Anne Heche Back on the Silver Screen with “That’s What She Said”

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What, Anne Heche smooching women again? Well, she is in character this time–as Dee Dee, the recipient of an impulsive lip lock in the independent film “That’s What She Said,” opening in Los Angeles Oct. 19.

The film is a female buddy movie that is bound to draw comparisons to “The Bridesmaids” because of its biting gal-pal humor, but it was in development long before the wedding party-girls became the toast of theaters everywhere, according to director Carrie Preston.

“We like to say that we’re the older, crustier sister to ‘The Bridesmaids,’” says Preston, best known for her acting roles on “True Blood” and “The Good Wife.” I would add to that: It’s a cruder, quirkier and less ladylike gal-pal film, but in a good way.

After an Outfest screening this summer, Preston declined to comment on whether or not she received any flack for featuring Heche in “That’s What She Said.”

“I don’t think it’s relevant,” she said. “She’s an actor in the movie and she does a terrific job. I certainly don’t have any interest in talking about her personal life nor would I speak for her.”

Some LGBT people are still bitter about Heche’s widely publicized breakup with Ellen Degeneres. How ironic that people who plead for society to allow people to love whom they choose to love, have condemned the actress for not loving the right person.

Heche’s tumultuous ride began when she was an up-and-coming actress in the 1990s, getting roles opposite the likes of Harrison Ford and Vince Vaughn. When she came out as Ellen Degeneres’ girlfriend, it sent her career careening off like an errant firecracker. She couldn’t get the roles she coveted, but then LGBT supporters embraced her and Degeneres as the community spokescouple.

Alas, the role of lesbian poster child was not a lasting one for Heche, who met and married a man and had a child. Since then she’s worked to reestablish herself as a marketable star and onscreen love interest, which she’s accomplished somewhat with TV roles and a Tony-nominated turn on Broadway, culminating with the hit TV show Men in Trees (falling for co-star James Tupper, with whom she also had a child).

It was Heche’s stage work that eventually led to her role in the film version of “That’s What She Said.”

“We did it as a play first,” says Preston, who’s married to Michael Emerson (“Lost”). “When I first read the script, I thought, ‘Wow, this is something we just don’t see a lot of.’ Women are not really allowed to go out into the extreme world of comedy.”

The play was written by New York actress-playwright Kellie Overbey and directed by Preston. When they were casting for the film, Heche heard about it from theater colleague Alec Baldwin, who starred with Heche on Broadway in “Twentieth Century” (for which she was nominated for a Tony. (They also costarred in the film “The Juror”).

While the film has several meaty roles for women, Preston says she never felt tempted to take one for herself.

“I never wanted to act in it although the roles are incredible. [Being] the director and producer is quite a lot of work actually. The producer’s job never stops, I do something for the film every day for the last several years.

Writer Kellie Overbey, also familiar as a stage and screen actress, did have a role in the film, as an attorney, and found it difficult to wear one hat at a time. “I can only imagine how challenging it would’ve been if I had been playing a role,” said Preston.

Besides, she has roles on two high-profile shows to satisfy her acting appetite, on “True Blood” and “The Good Wife.”

“It’s such a treat to get to play women who are so different from each other. I would love to see what it would be like to have Elle Tascioni and Arlene Fowler in a room together.”

Maybe that will be her next film?

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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