Brittany Murphy

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Brittany Murphy performs in a USO show in 2003.
The talented singer and actress entertained troops aboard an aircraft carrier in 2003.

Brittany Anne Murphy-Monjack (November 10, 1977 – December 20, 2009), known professionally as Brittany Murphy, was an American actress and singer who died at age 32. Murphy's death was ruled to be an accident by a Los Angeles coroner and was primarily caused by pneumonia. However, there were findings that anemia and prescription drugs may have played a role in the death of the actor who once starred in films such as Drop Dead Gorgeous, Girl, Interrupted and Deadline, leaving some questions unanswered.[1] Murphy's husband Simon Monjack and Murphy's mother claimed that the actress had been experiencing "flu-like symptoms" days before she collapsed in her home in the Hollywood Hills.[1] A report in BBC News suggested that the actress could have survived "if she had seen a doctor in time".[2] Murphy had no children, although there was a report in the Huffington Post claiming that Murphy had "wanted to become a mother soon."[3] The in-demand actress had hit film vehicles such as Clueless and Riding in Cars with Boys as well as doing voice-over work and starring in numerous television shows. Her final film Something Wicked was released posthumously in early 2013.


Brittany Anne Murphy[4] was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 10, 1977. Her parents, Sharon Kathleen Murphy[5] and Angelo Bertolotti, divorced when she was two years old, and Murphy was raised by her mother in Edison, New Jersey, where she attended Edison High School, the same high school actress Susan Sarandon attended. Time Magazine reported that the young Murphy persuaded her mother to move to Los Angeles so she could pursue a movie career.[6][7][8][9] Murphy said her mother never tried to stifle her creativity, and she considered her mother a crucial factor in her later success: "When I asked my mom to move to California, she sold everything and moved out here for me. … She always believed in me."[10] Murphy's mother is of Irish and Eastern European descent and her father is Italian American.[11][12] She was raised a Baptist and later became a non-denominational Christian.[13][14]

Murphy had two older half-brothers, Jeff and Tony Bertolotti, and a younger half-sister, Pia Bertolotti.[15]


Murphy landed her first job in Hollywood when she was 14, starring as Brenda Drexell in the series Drexell's Class. She then went on to play Molly Morgan in the short-lived The Torkelsons spinoff Almost Home. Murphy also guest-starred on several television series.

Murphy starred in many films (see filmography below). Film critic Roger Ebert gave positive reviews and compared her to Lucille Ball.[16] In 2009, she was cast in the TV movie, Tribute, as the main character, Cilla. She was set to appear in the Sylvester Stallone film, The Expendables, which will be released in 2010.[10]

Murphy was a critically acclaimed voice actor. Time reporter Richard Corliss described her as a "hot property" regarding the "specialized field of voice work for cartoons."[6] She did the voice role of character Luanne Platter on the animated sitcom King of the Hill[6] for the entirety of the show's run beginning in 1997. She also did the voice of Gloria the penguin in the 2006 feature Happy Feet. She was nominated for an Annie Award for voice acting in the King of the Hill episode "Movin' On Up."[17] Corliss described Murphy's talent as a voice actor:

A dizzy blond with a knack for disastrous relationships, Luanne busted out of stereotype thanks to the deep-throated Texas texture Murphy provided for the character, and her vocal ability to switch in a trice from humor to pathos as Luanne's inane enthusiasms would explode into fortissimo fears. Luanne will be a shining legacy for an actress with a comic gift and a tragic fate.[6]

Murphy completed her last film, the thriller/drama Abandoned, in June 2009. The film is scheduled for release in 2010.[18]

In November 2009, Murphy left the production of The Caller, which was being filmed in Puerto Rico, and was replaced by Rachelle Lefevre. Murphy denied media reports that she had been fired from the project after being difficult on the set, and cited "creative differences".[19] There were reports that she was "fired from one movie" and that her recent career had been "marked by trouble" and that she had been "addled while shooting another" film.[6]

Music and modeling

Murphy performing for the crew during a United Services Organization show aboard USS Nimitz in 2003.

