. I mean, at that point I was working in dinner theater to help pay the rent. You know, I was 12 years old, and dinner theater you see a lot. Dinner theater, actually, was the way I understood that my father was gay, because I met the first gay people I had ever met in my life, you know, and they were -- it was so clear to me, like, Oh! That's who he is! you know.

GROSS: What did you see in some of the men you met in dinner theater that reminded you of your father?

HECHE: Flair, a femininity that -- oh, brother. I mean, first of all, they all wore makeup. I came home from -- one night from dinner theater when I was taking care of my father, and I came home at 2:00 in the morning, he was putting on my mascara, and I'm 13 years old, and I look in the bathroom, I said, "What are you doing?" "Oh, I'm just going out." At 3:00 in the morning, the man was so sick he could hardly stand up. I mean, I was just...

You know, and of course, you, like, Oh, well, sure, he's wearing my mascara that I only wore for dinner theater. I mean, I was 13. You know, he was just explaining it to me like it's nothing, and then puts this orange crappy powder all over his face, you know, and then you see it in dinner theater, you go, Oh, well, he's gay, you know, of course, he wants to look like he always has a suntan, whatever that's about. (laughs)

We're, like, the palest family in the world. Ellen calls me Clear. And he's putting on sun foundation to go play the piano at a gay bar. I -- the whole thing was just so silly.

GROSS: Did you say anything to your mother when you made this connection?

HECHE: I said a couple of things to her along the way about my observations, and I think it was very difficult for her to hear. There were a lot of things, a lot of issues she was dealing with, not only what he was going through but what the family was going through financially, and trying to figure out how to keep it together. And so she had a lot on her plate, and I think my adding to it, my observations, was a little too much at the time.

But we've certainly talked about it now.

GROSS: So you were in dinner theater from the age of, like, 12 or 13 on, to help earn a living...

HECHE: Right.

GROSS: ... to help support the family. Were you Annie in anything?

HECHE: Oh, funny. No, but my father wanted me to be, of course. Another telltale sign. He dropped so many hints that none of us picked up on.

No, but I did do mus -- my first play that I had auditioned for was "Music Man," and I played Amaryllis in "Music Man"...

GROSS: Oh, sure.

HECHE: ... because, of course, I used to sing with my father in church. So that's how I kind of started in to dinner theater was because I had at least a good enough voice to carry a tune, and that's how I started.

GROSS: So you think when your father was directing choir in church, he really wanted to be doing musical comedy? (laughs)

HECHE: You know what? Yes, as a matter of fact. He was so typical, he just wanted to do musicals. Yes, I'm sure that was his fantasy, certainly.

GROSS: It must have been a little strange for you be -- in the sense that during the early years of your life, seeing movies or TV shows was considered bad, you know, sinful, maybe, and then suddenly you're in dinner theater, performing, and that's good...

HECHE: I know.

GROSS: ... because you're supporting the family.

HECHE: Things that will happen when you need money.

GROSS: Right.

HECHE: Point of view that changes very quickly when on the streets. It -- yes, I mean, things had to change. There was -- my father's death and his split life was a huge wakeup call to all of us. I mean, there was just so many things that had to be changed because of that reality.

And even though "Music Man" was a pretty, you know -- musical theater is very innocuous. It's not quite going into the depths of strangeness. I mean, I remember one of the conversations -- they were all grounded -- all of our parents' belief was grounded in a morality. So for example seeing "Grease" was out, because there was talk of pregnancy and abortion outside of marriage, you know, so we couldn't see that. And I remember that being a big argument for my brother and sister, who were at that point teenagers, and just how ridiculous that was that we couldn't see "Grease."

But for my mom, it was -- but that's not something that we talk about. There's no way that you would ever be pregnant before you would get married. I mean, it was just a natural thing for her. It wasn't like she was saying, It's bad, it's evil. She certainly had a reason for it, and, you know, morality issues were very strict with her.

