Who Was Brittany Murphy?
Actress Brittany Murphy got her big break at age 14 as a regular on the sitcom Drexell's Class. After the success of Clueless, she starred in critically acclaimed films like Girl, Interrupted, 8 Mile and Sin City, and enjoyed a long-running voice role on the animated King of the Hill. The actress died at age 32 of what was determined to be a combination of pneumonia, anemia and prescription medications.
Murphy was born November 10, 1977, in Atlanta, Georgia, to parents Sharon Murphy and Angelo Bertolotti. Murphy's father was heavily involved in organized crime and spent most of his life in and out of prison. As a result, Murphy's parents split when she was only two years old.
Murphy and her mother moved to Edison, New Jersey, shortly after the divorce. It was during this time that Murphy became interested in acting and performing. To encourage her talents, Murphy's mother enrolled her in Verne Fowler's School of Dance and Theater in Colonia, New Jersey, when she was five years old. It was there that Murphy took dance and voice lessons until she was in her early teens.
By the time Murphy was eight, she had determined that she wanted to be a star. She began pushing her mother to help her get headshots, hire a manager and drive her into Manhattan for auditions. When Murphy was 12, her mother finally relented. Almost immediately, Murphy began landing jobs for television commercials. From there, she began making brief appearances on sitcoms such as Murphy Brown and Boy Meets World.
TV and Film Roles
Elated by her success, Murphy and her mother relocated to Los Angeles in 1991 when the actress was 14 years old to further Murphy's acting career. She got her big break in TV that same year, as a regular on the sitcom Drexell's Class. When she wasn't working on set, Brittany spent her time studying at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, California.
In 1995, Murphy entered the national spotlight in the popular film Clueless, starring opposite Alicia Silverstone. A modern take on the popular Jane Austen novel Emma, the movie was a surprise hit, grossing more than $11 million in its first weekend at the box office. Murphy was suddenly a star.
'Girl, Interrupted,' '8 Mile,' 'Sin City,' 'King of the Hill'
After the success of Clueless, Murphy went on to star in films like Girl, Interrupted (1999), with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, 8 Mile (2002) with rapper Eminem, and Sin City (2005), with a star-studded cast that included Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Jessica Alba. Additionally, the actress enjoyed the long-running voice role of Luanne on the popular animated show King of the Hill.
In 2006, Murphy landed another voice role in the big screen feature Happy Feet and featured prominently in the thriller The Dead Girl, though her career prospects seemed to be dimming by this point. Following the romantic comedy The Ramen Girl (2008), she starred in another thriller, Across the Hall (2009), and a TV movie adaptation of Nora Roberts' Tribute (2009). Murphy posthumously starred in Abandoned (2010) and Something Wicked (2014).
In December 2009, Murphy's life seemed to be taking an unfortunate turn. Her husband, screenwriter Simon Monjack, was hospitalized for health problems. Later in the month, it was revealed that she had also been unexpectedly dropped from her project The Caller, for which she had been shooting in Puerto Rico. Initial reports indicated that she had been fired from the film, but Murphy denied the rumors.
Shortly after the news that she had lost the job due to her poor attitude and spotty attendance on set, Murphy died on December 20, 2009. Initially reported as a heart attack, her death was later attributed to acute pneumonia and severe anemia, her condition worsened by heavy doses of cold medications. The actress was only 32 years old. Her husband died five months later.
At the time of her passing, rumors circulated regarding possible drug use or an eating disorder contributed to her death. Her father offered another theory in November 2013, when he released the results of tests performed on a sample of Murphy's hair that showed exposure to rat poison.
Another theory regarding Murphy's death surfaced around that time: According to The Hollywood Reporter, both Murphy and her husband believed that they were being watched by the U.S. government. Murphy reportedly served as a witness for Julia Davis, a Homeland Security employee who revealed problems within the organization.
The topic of Murphy's mysterious passing was revived for the 2020 documentary Brittany Murphy: An ID Mystery, which followed her father's investigative efforts before his own death in 2019 and explored the possibility that the actress was poisoned.
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