She was in a band called Blessed Soul with fellow actor Eric Balfour in the early 1990s. On June 6, 2006, Murphy and Paul Oakenfold released the single "Faster Kill Pussycat," from the album A Lively Mind. The song became a club hit, and hit number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart.[20] It also hit number seven in the UK singles chart in June 2006.[21]

She dabbled in music again with the release of the film Happy Feet, in which she covered Queen's song "Somebody to Love" and Earth, Wind & Fire's "Boogie Wonderland." She also starred in a video by Wheatus entitled A Little Respect alongside actor Shawn Hatosy. She also appeared in the music video for Luscious Jackson's "Here" and Tears for Fears "Closest Thing to Heaven."[22] In 2005, Murphy signed as the spokesmodel for Jordache jeans.[23]

Personal life

In late 2002, Murphy began dating fellow actor Ashton Kutcher with whom she had co-starred in the film Just Married.[24] Once engaged to talent manager Jeff Kwatinetz, Murphy became engaged to Joe Macaluso in December 2005, a production assistant she met while working on the film Little Black Book.[25] In August 2006, they ended their engagement.[25] In May 2007, Murphy married British screenwriter Simon Monjack in a private Jewish ceremony in Los Angeles.[26] For the last three and a half years of her life, Murphy, her mother and Monjack lived in the same house together.[27]

From real life death to cinematic immortality

At 8pm on December 20, 2009, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to "a medical request"[28] at the Los Angeles home Murphy and Monjack shared. She had apparently collapsed in a bathroom.[10] Firefighters attempted to resuscitate Murphy on the scene. She was subsequently transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead on arrival[29] at 10:04 after going into cardiac arrest.[10][28] Shortly after her death, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told the Associated Press: "It appears to be natural."[30][31][32] An autopsy was performed on December 21, 2009. Her death certificate listed the cause of death as "deferred".[33] On February 4, 2010, the Los Angeles County coroner stated that the primary cause of Murphy's death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia[2] and multiple drug intoxication.[1] On February 25, 2010, the coroner released a report stating that Murphy had been taking a range of over the counter and prescription medications, with the most likely reason being to treat a cold or respiratory infection. These included "elevated levels" of hydrocodone, acetaminophen, L-methamphetamine and chlorpheniramine. There was a report that Murphy had been taking an anti-seizure drug, obtained with a legal prescription, but "did not abuse her medication."[2] Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and happens when a person's diet has an insufficient amount of iron.[2] All of the drugs were legal and the death was ruled to be an accident, but the report observed: "the possible adverse physiological effects of elevated levels of these medications cannot be discounted, especially in her weakened state".[34] After the death was reported, it became a worldwide media sensation, leading to speculation that the death was an overdose from drugs and inviting comparisons to the untimely early deaths of other actors such as Heath Ledger. A Saturday Night Live skit which had aired on December 5, 2009, weeks before Murphy's death, which "satirized the actress", was pulled from web sites out of respect.[35]

There was a report in the Newark Star-Ledger that Simon Monjack blamed Warner Brothers studios for causing conditions leading up to her death, including firing Murphy from the role of the penguin "Gloria".[36] Monjack was quoted as saying:

They killed her ... It’s a cruel town ... You’re disposable as an actress or actor.[36]

There was a report that Monjack planned to sue; one studio executive surmised that the jostling for the penguin role between Murphy and another actor, Rachelle Lefevre, may have been behind the decision to replace Murphy.[36] There was a report in USA Today that Brittany Murphy's will excluded her husband from "everything" and that all of the late actress's assets were given to Murphy's mother, and that her husband had consented to this choice.[37]

Murphy was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills cemetery on December 24, 2009.[38][39] A report in the Huffington Post described Murphy's husband Monjack as having had a "checkered past", but there was no evidence of foul play.[3] There were reports that Monjack had a "long trail of shady dealings" including two apartment evictions for failure to pay back rent, a $470,000 judgment against him by a British investment bank, a $50,000 lawsuit from his ex-wife.[3]

