Brittany Murphy

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Brittany Murphy
Brittany Murphy.jpg
Murphy at the Sydney premiere of Happy Feet in 2006
Brittany Anne Bertolotti

(1977-11-10)November 10, 1977
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
DiedDecember 20, 2009(2009-12-20) (aged 32)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of deathPneumonia[1]
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California
34°08′39″N 118°19′11″W / 34.14414°N 118.31979°W / 34.14414; -118.31979
EducationJohn Burroughs High School, Verne Fowler's School of Dance and Theater
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1991–2009
(m. 2007)

Brittany Anne Murphy-Monjack[2] (née Bertolotti; November 10, 1977 – December 20, 2009) was an American actress and singer. Born in Atlanta, Murphy moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and pursued a career in acting. Her breakthrough role was as Tai Frasier in Clueless (1995), followed by supporting roles in independent films such as Freeway (1996) and Bongwater (1998). She made her stage debut in a Broadway production of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge in 1997 before appearing as Daisy Randone in Girl, Interrupted (1999) and as Lisa Swenson in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999).

In the 2000s, Murphy appeared in Don't Say a Word (2001) alongside Michael Douglas, and alongside Eminem in 8 Mile (2002), for which she gained critical recognition.[3] Her later roles included Riding in Cars with Boys (2001), Spun (2002), Just Married (2003), Uptown Girls (2003), Sin City (2005), and Happy Feet (2006). Murphy also voiced Luanne Platter on the animated television series King of the Hill (1997–2010). Her final film, Something Wicked, was released in April 2014.

On December 20, 2009, Murphy died at age 32 under disputed circumstances. The coroner's verdict was pneumonia, exacerbated by anemia and misuse of various prescription medicines.

Early life

Brittany Anne Bertolotti[4] was born in Atlanta, Georgia,[5] to Sharon Kathleen Murphy[2] and Angelo Joseph Bertolotti,[6] who divorced when she was two years old. Murphy was raised by her mother in Edison, New Jersey. Bertolotti was not named as her father on Brittany's first death certificate. Prior to her enrolling at Edison High School, the family moved to Los Angeles in 1991 so that Murphy could pursue an acting career.[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."[5] Murphy's mother is of Irish and Slovakian descent and her father is of Italian ancestry.[10][11] She was raised a Baptist and later became a non-denominational Christian.[12][13] She had two older half-brothers and a younger half-sister.[14]



Murphy attended Verne Fowler School of Dance and Theatre Arts in Colonia, New Jersey, in 1982. From the age of four, she trained in singing, dancing, and acting until her move to California at thirteen.[15] Murphy made her Broadway debut in 1997, as Catherine, in a revival of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge opposite veteran actors Anthony LaPaglia and Allison Janney.[16]

Murphy landed her first job in Hollywood when she was thirteen, 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, including Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Blossom, seaQuest 2032, Murder One and Frasier. She also had recurring roles on Party of Five, Boy Meets World, and Sister, Sister.

Murphy's breakthrough role was in her second feature film, the teen comedy Clueless (1995), directed by Amy Heckerling, which developed a cult following. She followed this with roles in Freeway (1996), with Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland, and the independent comedy Bongwater (1998). In 1999, she had a supporting role in James Mangold's Girl, Interrupted as a troubled psychiatric patient alongside Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie; and as an aspiring beauty queen in Drop Dead Gorgeous. She also voiced the character Luanne Platter on Fox's animated sitcom King of the Hill for the entirety of the show's run from 1997 to 2009, and Joseph Gribble until the fifth season. She was nominated for an Annie Award for voice acting in the King of the Hill episode "Movin' On Up".[17]

Murphy at the Australian premiere of Happy Feet in 2006.

She began the 2000s with a leading role in Don't Say a Word (2001) alongside Michael Douglas; the TV adaptation of the novel The Devil's Arithmetic (2001); 8 Mile (2002), for which she received critical acclaim;[3] and Uptown Girls (2003). In 2003, she starred in the romantic comedies Just Married and Little Black Book (2004) and the critically acclaimed Sin City (2005). Film critic Roger Ebert frequently acclaimed Murphy's acting talent and comedic timing, giving good reviews to several of her films and comparing her to Lucille Ball:[18]

As for Brittany Murphy, for me, it goes back to the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards [where] Murphy was assigned to present one of the awards. Her task was to read the names of the five nominees, open an envelope, and reveal the name of the winner. This she turned into an opportunity for screwball improvisational comedy, by pretending she could not follow this sequence, not even after the audience shouted instructions and the stage manager came to whisper in her ear not once but twice. There were those in the audience who were dumbfounded by her stupidity. I was dumbfounded by her brilliance.[19]

Murphy followed with several independent films, including as Spun (2002), Neverwas (2005), and Karen Moncrieff's The Dead Girl (2006), as well as two Edward Burns films: Sidewalks of New York (2001) and The Groomsmen (2006). She returned to voice acting with the critically acclaimed 2006 animated feature Happy Feet, as Gloria Penguin. In 2009, she was cast in the Lifetime TV movie Tribute, as the main character, Cilla. Murphy completed the thriller/drama Abandoned in June 2009 and it was released in 2010, after her death.[20] 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 set, and cited "creative differences".[21] Something Wicked, her final film, was released in 2014.


