Brittany Murphy

Brittany Murphy Headshot

Actress

Birth Date: November 10, 1977

Death Date: December 20, 2009

Birth Place: Atlanta, Georgia

Partners: Ashton Kutcher

Versatile actress Brittany Murphy easily segued from mainstream comedies to gritty indie dramas, but unfortunately audiences were never able to see the full range of her talents, due to her untimely death at age 32. Murphy shot to stardom in the classic high school comedy "Clueless" (1995), where she elicited laughs and sympathy as the ugly-duckling-turned-swan buddy of "it" girl Alicia Silverstone. The raspy voiced starlet, who spent over a decade as ditsy beautician Luanne on the animated Fox series "King of the Hill" (Fox, 1997-2009), worked her way up from supporting roles in films like "Riding in Cars with Boys" (2001) to leading lady status in the light comedies "Uptown Girls" (2003) and "Little Black Book" (2004), where she imbued her characters with a bit of a wild-child edge. But it was Murphy's darker roles that earned her the most critical attention, including her streetwise turn opposite rapper Eminem in "8 Mile" (2002) and her mad, unhinged characters in "Girl, Interrupted" (1999) and "Don't Say a Word" (2001). The underrated actress always brought a spark to the screen, and upon news of her early death, her peers came forward in droves to express disappointment at the loss of such a talented, vibrant personality.

Murphy was born Nov. 10, 1977, and raised in Edison, NJ by a single mother following her parents' divorce when she was a baby. Her father, who was involved with organized crime, later served time in federal prison for drug charges, but his daughter's life began full of promise and ambition. Murphy was dancing from the time she was a toddler, performing at age two, and was the star of a regional production of the musical "Really Rosie" at age nine. At age 13, Murphy convinced her mother to relocate to Los Angeles so she could launch a professional acting career, and the move paid off quickly when the teen landed the role of Dabney Coleman's daughter on the short-lived Fox sitcom, "Drexel's Class" (1991-92). She rebounded with a role on the sitcom "Almost Home" (ABC, 1993), and when that program only lasted 13 episodes, Murphy stayed on primetime with recurring appearances on "Blossom" (NBC, 1991-95) and "Sister, Sister" (ABC, 1994-95; The WB, 1995-99).

In "Clueless" (1995), Amy Heckerling's modern update of Jane Austen's Emma, Murphy kick-started her film career with her standout turn as the fashion-challenged transfer student from the East Coast whom Beverly Hills teen Cher (Alicia Silverstone) takes under her wing. Murphy proved her comic mettle in the instant classic high school comedy, but the film's success did not translate into overnight movie stardom for Murphy, who returned to television with a string of guest appearances and supporting roles in low budget features. In New York in 1997, Murphy won a fair share of critical praise for her role opposite Anthony LaPaglia in the award-winning Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge. In a display of real versatility, Murphy followed up her Broadway run by lending her trademark raspy voice to the character of sweet (but dim) Texas beautician Luanne on the Mike Judge and Greg Daniels long-running animated series, "King of the Hill" (1997-2009). Murphy's first major dramatic screen performance came the following year in "David and Lisa" (ABC, 1998), a TV movie produced under the "Oprah Winfrey Presents" banner. Murphy next co-starred as an aspiring beauty pageant contestant in the mock documentary "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (1999) but offered a more memorable performance in James Mangold's adaptation of "Girl, Interrupted" (1999), starring as a suicidal teen fixated on rotisserie chicken. She followed up with skilled performances as vastly different characters, including a turn as a discharged naval officer suspected of being a lesbian in Showtime's anthology drama, "Common Ground" (Showtime, 2000), a performance as a charming barfly in Alan Rudolph's "Trixie" (2000), and a virginal teen targeted by a serial killer in the direct-to-video slasher picture, "Cherry Falls" (2000). Murphy's supporting role as the loveable town floozy in "Summer Catch" (2001) was one of the disappointing film's few high points, while she held her own in a challenging role as a disturbed young woman who holds a valuable secret in her damaged mind in the thriller "Don't Say a Word" (2001), in which her memorably creepy line "I'll never tell" featured in the ad campaign, boosted Murphy's profile at the box office. Following an excellent featured role as a waitress in Edward Burns' romantic comedy "Sidewalks of New York" (2001), Murphy scored as another female sidekick, perfectly complementing Drew Barrymore in the inspiring comedy-drama "Riding in Cars With Boys" (2001). Her film career having endured its share of fits and starts, Murphy finally enjoyed a steady run of high profile roles beginning with Curtis Hanson's "8 Mile" (2002), loosely based upon the difficult early years of rapper Eminem, in which Murphy supported as a streetwise girlfriend who champions his talent. In another gritty drama, Murphy starred with Jason Schwartzman and Mickey Rourke in "Spun" (2002), Jonas Akerlund's grim, weekend-in-the-life-of amphetamine addicts indie. In a 180-degree genre shift, Murphy was cast along real-life boyfriend Ashton Kutcher in the cloying romantic comedy, "Just Married" (2003). However, while the film had strong box office appeal, the couple's relationship fizzled shortly after its release. Adding salt to Murphy's wounds, Kutcher fell in love with future wife Demi Moore only months later.