Director Michael Feifer described Murphy as "professional, kind and healthy."[38] A San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle commented on the unfortunate death of the talented actress. He wrote: {{quote|Every year, at the Oscar ceremony, the recent dead are remembered through film clips, and it's always a little uncanny, because it reminds you how movies stop time, but don't; how people seem there, but aren't. There's a cruelty in that, and a beauty, too, and it's confusing to take it all in. But it's in those moments, I think, that we come to realize, if only subliminally, how we always come ahead on the exchange. Men and women do everything they can to become movie stars, and those that succeed live lives of adulation and privilege. But to achieve that success, they have to give themselves to us. And when it's all over, we still have them, and they don't even have themselves.[40]

LaSalle commented on Murphy's legacy:

Murphy made a vivid, engaging impression in a small number of good films. She had shown genuine talent and charm. I liked her tremendously. I think she really had something on screen. She was very pretty, in a delicate way, and had a fun quality that was at once self-mocking, well meaning and morally frail. But there was no reason to believe she was heading for greatness, and she just didn't do enough to become an indelible film star.[40]

Brittany Murphy Foundation

In January 2010, Sharon Murphy, Murphy's mother, and husband Simon Monjack established the Brittany Murphy Foundation, a charitable fund for raising funds for children's arts education, as well as supporting the USO and cancer research.[41] The Foundation was officially launched on February 4, 2010 at an event at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills where Monjack requested donations of $1,000 per person and $10,000 per corporation to attend.[42][43]


Year Film Role Notes
1993 Family Prayers Elsie Alternative title: A Family Divided
1995 Clueless Tai [1]
1996 Freeway Rhonda
1997 Bongwater Mary
Drive Deliverance Bodine
1998 Falling Sky Emily Nicholson
The Prophecy II Izzy Direct-to-video release
Zack and Reba Reba Simpson
1999 Drop Dead Gorgeous Lisa Swenson
Girl, Interrupted Daisy Randone
2000 Trixie Ruby Pearli
Angels! Nurse Bellows
Cherry Falls Jody Marken
The Audition Daniella Short subject
2001 Sidewalks of New York Ashley
Summer Catch Dede Mulligan
Don't Say a Word Elisabeth Burrows
Riding in Cars with Boys Fay Forrester
2002 Spun Nikki
Something in Between Sky Short subject
8 Mile Alex Latourno [1]
2003 Just Married Sarah
Uptown Girls Molly Gunn
Good Boy! Nelly Voice
2004 Little Black Book Stacy Holt
2005 Sin City Shellie [2]
Neverwas Maggie Blake
2006 The Groomsmen Sue
Love and Other Disasters Emily "Jacks" Jackson
Happy Feet Gloria Voice
The Dead Girl Krista Kutcher
2008 The Ramen Girl Abby
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs Colleen (voice) Direct-to-DVD release
2009 Across the Hall June
Deadline Alice
2010 Something Wicked Susan post-production
Abandoned Mary post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Murphy Brown Frank's sister 1 episode
1991–1992 Drexell's Class Brenda Drexell 18 episodes
1992 Kids Incorporated Celeste 1 episode
Parker Lewis Can't Lose Angie 1 episode
1993 Almost Home Molly Morgan 13 episodes
Blossom Wendy 1 episode
1994 Frasier Olsen 1 episode
Party of Five Abby 2 episodes
1994–1995 Sister, Sister Sarah 6 episodes
1995 Boy Meets World Trini 2 episodes
The Marshal Lizzie Roth 1 episode
seaQuest DSV Christine VanCamp 1 episode
Murder One Diane "Dee-Dee" Carson 1 episode
1996 Double Jeopardy Julia Television movie
Nash Bridges Carrie 1 episode
Clueless Jasmine 1 episode
1997–2009 King of the Hill Luanne Platter (voice)
Various characters (voice)
226 episodes
1998 David and Lisa Lisa Television movie
1999 The Devil's Arithmetic Rivkah Television movie
1999–2000 Pepper Ann Tank the 8th grader (voice) 3 episodes
2000 Common Ground Dorothy Nelson Television movie
2009 Tribute Cilla McGowan Television movie
Megafault Dr. Amy Lane Television movie


