Hiep Thi Le, the actress best-known for her critically acclaimed role in Oliver Stone’s 1994 film Heaven and Earth, died Tuesday. She was 46.
According to Deadline, Le died of complications from stomach cancer. The actress starred opposite Tommy Lee Jones in Stone’s film and followed the story of a woman living in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Le was born in Vietnam but fled the country as a refugee with her younger sister at the age of 8 when she was placed on a boat by her mother in 1979 in an attempt to reunite with her father in Hong Kong, Deadline reported.
The family of nine was able to reunite and moved to Oakland, California, where Le grew up. She majored in physiology at the University of California, Davis, when she auditioned for Heaven and Earth.
Le portrayed real-life author and humanitarian Le Ly Hayslip, who she remained good friends with after filming.
Due to the praise from her performance in the film, Le became a pioneer for Asian-American actors in mainstream American films, according to Deadline.
Le became a chef and owner of Le Cellier, a French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant in Marina Del Rey, California, Variety reports. In 2014, she competed on the Food Network show Chopped.
The actress is survived by her husband, two children, six siblings and her parents, according to Variety.