GROSS: Anne Heche will be back in the second half of the show. She wrote and directed one of the three stories in the new HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2," which premieres on Sunday. It stars her partner, Ellen DeGeneres, and Sharon Stone.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(AUDIO CLIP, EXCERPT, "TOMORROW," FROM "ANNIE")

(BREAK)

GROSS: Coming up, Anne Heche talks about coming out just before signing on for her biggest movie role opposite Harrison Ford in "Six Days Seven Nights." And linguist Geoff Nunberg considers the trouble we're having finding the right words to refer to this century and the one that just ended.

(BREAK)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with actress Anne Heche. She wrote and directed one of the three stories in the new HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2," which premieres Sunday.

When we left off, we were talking about growing up in a fundamentalist family. When her father died, she started performing in dinner theater to help support the family.

So when you were in dinner theater, I think it was when you were in high school, you were offered a role on an afternoon soap.

HECHE: Right, right.

GROSS: Didn't accept it?

HECHE: When I was in 10th grade I didn't accept it, just because I didn't want to have to move again and move my mom again. And we were just getting settled, and, you know, tears were stopping being -- you know, cried every day. And so I wanted to keep that stability.

They came back to me when I was a senior, and I did accept. And that was a difficult thing. My -- there wasn't very much support for me doing a soap opera, no, from my family, no. But it was good money.

GROSS: So after high school, you went to New York and did -- I think it was...

HECHE: The day after I graduated, yes.

GROSS: And it was, what, "Another World"?

HECHE: "Another World." I played twins on "Another World" for four years.

GROSS: You played twins. So what was the difference between each of the two twins?

HECHE: Oh, pretty obvious, good and evil. Although then I kind of tried to mellow them out. But in the beginning, it was very much, you know, good and evil, prim and proper versus the crazy wild girl who'll do anything.

GROSS: How did you dress and make up differently for each of the twins?

HECHE: Oh, it was so silly -- I mean, it was so obvious. It was, you know, skin-tight dresses with high pumps. Oh, I can't believe I played that character. You know, lots of makeup and the whole nine yards of just -- she's the bad girl. It was so funny that I did. And then the other one was, you know, little Miss Marley. Her name describes how she dressed, Marley. You know, she was in pale pastel colors and all of the things I would never put on my body today. (laughs)

GROSS: Did you relate to either of these characters?

HECHE: I did. Of course I put myself into them. I mean, the greatest thing about a soap opera is that you get to be anything, as long as you say your lines, you can be anything. So I created these, you know, fantasy characters for me. I was on the search of finding myself. I was 18, got this amazing opportunity. And was finding myself in life. And through these characters, that was my, you know, beginning of becoming an adult. And it was just -- you know, it was fantastic fun, too.

So the one character was just -- became the funnest person in the world to play. Of course, she was the evil one. It just became so much fun, and she was so daring, and I could do anything that I wanted. And it was just -- you know, there was so much support around the character, and we just went for it. I mean, every day was just a blast.

GROSS: Did you get paid double because you had two parts?

HECHE: Only after the third year. (laughs) Only when I could negotiate. They got me real cheap when I was out of high school.

GROSS: Did you go to college?

HECHE: I didn't, no. Those were my college years on the soap opera.

GROSS: Do you regret that at all? Do you feel you missed something, or...

HECHE: I used to think -- I used to have a real hard time with not being smart -- I would think that I wasn't smart, and I didn't go to school, and I wasn't smart. Now I know I'm smart. No, I'm kidding, I'm -- now I've just come to understand that there are different paths that have already been created for us, and if you listen to that and you're going down the right path, then things are going to fall into place.

And I was actually going to go to school after I finished my four years at the soap opera, and got another movie the week before I left, with Jessica Lange, and I thought, You know, somebody's telling me something. I mean, I guess I'm supposed to do this. And then just job after job came, and it was very clear that this was the path I was supposed to be on, and my training ground and schooling had been on -- in the best acting school in the world, and that there's nothing better than working five days a week and being in front of a camera every single day.

So my training was my training, so I've come to accept it, embrace that about myself. Not that I wouldn't like to be, you know, smarter and have read more books and constantly claiming ignorance to so many different topics. But I know who I am and what I was meant to be by the journey that God has created for me. So I'm -- I feel better about it now.