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Kealan Oliver. Brittany Murphy Death: Accident Says Coroner, But Role of Rx Drugs Unresolved in Actress' Demise, CBS News, February 5, 2010. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “NEW YORK (CBS) Actress Brittany Murphy's death is being called an accident, primarily due to pneumonia, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office. But additional findings that anemia and prescription drugs also played a role leave several unanswered questions.”
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Brittany Murphy's death caused by pneumonia, BBC News, 2010-02-05. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “US actress Brittany Murphy died of pneumonia, but could have survived if she had seen a doctor in time, a Los Angeles coroner has ruled.”
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Katy Hall. Simon Monjack, Brittany Murphy's Husband, Had Checkered Past, Huffington Post, 2009-12-21. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “There is no evidence of foul play in Brittany Murphy's untimely death, but as her life comes under scrutiny so does the man she quietly married two years ago, whose grieving will be complicated by public interest in his troubled past. Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack, is the one who called 911 at 8 a.m. Sunday after her mother found her stricken in their home. Monjack, understandably, appeared "dazed" as rescue workers tried to revive his wife. He did not want an autopsy to be done, but the LA coroner began the procedure Monday against his wishes.”
  4. Brittany Murphy Death Certificate (PDF). Retrieved on 2010-03-05.
  5. Brittany Murphy's death certificate (PDF). Retrieved on 2010-03-05.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Richard Corliss. Brittany Murphy, Time Magazine, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “A natural entertainer who as a kid convinced her mother to move them from Edison, N.J., to Los Angeles, Murphy soon landed the role of the tough, gauche girl who gets a makeover from Alicia Silverstone in the 1995 hit Clueless.”
  7. Rochlin, Margy. Film; A Young Trouper Who Plays Crazy as Well as Sexy, The New York Times, 2001-09-30, p. 2. Retrieved on 2009-12-20.
  8. The Associated Press. Brittany Murphy's father mourns actress' death, Florida AP, 2009-12-20. Retrieved on 2009-12-20.
  9. Brittany Murphy Dead: Dies At Just 32. Retrieved on 2010-03-05.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named NYT1220
  11. Wollman Rusoff, Jane. The rising actress switches gears and goes from crazy to sexy for Riding in Cars With Boys, Mr. Showbiz, 2001-10-18. Retrieved on 2009-11-18.
  12. McGoldrick, Debbie. Brittany: I’m Irish!, Irish Voice, 2005. Retrieved on 2009-11-18.
  13. Horowitz, Josh. Role Call: Brittany Murphy On Playing Prostitute, Penguin,, 2006-12-28. Retrieved on 2009-12-20.
  14. Uptown Brittany, Effervescent Actress Finds Herself Cast As A Tabloid Darling While Her Career Moves Into Fast Lane, San Jose Mercury News, 2003-08-11. Retrieved on 2009-12-20.
    "A non-denominational Christian, she wears a cross around her neck and has 'my whole life —I feel more comfortable with a cross.'"
  15. What Went Wrong With Brittany Murphy?: Was It Drugs, Anorexia or Her 'Shady' Husband" That Led to Her Death at 32? Luchina Fisher. ABC News. December 22, 2009.
  16. Little Black Book. (2004-08-06). Retrieved on 2010-03-05.
  17. King of The Hill: Movin' On Up (Season 4 Episode 16). (27 February 2000). Retrieved on 3 October 2013.
  18. Cady, Jennifer (December 23, 2009). Preview Brittany Murphy's Final Film, Abandoned. E!. Retrieved on 2009-12-24.
  19. Angus, Kat (1 December 2009). "Twilight New Moon actress replaces Brittany Murphy, who 'was not' fired from movie". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved on 6 December 2009.
  20. Paul Oakenfold Album & Song Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-09-01.
  21. "Faster Kill Pussycat" Chart Stats page.
  22. Brittany Murphy Trivia and Quotes Retrieved December 21, 2009.
  23. Brittany Murphy, new face of Jordache. (July 25, 2005). Retrieved on September 2, 2009.