Murphy performing for the crew during a USO show aboard USS Nimitz on June 19, 2003

Murphy's career also included work as a singer. She commented: "My singing voice isn't like my speaking voice...I've just always kept it a secret and never taken credit because I wanted to learn how to work behind the microphone in a recording studio, and some of the singers don't even know it was me recording on their albums."[22]

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.[23] It also hit number seven in Oakenfold's native United Kingdom in June 2006.[24]

She dabbled in music again with the release of the film Happy Feet, in which she covered Queen's "Somebody to Love" and Earth, Wind & Fire's "Boogie Wonderland". Murphy said about her character, Gloria, "Oddly enough, of all the characters I've played, Gloria is the most like me. And she's a penguin! George Miller always wanted one person to do both [the speaking and the singing]. I said, 'I can sing,' and I asked him to give me a shot. I don't think he took me very seriously, because most actors say they can do most things."[22]

Personal life

In late 2002, Murphy began dating Ashton Kutcher, her co-star in Just Married.[25] Previously 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.[26] In August 2006, they ended their engagement.[26] In May 2007, Murphy married British screenwriter Simon Monjack in a private Jewish ceremony in Los Angeles.[27]

In the early 2000s, Murphy lost a large amount of weight,[28][29] which led to rumors of a cocaine addiction.[28][30] In 2005, Murphy disputed such claims to Jane magazine, saying, "No, just for the record I have never tried it in my entire life."[28][30]


At 8:00 a.m. on December 20, 2009, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to "a medical request"[31] at the Los Angeles home Murphy and Monjack shared. She had apparently collapsed in a bathroom.[5] Firefighters attempted to resuscitate Murphy on the scene. She was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she died at 10:04 a.m. after going into cardiac arrest.[5][31][32]

An autopsy was performed the day after she died.[33] The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, in a report issued February 2010, said that the manner of death was accidental and that the cause of death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of severe iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication.[1][34] The coroner found a range of over-the-counter and prescription medications in Murphy's system, with the most likely reason being to treat a cold or respiratory infection. These included "elevated levels" of hydrocodone, acetaminophen, L-methamphetamine, and chlorpheniramine, all of which are legal. The report observed: "the possible adverse physiological effects of elevated levels of these medications cannot be discounted, especially in her weakened state."[1]

Grave of Brittany Murphy at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

On December 24, 2009, Murphy was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.[35]

In January 2010, Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack, and her mother, Sharon Murphy, claimed that she did not use alcohol or other drugs, and that drugs did not cause her death; instead they attributed it to a heart condition, mitral valve prolapse.[36][37][38]

On May 23, Monjack was found dead at the same Hollywood Hills residence.[39] The coroner's report attributed his death to acute pneumonia and severe anaemia.[40] It was reported that the Los Angeles County Department of Health had considered toxic mold in their house as a possible cause of the deaths, but this was dismissed by Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter, who stated that there were "no indicators" that mold was a factor.[41] Sharon Murphy described the reports of mold contributing to the deaths as "absurd" and went on to state that inspecting the home for mold was never requested by the Health Department.[42] In December 2011, Sharon Murphy changed her stance, announcing that toxic mold was indeed what killed her daughter and son-in-law, and filed a lawsuit against the attorneys who represented her in an earlier suit against the builders of the home where her daughter and son-in-law died.[43]

In January 2012, Murphy's father, Angelo Bertolotti, applied to the Superior Court of California requesting that the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office be required to hand over samples of his daughter's hair for independent testing.[44][45] The suit was dismissed seven months later, after Bertolotti failed to attend two separate hearings.[46]

In November 2013, Bertolotti claimed that a toxicology report showed that deliberate poisoning by heavy metals, including antimony and barium, was a possible cause of his daughter's death. Sharon Murphy described the claim as "a smear".[47][48]


In January 2010, Murphy's mother, Sharon, and her widower, Simon Monjack, established the Brittany Murphy Foundation, a charitable fund for children's arts education, as well as supporting the USO and cancer research.[49][50]

The Foundation was launched on February 4, 2010, at a fundraising event at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.[51] After a records search revealed that the foundation's not-for-profit status had not been filed, the foundation refunded any donations received. In an official letter on the foundation's website, they stated that in an effort to get the foundation set up as quickly as possible, they had established it as a private foundation with plans to apply for nonprofit status later. However, they said that they had decided to wait until the foundation's nonprofit status was approved before going any further in order to truly honor Murphy and the foundation's charitable goals.[52]

On November 10, 2013, the Brittany Murphy Foundation was officially relaunched by her father Angelo Bertolotti, according to a press release posted at the foundation's website.[53]

As of September 2018, the Brittany Murphy Foundation appears to be defunct. GuideStar USA, Inc., an information service specializing in reporting on US nonprofit companies, reports that the Brittany Murphy Foundation has not appeared on the IRS Business Master File in a number[clarification needed] of months, which may indicate that it has ceased operations.[54]