GROSS: One of your breakthrough film roles was in "Walking and Talking," you and Catherine Keener starred as best friends.

HECHE: Yes, yes.

GROSS: Then your relationship changes after you get engaged and she doesn't even have a boyfriend. Now, this was an independent film.

HECHE: Yes, Nicole Holofcenter was the director.

GROSS: Yes, and independent film was the direction that your co-star, Catherine Keener, headed in for a long time, whereas you went more toward the big-budget pictures. Was that an...

HECHE: Well, you know what? I...

GROSS: ... intentional move, or is that just kind of what happened?

HECHE: No, I switched it up as much as I could. I mean, some of the independents that I did weren't seen. But that's always been -- I just finished an independent film a couple of months ago. It's -- I've always wanted to shake it up. To me, I'm drawn to the parts more than I am -- you know, what's different for me, what's unique for me. It doesn't usually have to do with anything financial.

I mean, "Six Days Seven Nights" was my biggest -- I would say my biggest movie, and, I mean, yes, the opportunity to work with Harrison floored me, but I also hadn't had an opportunity to play comedy. And I love comedy. So it always -- whatever the genre was that it took me in, if I could explore a different character and different territory, each one was a challenge, and I always wanted to challenge myself. So if it was a bigger budget, that happened to be so, and if it was an independent, then I would do that as well.

And still feel that way, and feel that way about directing movies too. I don't have a goal to be a huge movie director with a ton of money. I think we waste a lot of money on films, actually, and could feed a lot of countries with the money that they pay in overtime to the crew because the lighting should be better. You know, you know, there are a lot of things that I feel like are misplaced finances.

But, you know, it's fun to do big budget, it's fun to do low budget.

GROSS: I think when you and Ellen became a couple, it was, I think, just at about the time you were about to sign on to "Six Days and Seven Nights."

HECHE: Right, right.

GROSS: And I believe you were advised not to say anything publicly until the deal was finished.

HECHE: Yes, that's true.

GROSS: But you did say something publicly about being a couple (inaudible)...

HECHE: Yes, I did, and the people who told me got fired.

GROSS: You fired your own management after that.

HECHE: (laughs) Yes. Yes. And I don't want to make light -- I mean, it was -- I do want to make light of it, because it's over, and now everybody is healed, and I have compassion for what they went through too. I mean, it was a whole brand-new concept for Hollywood, that this person who's about to catapult their career into a new level by working with somebody like Harrison Ford would actually turn that down when it's threatened -- turn that down for love.

I mean, it's such a skewed perspective on life, but some people have it. You know, come on, you can work with Harrison Ford and you can be a huge movie star, and, you know, just live in the closet. I mean, fine, like her, but don't tell us about it, don't tell anybody about it.

Which goes against every single thing I believe. And I can thank my father for that, I think. I just -- not in a million years would that have been an option for me.

GROSS: Did you...

HECHE: And the beauty of it was that I still got the part, so, so, you know, there you have it.

GROSS: Well, did they test you further or think about it a lot more or talk with you about how you were going to handle the public aspect of your private life before making the deal official?

HECHE: No, they didn't. The -- what was on the table was, If you go to the premiere of "Volcano," which was a movie I did with Tommy Lee Jones -- you don't have to run out and rent it, but it's -- anyway, I was doing it. And we had a premiere, and actually what was put on the table was, if you go to this premiere, you will not get the offer for the Harrison Ford movie.

GROSS: You mean, if you go to the premiere with Ellen?

HECHE: With Ellen.

GROSS: Right.

HECHE: You will not get the offer for the Harrison Ford movie. And that was my ultimatum.

GROSS: And people from the movie told you that.

HECHE: I don't want to say the particular...

GROSS: Oh, OK, right.

HECHE: ... voices. I mean, there were a lot of people who, yes, warned me to not go with Ellen...

GROSS: She...

HECHE: ... and actually it was put on the table that if I was going to go with Ellen, maybe I shouldn't go at all to my own premiere.

GROSS: So why do you think you ended up getting the role anyways?