  24. Miller, Samantha. Baby, Let's Play Married, People, January 20, 2003. Retrieved on September 1, 2009.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Ingrassia, Lisa (August 22, 2006). Brittany Murphy, Fiancé End Engagement. People. Retrieved on September 1, 2009.
  26. Fleeman, Mike (August 5, 2007). Brittany Murphy Marries Writer-Director. People.
  27. By Lorenzo Benet, (2009-12-22). Brittany Murphy's husband mourns. Retrieved on 2010-03-05.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Helfand, Duke. Actress Brittany Murphy dead at 32, Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2009. Retrieved on December 20, 2009.
  29. Dore, Shalini. Actress Brittany Murphy dies at 32, Variety, 2009-12-20. Retrieved on 21 December 2009.
  30. McCartney, Anthony. Actress Brittany Murphy dies in LA at age 32, 2009-12-21. Retrieved on 21 December 2009.
  31. Brittany Murphy's family pay tribute to 'shining star', BBC News, 2009-12-21. Retrieved on 2009-12-21.
  32. Davies, Rebecca (2009-12-21). Brittany Murphy death was "natural". Digital Spy. Retrieved on 2009-12-21.
  33. "L.A. Coroner Releases Brittany Murphy's Death Certificate" US Magazine. December 29, 2009. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
  34. Cold medicines contributed to Brittany Murphy's death, coroner says. CNN (2010-02-25). Retrieved on 2010-02-26.
  35. Dave Itzkoff. ‘Saturday Night Live’ Skit About Brittany Murphy Disappears From Web Sites, The New York Times, December 21, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “A “Saturday Night Live” sketch that satirized the actress Brittany Murphy has been pulled from Internet sites like, provoking disagreements among viewers about whether the video should be allowed to remain on the Web, and whether “SNL” should have performed the skit at all.”
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Simon Monjack blames Brittany Murphy's death on Warner Brothers; plans to sue, Newark Star-Ledger, January 28, 2010. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “Simon Monjack, Brittany Murphy’s balding, heavy husband (hey, his words, not ours), says he will sue Warner Brothers for triggering a fatal heart attack in Murphy when it dropped her from the sequel to “Happy Feet,” according to the Daily Beast. “They killed her,” Monjack tells the website’s Gerald Posner. “It’s a cruel town ... You’re disposable as an actress or actor.””
  37. Arienne Thompson,. Brittany Murphy wills everything to mother; husband excluded, USA Today, March 2010. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “Actress Brittany Murphy drafted a will that intentionally excludes husband Simon Monjack and leaves everything to her mother, Sharon Murphy. TMZ reports that the actress, who died on Dec. 20, wrote a handwritten will before she married Monjack that gave her mother everything. After the pair was married in 2007, she drafted an official will that Monjack says includes the phrase, "I am married to Simon Monjack who I have intentionally left out of this will," with his blessing.”
  38. 38.0 38.1 Small, Private Funeral for Brittany Murphy, CBS News, Dec. 24, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “Actress Brittany Murphy will be laid to rest at a small, private funeral on Christmas Eve, while a larger memorial service may be held early next year.”
  39. Dillon, Nancy. Brittany Murphy's family, friends gather for somber Christmas Eve funeral, Daily News, December 24, 2009.
  40. 40.0 40.1 Mick LaSalle. Brittany Murphy made vivid impression, San Francisco Chronicle, December 22, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-03-08. “Every year, at the Oscar ceremony, the recent dead are remembered through film clips, and it's always a little uncanny, because it reminds you how movies stop time, but don't; how people seem there, but aren't.”
  41. Brittany Murphy Foundation Official Site. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
  42. "Simon Monjack Launches Brittany Murphy Foundation.", accessed 15 February 2010
  43. Singh, Anita. Brittany Murphy's widower Simon Monjack died of natural causes, The Daily Telegraph, 24 May 2010. Retrieved on 3 October 2013.