Heather was born on December 27, 1975 in San Diego, California. She was discovered at the age of five by director Steven Spielberg while eating lunch with her mother at the MGM commissary. Spielberg cast her as Carol Anne Freeling, a little girl abducted by ghosts in the 1982 horror film Poltergeist. She would go on to reprise the role of Carol Anne in the second and third installments. In addition to her roles in the Poltergeist film series, Heather also had a recurring role on Happy Days from 1982 to 1983, and made several television guest appearances.
Heather died on February 1, 1988 of cardiopulmonary arrest and septic shock caused by a misdiagnosed congenital intestinal stenosis. She was only 12 years old. Her final film, Poltergeist III, was released on June 10, 1988, 4 months after her death, and was dedicated to her memory.
Tropes she exhibited
- Adorably Precocious Child: According to her former manager, Heather was one of the most mature and responsible among the Poltergeist casts. For example: she was almost never late coming to the filming location and she was able to memorize a 60 page script within an hour.
- Enforced Method Acting: Whenever Heather needed to cry in a scene, she'd think of something bad happening to her dog. Whenever she needed to be angry, she'd think about having a fight with her older sister.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Her hair was golden and so was her heart.
- Innocent Blue Eyes: She had these.
- Ill Girl: Throughout the early months of 1987, and just a few days before her untimely death. She was misdiagnosed as having Crohn's Disease, when in reality it was a congenital narrowing of her small intestine, which resulted in an acute bowel obstruction and eventually caused her small intestine to rupture.
- Rapunzel Hair: Her hair reached at least down to her waist, sometimes even longer.