Meanwhile, Murphy was still holding down her regular voice-over role on "King of the Hill" even as her feature film image was slowly evolving from wild child character actress to sophisticated starlet. In her first outing as a full-blown leading lady, Murphy starred in the light comedy "Uptown Girls" (2003) as a rock star's hard-partying daughter who is forced to grow up when she becomes the caretaker of a wealthy, willful and ignored little girl (Dakota Fanning). That family-friendly success led to another headlining role for Murphy in "Little Black Book" (2004), in which she appeared as a talk show producer who makes some disturbing discoveries about her commitment-phobic boyfriend's romantic past after snooping into his PDA. She added an admirable, highly watchable spark to the otherwise leaden affair, while off-screen, her love life was in turmoil again when she called off her year-long engagement to talent manager Jeff Kwatinetz. Murphy returned to edgier indie fare with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's visually arresting adaptation of Miller's noir comic books, "Sin City" (2005). As Shellie, a strip club waitress with a soft spot for the wrong guys, Murphy's character helped tie the various story arcs together by appearing in multiple sequences; most notably in "The Big Fat Kill" where her character is terrorized by the corrupt Jackie Boy (Benicio del Toro) before being saved by the tough but noble Dwight (Clive Owen).

Edward Burns recruited Murphy again for his little-seen buddy comedy "The Groomsmen" in 2006, and the actress averted her own trip to the alter that year when she called off her engagement to film crewman Joe Macaluso. However she rebounded with the biggest box office success of her career then to date, "Happy Feet" (2007), lending her distinctive voice to the popular penguin tale that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The actress known for easily switching gears from commercial comedy to dark indie dramas followed up with the title role in "The Dead Girl" (2007), a nominee for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Film that traced the lives of seemingly unrelated people who are connected through a murder. Murphy married British writer Simon Monjack the same year, and appeared in one more family film, "Neverwas" (2007), a direct-to-video release about an aging children's author who is so delusional he believes he has become one of his fictional characters. In 2009, Murphy starred in "The Ramen Girl" (2009), a direct-to-video feature about an American girl who moves to Tokyo and after enduring heartbreak, dedicates herself to learning the Japanese art of cooking ramen. In a return to the small screen, Murphy starred in two made-for-TV movies; Nora Roberts-based "Tribute" (Lifetime, 2009) and the Sci Fi Channel disaster flick "Megafault" (2009). Just weeks after Murphy's starring role in the supernatural thriller "Deadline" (2009) was released direct to DVD, Murphy was found dead. On Dec. 20, 2009, an ambulance was called to the Beverly Hills home of Murphy and husband Monjack after the actress collapsed. She was declared dead from cardiac arrest later at Cedars-Sinai hospital, though fans anxiously awaited results of her autopsy and toxicology reports for more answers as to why the 32-year-old's heart failed. In the months leading up her death, Murphy had reportedly been fired from the horror film "The Caller" (2010), while the production crew of a second horror film, "Something Wicked" (2010), suspected drug use after observing the actress dazed and unprofessional. Others were concerned over the actress' recent and severe loss of weight. In February 2010, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office released cause of death, citing community-acquired pneumonia as the primary cause, but that iron deficiency anemia and prescription drugs/"multiple drug intoxication" had also played a role.