HECHE: I don't -- Harrison Ford wanted to work with me. (laughs) (inaudible) -- we had -- actually, Harrison and I had a really wonderful chemistry from the second we walked in the door. And the blessing of that entire movie is that -- the message that talent wins out. And that's not to say that there weren't a million talented actresses lined up and wanting to do that part, there were. We just had something special.

And I think in Hollywood, still, with all the malarkey that goes on and will continue to go on forever, there is a reality that something special -- if you can create a magic on screen, it is so hard to deny, it is so hard to just stop that feeling. Because Harrison and I connected, and that movie would not have worked had we not been connected.

And I think whoever -- I give Harrison Ford all the credit, but certainly I wouldn't have gotten hired if other people didn't feel that way. But he really went up to bat for me and said, This is who I want to work with. And, you know, he's my hero.

It's the funniest thing, because I -- he was the first person I ever saw in a movie. He became the hero to the world because of that movie, and then became my personal hero because I thought that he was just the most incredible man who could have gotten any single girl in Hollywood to do that movie with him, and even with all the controversy said, I want her. I mean, he's just -- you know, he's my hero.

GROSS: Why don't I play a clip from the movie? And this is a scene where -- you know, you're -- he's supposed to be taking you to Tahiti in a plane...

HECHE: Right, right, right.

GROSS: ... you're a fashion editor, and the plane crash lands on this desert island, and you're stuck there together, and you don't get along.

HECHE: Yes.

GROSS: So you're going to get some water. You have your jugs to get water, and you end up -- there's a little, like, waterfall, and you're in it, like, up to your neck. And he's still on land. And as you're in the water, you feel a snake go up your pants.

HECHE: Oh, yes, yes, that scene. That was very fun to shoot.

GROSS: Here's the scene.

HECHE: Oh, OK.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS")

HECHE: Hey, Quinn?

HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: Huh? What? What?

HECHE: I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I'm having a bit of a problem.

FORD: What's the problem?

HECHE: Some sort of creature has just swum up my pants. I'm guessing a snake.

FORD: Oh. That's bad.

HECHE: So what do I do? I mean, I could reach down and grab it.

FORD: No, that -- that could be risky. Might be poisonous.

HECHE: Well, right. But on the other hand, if it's poisonous and will bite me, do I want to allow it to continue to swim around in my shorts?

FORD: All good questions.

HECHE: Would you just give me some advice, all right? Just advice, input, anything, give it to me. I'm very open at this particular juncture, all right?

FORD: Just stand still.

HECHE: Still.

FORD: Stand still.

HECHE: Stand still.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

GROSS: That's Anne Heche and Harrison Ford in a scene from "Six Days and Seven Nights."

So do you think, finally, that the fact that you made public your relationship with Ellen before making this movie affected how it played at the box office, how viewers related to you as the leading lady in it, any of that stuff that everybody in Hollywood worries about?

HECHE: Well, sure it affected it, because people made such a big deal out of it. If they had just been quiet about it, then the public would have -- you know, would have gone to see the movie. I mean, first of all, the movie did well, so that wasn't a concern. I think it would have done better had there not been so much hoopla around a debate that doesn't matter. I mean, can Anne Heche pull of playing a straight girl?

I mean, one, I had a lot more practice being straight than I did gay, so I would hope that I, you know -- it's not like love changes when you change the gender. How you express it doesn't all of a sudden become a gay expression. It's just an expression of love. And any role you're doing, you pretend to be somebody else, otherwise it wouldn't be called acting.

So the whole thing, the whole argument, the whole ridiculousness of it, to me, just made a debate for the public that wasn't up to them to debate. They should go to a movie and expect that an actress is going to be who she is on screen, not drag her through the mud questioning whether or not she can pull of a certain part. You don't do that before movies come out.

I mean, after movies come out, people do that. But this whole one-year debate leading up to it coming out was just, I think, a waste of time, and people jumped on the bandwagon talking about it, and then more people talked about it, and it became this whole press hoopla, which honestly wasn't fair to me, and certainly wasn't fair to Harrison or anybody who was releasing the movie, and, you know, expecting it to be an entertaining, beautiful, romantic comedy, which is what it was.