In October 2021, HBO Max aired a documentary titled What Happened, Brittany Murphy?, covering the mystery surrounding Murphy's death. In the documentary, Murphy's 8 Mile co-star Taryn Manning remembered her as "free-spirited, whimsical and full of laughter".[55] After the documentary premiere, Daniel Fienberg wrote for The Hollywood Reporter that the documentary was "20 percent a reminder of Murphy's transcendent talent, 30 percent a dead-ended investigation into the mystery of her death, and 50 percent an unenlightening examination of Murphy's late husband", and concluded his review saying that "[Murphy] deserved better than the treatment she received in the media, which probably contributed to [Monjack's] ability to control her in the way he did."[56]


Feature films

Year Title Role Notes
1993 Family Prayers Elise Alternative title: A Family Divided
1995 Clueless Tai Frasier
1996 Freeway Rhonda
1997 Bongwater Mary
Drive Deliverance Bodine
1998 Falling Sky Emily Nicholson
The Prophecy II Izzy Direct-to-video release
Phoenix Veronica
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
2003 Just Married Sarah McNerney
Uptown Girls Molly Gunn
Good Boy! Nelly Voice role
2004 Little Black Book Stacy Holt
2005 Sin City Shellie
Neverwas Maggie Paige
2006 The Groomsmen Sue
Love and Other Disasters Emily "Jacks" Jackson
Happy Feet Gloria Voice role
The Dead Girl Krista Kutcher
2008 The Ramen Girl Abby Producer credit[57]
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs Colleen O'Hallahan (voice) Direct-to-video release
2009 Deadline Alice Direct-to-video release
Across the Hall June
2010 Abandoned Mary Direct-to-video; posthumous release
2014 Something Wicked Susan Posthumous release (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Murphy Brown Frank's sister Episode: "On Another Plane: Part 1"
Drexell's Class Brenda Drexell 18 episodes 1991/2
1992 Kids Incorporated Celeste Episode: "Lay Off"
Parker Lewis Can't Lose Angie Episode: "The Kiss"
1993 Almost Home Molly Morgan 13 episodes
Blossom Wendy Episode: "Blossom in Paris: Part 1"
1994 Frasier Olsen Episode: "Give Him the Chair!"
Party of Five Abby 2 episodes
Sister, Sister Sarah 6 episodes, 1994/5
1995 Boy Meets World Trini Martin 2 episodes
The Marshal Lizzie Roth Episode: "These Foolish Things"
seaQuest DSV Christine VanCamp Episode: "Second Chance"
Murder One Diane "Dee-Dee" Carson Episode: "Chapter Nine"
1996 Double Jeopardy Julia TV Movie
Nash Bridges Carrie Episode: "Night Train"
Clueless Jasmine Episode: "Driving Me Crazy"
King of the Hill Luanne Platter (voice)
Various characters (voice)
226 episodes
1998 David and Lisa Lisa Movie
1999 The Devil's Arithmetic Rivkah Showtime film
Pepper Ann Tank the 8th grader (voice) 3 episodes, 1999/2000
2000 Common Ground Dorothy Nelson Movie
2005 I'm Still Here Voiceover Documentary about The Holocaust
2009 Tribute Cilla McGowan Movie
Megafault Dr. Amy Lane Movie
2021 What Happened, Brittany Murphy? Herself TV Posthumous release; archive footage

Video games

Year Title Voice role Notes
1995 My First Encyclopedia Space floor guide Live action
2006 Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure Karen Light
Happy Feet Gloria
Music videos
Year Song Artist Notes
1995 "Here" Luscious Jackson
2001 "A Little Respect" Wheatus
2004 "Closest Thing to Heaven" Tears for Fears
2006 "Faster Kill Pussycat" Paul Oakenfold Also provided vocals on song

Stage work

Year Production Role Location
1997 A View from the Bridge[58] Catherine Broadway

Awards and nominations

Awards Circuit Community Awards
Year Category Nominated work Result
1995 Best Supporting Actress in a Supporting Role Clueless Nominated
Satellite Awards
Year Category Nominated work Result
2002 Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Don't Say a Word Nominated
Spike Video Game Awards
2006 Best Supporting Female Performance Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure Nominated
Teen Choice Awards
2003 Choice Movie Actress—Comedy Just Married Nominated
Choice Lip Lock (shared with Ashton Kutcher) Nominated
Choice Movie Actress—Drama/Action-Adventure 8 Mile Nominated
Choice Lip Lock (shared with Eminem) Nominated
2005 Choice Movie Actress—Drama Little Black Book Nominated
Young Artist Awards
1996 Best Professional Actress/Singer Nominated
Best Young Supporting Actress in a Feature Film Clueless Nominated
1999 Best Performance in a TV Movie/Pilot/Mini-Series or Series—Leading Young Actress David and Lisa Nominated
2000 Best Young Leading Actress in a Feature Film Girl, Interrupted Nominated


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External links