Brittany Murphy— We Still Miss Her

Brittany Murphy, the bubbly, free-spirited actress who appeared in such films as Clueless and 8 Mile, died of natural causes back in 2009. She was only 32. Our favorite film starring Brittany will always be Little Black Book as the actress perfectly captured how we all sometimes feel when it comes to relationships and matters of the heart. This little gem of a film pulls together a stellar cast including Kathy Bates, Holly Hunter and Carly Simon [as herself]… This snippet from the film goes out to Brittany Murphy as she will always be in our hearts. If you have an opportunity to snag up a DVD of Little Black Book, do so… as it brings out the dreamer in all of us… there’s a spark of optimistic magic in the film that we could all use right now.

Murphy got her first big film break playing one of Alicia Silverstone’s high-school clique in Clueless. She followed this intuitive performance with a series of roles on TV, before again turning in a notable supporting performance in the Winona Ryder/Angelina Jolie starrer Girl, Interrupted. She also stood out in another challenging supporting role in the Michael Douglas thriller Don’t Say a Word, which no doubt helped to land her a starring role in 2002 in 8 Mile opposite rapper Eminem. Playing Eminem’s beautiful but unfaithful new girlfriend in Curtis Hanson’s powerful Detroit drama, Murphy turned in a raw and sympathetic performance in what was on the surface an unsympathetic role.

Brittany was a “breath of fresh air” compared to so many of the “mini divas” that permeate the film industry like so many parasites. She brought such a natural charm and genuine love/vulnerability to every character she played. One of the first things Brittany Murphy did when she showed up on the Oregon set of her independent thriller Something Wicked was acknowledge— and apologize… for her weight, which, to us, was absurd. “I met her on the first day she arrived in Eugene with her husband,” explained Scott Chambers, a principal at Chambers Productions and an executive producer on the picture. “She looked ill, as much as 10 pounds underweight, and she’s a small person to begin with. She easily could have made an excuse not to come to work, but she didn’t. She said, ‘I’ve got to get better, but I want to do this part.'”

A day after the death of the 32-year-old actress, people in the film business described a woman who continued to work tirelessly even as her star-wattage dimmed somewhat and health issues began to take their toll. Murphy spent about three weeks shooting her role as a psychiatrist in Something Wicked, a mystery thriller about a teenage couple experiencing supernatural phenomena. Chambers noted that although the part was not physically demanding— most of the scenes took place in an office setting— he nonetheless was struck by Murphy’s commitment to her part given her fragile state.

Angelo Bertolotti, who says he is the late actress Brittany Murphy’s biological father, has filed suit this past year against the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department. He wants to force them to do additional toxicology testing on a sample of the star’s hair and to re-open the investigation into her death. Brittany’s mother has also filed a lawsuit against the attorneys that represented her in a suit against the builders of the home where the actress died, claiming the lawyers never told her about a possible wrongful death suit due to mold growing in the house. The suit by Sharon Murphy in Los Angeles Superior Court came nearly two years after the December 20th, 2009 death of Brittany Murphy, which was followed by the May 2010 death of Brittany’s husband Simon Monjack. Sharon Murphy apparently did not become convinced that toxic mold was a cause in the death of her daughter and son-in-law until this past summer, when she was in the process of selling the house in the Hollywood Hills. She obviously uncovered something to change her mind.

“Due to the lack of investigative efforts by the Los Angeles Police Department,” states one of the lawsuits filed in L.A. Superior Court, “and the failure to conduct toxicology tests on the specimens” of her hair, Bertolotti believes that “his daughter’s death was incorrectly determined to have been allegedly caused by pneumonia and anemia.” No word as to where the case stands at this point.

When the final curtain came down for Brittany Murphy, the drama played out in the one room in her Hollywood Hills mansion that had become her refuge: her bathroom. This tiled, peach-colored sanctuary was where she went to get away from the mounting pressures of her life: a house she hated, a city where she no longer wanted to live, a career that was imploding and the constant burden of being a caregiver. Even though she didn’t feel well herself, Brittany was there to care for her mother, Sharon Murphy, a breast cancer survivor suffering debilitating neuropathy, and her ailing husband of three years, 39-year-old Simon Monjack. For nearly a year, the England native had been having seizures and a month earlier suffered an apparent heart attack. When he had a seizure, his arms and legs flailing on the big four-poster bed, Brittany would always rush to his side. Although weakened by anemia and gasping for breath from her own ailments, Brittany held his 300-pound body down, using a spoon to keep him from swallowing his own tongue.

The tabloid noise had increased over the years as Brittany got thinner and blonder in a quest for leading roles in movies, which also raised the specter of anorexia, which haunts many Hollywood actresses who feel the need to be thin. Brittany was 115 pounds when she died, a healthy weight for her height, even though she looked fragile. “She had curves in all the right places,” Simon said as he was terribly upset by all of the tabloid innuendos about her weight. “She was just miniaturized. She ate whatever she wanted when she wanted.”

It was wonderful that Brittany never lost her childlike innocence and sense of wonder… or that infectious giggle she often displayed as she was indeed an eternal optimist. But what worked for her as an actress made for a confusing life: She never learned to drive or balance her own checkbook. She looked to her mother, business managers and finally Simon to care for her. It was the need for a father— as her biological father [Bertolotti] was rarely part of her life— mentor, teacher and anchor that finally led her to Simon, who, inevitably died just 5 months after she did.

Whatever becomes of the two seperate lawsuits, filed by each of her parents… nothing can EVER replace the smile, the acquiescent person we all came to know and care about. There is still a noticible void in the industry… a place that will never be filled in quite the same way. Brittany Murphy herself once said, “I’ve learned to be selective of the people in my world, because if I love someone, I will give them my blood, whatever they need. In doing so, one can end up with little left for themselves. It’s a lesson in self-preservation that I’m still learning. If you don’t have yourself, you have nothing to give.” This statement could easily sum up Brittany’s life… but we prefer to remember her as a compassionate soul, a caretaker who dared to be selfless when it came to love… and everything else that she left behind in every role she played. We still miss her terribly… and we always will.


~ by upbeatmag on March 3, 2012.

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