And it's just too bad that they made it about something else, because I think people would have -- even more people would have gone to see it.

GROSS: My guest is Anne Heche. She wrote and directed one of the three stories in the new HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2," which premieres on Sunday. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

GROSS: My guest is actress Anne Heche.

I'm wondering if you and Ellen disagreed at all early on about how to handle the public aspect of your relationship. Because, you know, on the one hand, you had always, up until that point, been straight, and you had the example of your father about how a secret life can kill you.

HECHE: Right.

GROSS: Whereas Ellen had been gay all her life and had been very closeted, you know, worried about...

HECHE: Right.

GROSS: ... the impact it would have on perceptions of her and her career. So you're really coming at this relationship from completely different places in it, from opposite places.

HECHE: Totally. Yes, yes.

GROSS: And so your perceptions, probably, about how one handles the public face of a private relationship would likely be pretty different.

HECHE: Well, actually, I mean, we were both so amazed that people cared as much as they did. I mean, Ellen knew that it was going to be a big deal that her character was coming out on the show, because people had started to pick it up, and rumors started before they were even given the OK to do the show. And so she knew that people were starting to talk, and it was going to be a big thing.

We, however, as a couple -- I certainly was incredibly naive. I had no understanding of the fact that somebody would care that I feel in love with her. I just -- I -- to me it was not even a consideration. I mean, Ellen told me the night that we met, and I -- you know, this is a big deal, this shouldn't be an experiment, people are looking at me going, Who the heck are you with? And I didn't even know who she was, or, you know, that she had this big TV show that she was coming out on. I had no idea. Part of what's carried over from my childhood is that I don't watch television.

And so I didn't know all this hoopla. And she's saying, "There's a reporter standing over my shoulder watching me. Write down my number." I'm, like, Whatever, who cares? Well, of course, everybody cared, and I found that out within a couple of days.

But one thing that we kept saying to each other -- I mean, it brought us -- I mean, talk about testing a relationship within the first week! We just kept saying, you know, What, there's nobody to call to say, Well, last time you came out and you were, you know, in movies, or, Last time you came out and you were on TV, what -- how did you handle it? You know, we were it. We didn't have anybody to call.

And certainly we were getting messages to just shut up, which didn't go along with either of our belief systems. And so we didn't know. I mean, certainly the way we expressed ourselves, you know, we look back and go, Gee, I wish I could have done that differently. You know, sometimes I think -- I mean, I've certainly found more understanding and have been educated in the last few years about so many stories of so many different gay individuals and how difficult their journey is.

GROSS: But what do you (inaudible) differently?

HECHE: And mine was a very easy -- I don't know, I mean, I am such a blabbermouth about the truth, and I still am. But I think the way that I would have approached it was with more -- see, but I couldn't have known. What I wish I would have known is more of the journey and the struggle of individuals in the gay community, or couples in the gay community.

Because I would have couched my enthusiasm with an understanding that this isn't everybody's story. My story isn't everybody's story. My joy in my experience and my knowing of falling in love with her is a fantasy to most people, and there are very few people who get to have that knowing.

I don't know why I got blessed with it. But I went out and blurted it out like it was the easiest thing in the world. And it was, but the experience for most people is not easy, and my compassion and understanding of this incredible and diverse group of people has broadened. And so I've learned more how to communicate and how to be compassionate without basically coming out and saying, Hey, listen, I fell in love with a woman and it's no big deal, it's the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and I'm going to ask her to marry me.

You know, I just was, like -- stood on the top of the mountain and shouted it to the world. I don't think there's anything wrong with having done that, but I think I -- I think my language could have been, perhaps, a little more subtle, little more compassionate.

GROSS: There's another Hollywood question I want to ask you. You've worked with...

HECHE: Hollywood question. Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!

GROSS: For $250,000...

HECHE: Yes, OK, great. I want to go for the million.

GROSS: You've worked with leading men who are around your age, like Vince Vaughn, and you've also worked with...

