‘Clueless’ & ‘8 Mile’ actress Brittany Murphy dead at 32
Actress Brittany Murphy, best known for her roles in the sleeper hit Clueless and in the Eminem hip-hop drama 8 Mile, and for providing the voice of Luanne Platter in the hit television series King of the Hill, died Sunday morning, Dec. 20, at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Murphy (born Brittany Anne Bertolotti on Nov. 10, 1977, in Atlanta) was 32. According to various reports, the cause of death was cardiac arrest.
Brittany Murphy cause of death
Feb. 4 ’10 update: Brittany Murphy died from pneumonia, though prescription drugs and anemia were also factors in her death, according to the coroner’s report.
The 32-year-old Clueless and 8 Mile actress died Dec. 20 at a Los Angeles area hospital after collapsing in her Hollywood Hills home.
The report adds that the cause of death was accidental and could probably have been prevented had she gone to see a doctor; Murphy did have a scheduled appointment with a physician – but that turned out to be a few days after her death.
Although she took several prescription drugs, including anti-seizure medication, there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Brittany Murphy movies: ‘Clueless’ & ‘8 Mile’
Brittany Murphy began her show business career as a teenager in the early 1990s, playing supporting or guest roles in series such as Almost Home, Frasier, and the Candice Bergen hit Murphy Brown.
Her film debut took place in 1993 in a bit part in Scott M. Rosenfelt’s indie drama Family Players, toplining Joe Mantegna and Anne Archer.
In her second movie, she landed a much larger role: the ugly duckling Tai Frasier – eventually transformed into a swan – in the 1995 sleeper hit Clueless, Amy Heckerling’s revamping of Jane Austen’s Emma, with Alicia Silverstone as the lead.
About 20 movies later – mostly little-seen and/or little-remembered fare – Murphy was cast as Eminem’s romantic/sexual interest in Curtis Hanson’s 2002 drama 8 Mile.
Reportedly inspired by the 1990s rapper’s own upbringing, the “inspirational” 8 Mile chronicles the difficulties faced by a trailer park resident (Eminem) struggling to break into the hip-hop music business, at the time a nearly all-black scene. On screen, Murphy and the hip-hopper wannabe enjoy a relationship of the “it’s complicated” variety.
Somewhat surprisingly, 8 Mile went on to become a worldwide hit, grossing $242.8 million – more than half of that amount at the international box office.
More Brittany Murphy movies
Among Brittany Murphy’s other film appearances – less frequent and in smaller productions in the last three years – were:
- James Mangold’s Girl, Interrupted (1999), starring psychiatric ward residents Winona Ryder and eventual Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Angelina Jolie. Murphy played the obsessive-compulsive sex abuse victim Daisy.
- Shawn Levy’s hit romantic comedy Just Married (2003), co-starring Ashton Kutcher, with whom Murphy reportedly had an off-screen relationship.
- Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City (2005), a $40 million-budgeted crime thriller featuring an extensive cast, including Jessica Alba, Nick Stahl, Rutger Hauer, and Michael Madsen. Although a box office disappointment in the domestic market (in relation to its overall cost), international revenues helped to lift Sin City out of the red. Brittany Murphy played the girlfriend of abusive, alcoholic “hero” cop Benicio Del Toro.
- Karen Moncrieff’s little-seen ensemble drama The Dead Girl (2006), featuring Murphy as the titular character, a (bisexual?) sex worker that ends up as one of the victims of a serial killer (Nick Searcy). Also in the cast: Toni Collette, James Franco, Kerry Washington, and veteran Piper Laurie (The Hustler, Carrie).
- Alex Merkin’s Across the Hall (2009), a recently released, low-budget thriller co-starring Mike Vogel and, as Murphy’s fiancé, Danny Pino.
Brittany Murphy’s biggest box office hit was George Miller’s 2006 Oscar-winning animated feature Happy Feet, in which she is heard – as the voice of the penguin Gloria – but not seen.
Also notable was Murphy’s appearance in Lloyd Kramer’s 1998 TV movie David and Lisa, a remake of Frank Perry’s 1962 psychological drama about a young couple who begin a relationship while in a mental institution. Lukas Haas was David while Best Actor Oscar winner Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field, 1963) played a caring doctor. (The original featured Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin as the couple, and Howard Da Silva as the doctor.)
Brittany Murphy has been mentioned in connection with a couple of upcoming releases – both low-budget horror thrillers:
- Darin Scott’s horror thriller Something Wicked, with James Patrick Stuart.
- Michael Feifer’s thriller Abandoned, with Dean Cain, Mimi Rogers, and veteran filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (Targets, The Last Picture Show).
Announced projects such as Shrinking Charlotte, in which Murphy was to have played the title role, will now have to be recast.
In addition, Murphy was at one point cast in Sylvester Stallone’s actioner The Expendables, but her role was ultimately written out of the film.
‘The Brittany Murphy Story’
2014 update: Abandoned was a direct-to-video release in 2010. Something Wicked had a brief release in 2014, the same year that Joe Menendez’s critically lambasted TV movie The Brittany Murphy Story was aired on Lifetime. Amanda Fuller was cast as Murphy; with Sherilyn Fenn as her mother, and Eric Petersen as Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack.
Regarding The Brittany Murphy Story, Variety reviewer Geoff Berkshire wrote that among the TV movie’s flaws were “embarrassing scripting, awkward performances and threadbare production values. Fortunately, unlike Murphy, it should be quickly forgotten.”
Brittany Murphy was married to British screenwriter Simon Monjack, who received “story” and executive producer credit on George Hickenlooper’s Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl, starring Sienna Miller.
Monjack’s other screen credit(s) was as director, producer, and co-screenwriter of the 2001 British drama Two Days, Nine Lives, partly set in a drug rehab clinic, and featuring Luke Goss, Sienna Guillory, Simon Shepherd, and Sabrina Van Tassel.
May 2010 update: Simon Monjack was found dead at his Hollywood Hills home on May 23, six months after Brittany Murphy’s passing. Monjack was 40.
Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy Just Married image: 20th Century Fox.
Brittany Murphy Uptown Girls image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
“Brittany Murphy Dead at 32: Eminem Leading Lady & Clueless + Happy Feet Actress” last updated in April 2018.