Credits

Something Wicked

Actor
Susan
Movie
2014

8 Mile

Actor
Alex
Show
2012

Abandoned

Actor
Mary Walsh
Movie
2010

Nora Roberts' Tribute

Actor
Cilla McGowan
Movie
2009

Megafault

Actor
Megafault
Movie
2009

Across the Hall

Actor
June
Movie
2009

Deadline

Actor
Alice
Movie
2009

The Bonnie Hunt Show

Guest
Talk
2008

Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs

Voice
Movie
2008

The Ramen Girl

Actor
Abby
Movie
2008

Paul Oakenfold Feat. Brittany Murphy: Faster Kill Pussycat

Music Performer
Show
2006

Happy FeetStream

Voice
Gloria
Movie
2006
76%

The GroomsmenStream

Actor
Sue
Movie
2006
53%

The Dead Girl

Actor
Krista
Movie
2006

Love and Other Disasters

Actor
Jacks
Movie
2006

The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

Guest
Talk
2005

Neverwas

Actor
Maggie Blake
Movie
2005

Sin CityStream

Actor
Shellie
Movie
2005
76%

Little Black BookStream

Actor
Stacy
Movie
2004
22%

Just MarriedStream

Actor
Sarah McNerney
Movie
2003
20%

Uptown GirlsStream

Actor
Molly Gunn
Movie
2003
13%

Good Boy!

Voice
Nellie
Movie
2003

8 MileStream

Actor
Alex
Movie
2002
75%

Spun

Actor
Nikki
Movie
2002

Summer Catch

Actor
Dede Mulligan
Movie
2001

Don't Say a Word

Actor
Elisabeth Burrows
Movie
2001

Riding in Cars With Boys

Actor
Fay Forrester
Movie
2001

Sidewalks of New York

Actor
Ashley
Movie
2001

Trixie

Actor
Ruby Pearli
Movie
2000

Common Ground

Actor
Dorothy Nelson
Movie
2000

Cherry Falls

Actor
Jody Marken
Movie
2000

FuturamaStream

Guest Voice
Colleen O'Hallahan
Series
1999

Vivencias de la Guerra

Actor
Rivkah
Movie
1999

The Devil's Arithmetic

Actor
Rivkah
Movie
1999

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Actor
Lisa Swenson
Movie
1999
47%

Girl, InterruptedStream

Actor
Daisy
Movie
1999
53%

The Prophecy II

Actor
Izzy
Movie
1998

Phoenix

Actor
Veronica
Movie
1998

David and Lisa

Actor
Lisa
Movie
1998

Bongwater

Actor
Mary
Movie
1998

Falling Sky

Actor
Emily Nicholson
Movie
1998

Zack and Reba

Actor
Reba Simpson
Movie
1998

King of the HillStream

Actor
Series
1997

King of the HillStream

Guest Voice
Luanne Platter
Series
1997

King of the HillStream

Voice
Luanne Platter
Series
1997

Drive

Actor
Deliverance Bodine
Movie
1997

Clueless

Guest Star
Series
1996

Double Jeopardy

Actor
Julia Neuland
Movie
1996

Freeway

Actor
Rhonda
Movie
1996

Persecución Desenfrenada

Actor
Movie
1996

The Marshal

Guest Star
Series
1995

CluelessStream

Actor
Tai Fraiser
Movie
1995
81%

Sister, SisterStream

Actor
Series
1994

Sister, SisterStream

Guest Star
Series
1994

Boy Meets WorldStream

Guest Star
Trini
Series
1993

FrasierStream

Guest Star
Olsen
Series
1993
95%

The Torkelsons: Almost Home

Actor
Molly Morgan
Show
1993

The Torkelsons

Actor
Series
1991

Drexell's Class

Actor
Brenda Drexell
Show
1991

Saturday Night LiveStream

Host
Series
1975

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