HECHE: With some. Some, not (inaudible). (laughs)

GROSS: ... leading men -- you've also worked with leading men who are much older, like Harrison Ford and Ed Harris.

HECHE: Yes, yes.

GROSS: And I know, like, for...

HECHE: And Bob DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman.

GROSS: Well, but those weren't romantic...

HECHE: No, they weren't, but I still got to work...

GROSS: ... leads, I'm talking about...

HECHE: ... with them, and I have to put that in.

GROSS: Right. No, I'm talking, like, romantic situations.

HECHE: Yes, (inaudible).

GROSS: So I'm wondering, you know, like, for actresses who are in their 40s, a lot of them feel really bad that the men who are in their 40s, 50s, even 60s, still get leading men roles, but they're always up against younger actresses.

HECHE: I don't blame them.

GROSS: As -- you know, as one of those younger actresses...

HECHE: (inaudible).

GROSS: ... I'm wondering how you feel.

HECHE: Oh, I totally understand. First of all, I live with a 41-year-old actress who goes through so many of those issues, let alone being gay, and how much more difficult -- what that adds to her platter. I think it's completely unfair. I mean, and one thing I must say is that Michael Douglas is doing a movie right now where he is playing with somebody his own age, Frances McDormand, who is the most genius actress on the planet.

And the fact that he is doing that with her and she with him, to me is a step in the right direction, and saying, Yes, this can be done, and what a glorious relationship, and put those two on screen together, you're going to have a great movie, I mean, in my opinion, because I just think they're both so terrific.

So I think that -- I mean, unfortunately, that's brave for a man to do in this day and age in Hollywood. It's brave for him to be with a woman who's more his own age. And I think it's unfair what happens to women. They get dropped off, you know, the joke is true, after 40, I'm done. You know, what a -- that's so horrifying to me, and I hope I can help change that in Hollywood by making more adult movies with adults, which is what I want to do.

I mean, I have two leading ladies who are both 41 years old in my movie. I applaud it. I think it's the most beautiful thing to watch when people are who they are. Not that young girls aren't cute to look at, but it was, for me certainly, when I was working with Harrison, I said, We have to put the age thing in, or it's stupid that we're doing this. We can't just pretend that we're not years apart here.

And bless his soul, he put it in, which is -- was really great that we added that tot hat movie.

There are other times it's not explained. With Ed Harris -- listen, I think he's a fabulous actor, I love (inaudible), and I was thrilled to be able to get the part. But I -- it's not like I'm going to go, No, no, no, you can't hire me.

GROSS: Anne Heche. She wrote and directed one of the three stories in the new HBO movie, "If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2," which premieres on Sunday. It stars her partner, Ellen DeGeneres, and Sharon Stone.

Coming up, fumbling for words to describe the new century and the one that just ended.

This is FRESH AIR.

(BREAK)

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, Pa
Guest: Anne Heche
High: Actress Anne Heche wrote and directed a segment of the upcoming HBO film "If These Walls Could Talk 2," a look at the lesbian experience thru three different decades. The segment, set in the year 2000, stars Sharon Stone and Heche's real-life lover, Ellen Degeneres, who is also one of the film's executive producers. The film debuts on Sunday, March 5th. Heche and Degeneres came out publically as a couple, three years ago at the time Degeneres' sitcom character came out on "Ellen." Heche's film roles include "The Third Mile," "Return to Paradise," "Six Days Seven Nights," and the upcoming "Aggie Rose."
Spec: Anne Heche; Entertainment; Television and Radio; Homosexuality

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Interview With Anne Heche

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: MARCH 01, 2000
Time: 12:00
Tran: 030101np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Geoff Nunberg Talks About the Problems of Our Language in the New Century
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The new year had barely started when one high-tech company began running ads for its product that read, "Everything else is so 20th century." A line like that points out how hard it can be to get used to the shift in our point of reference.

Our linguist, Geoff Nunberg, has been keeping track of the problems that are coming up as we adjust our language to the new century.

GEOFF NUNBERG, LINGUIST: Now that we're well into the new year, people seem to have stopped referring to the new millennium so much. That's just as well, since it's an absurd length of time for a secular culture to care about. But the change of centuries isn't so easy to get used to.

Take the way we say dates. The other day I found myself saying that such-and-such a word was invented "back in the '80s." Then I stopped and changed it to "back in the 1980s." It wasn't as if the phrase had been ambiguous, but the point of reference had changed. In a way, it feels like the shift we have to make every Monday morning when we go from saying, I saw him Wednesday, to, I saw him last Wednesday.

Except that here you have the sense that it isn't just a question of making a routine adjustment but of changing our point of view.

For example, I keep hearing people start to talk about the beginning of the century, and then stop themselves and say, I mean, the beginning of the last century. But it feels a little odd to put things that way too, and not just the way it feels odd to write "00" on our checks, which is something we all get over in a couple of weeks. The fact is that for all the brouhaha that led up to the millennial transition, we still think of our own period as beginning with Picasso and the Wright Brothers and World War I, whereas Manet and Samuel Morse and the Civil War belong to a different time.

And it isn't as if anything happened on New Year's Eve that suddenly snipped that thread. You get the same unsettling feeling when you think about how the future will refer to our period. There was a lot of talk in the press and over the Net last year about what we'd call the first decade of the century. Would be the ohs, the double-zeros, the aughties, the naughts, or whatever?

Frankly, it's hard to get very interested in this. I suppose we'll settle on one of these once the decade's been around long enough for us to want to make some generalizations about it. But I'm fairly sure that whatever else we're called, we'll also be described as "turn of the century."

I can see why nobody got around to mentioning that adjective last December, when we were thinking of ourselves as poised on a peak between the ages, looking back on 1,000 years of history that was rising up to our feet. It's a little deflating to go from that grandiose height to being turn of the century. All of a sudden you realize that our successors are going to see us the way we see those folks in old-style hats and coats from the last time we went around, only a lot less dapper.

We can live with knowing that future ages will find us ignorant. That's what gives us license to condescend to our predecessors. But it grates on us to think they'll find us quaint.

But then, it isn't certain that people 100 years from now will think of this moment at all, or at least that they'll think of it with the kind of auspiciousness that it has for us. After all, it hasn't been that long that people have thought of history as bundling itself neatly into centuries. If you were living in the year 1600 or 1700, you knew what the year was, of course, but you didn't necessarily feel you were living a moment of transition the way you would if a dynasty fell.

Even the 19th century didn't have that sense of dates as the signposts of human progress. That's a point that struck me when I was watching the recent movie version of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park," where one character says, "This is 1806, after all." That wasn't a line from the novel. In fact, it wasn't a line that anybody in a Jane Austen novel would ever have uttered.

But it wouldn't have been out of place in a novel by Trollope 60 years later. By then, the perception of historical periods had changed. Now people saw themselves as shaped by universal forces that corresponded to the divisions of clock time, as the whole world marched forward arm in arm to the same regular measures. That was when museums started organizing their collections by centuries, and it was the first time that people started using the name of the current century in the titles of book series or encyclopedias.

This was a theme that people in the 20th century enlarged on, the only century to stick its name on trains and movie companies. Actually, I started to say the theme that we enlarged on, but I can't use that first person pronoun "we" to refer to the inhabitants of the 20th century any more, can I?

But the century's a pretty arbitrary chunk of time, and there's no reason to suppose that people 100 years from now will still attach any importance to the unit, or that they'll think of us as having any special relevance to them just because we happen to inhabit the world just after the odometer rolled over.

When the time comes, that may save us from being characterized as turn of the century, but I can't think of anything that will keep us from being thought of as quaint.

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is a linguist at Stanford University and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our senior producer today was Joan Toohey Wesman. Audrey Bentham is our engineer. Dorothy Ferebee is our administrative assistant. Roberta Shorrock directs the show.

I'm Terry Gross.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, Pa
Guest: Geoff Nunberg
High: Linguist Geoff Nunberg considers the difficulties we're having talking about the new millennium.
Spec: Geoff Nunberg; Entertainment

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2000 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 2000 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Geoff Nunberg Talks About the Problems of Our Language in the New Century
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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