‘King of the Hill’ Star Brittany Murphy Dies

Brittany Murphy at the Teen Choice Awards, August 8th, 2004. (Photo by Glenn Harris, courtesy Photorazzi.com)

TMZ reports that Brittany Murphy died from cardiac arrest Sunday morning, December 20th. She was 32.

Murphy was discovered unconscious in the shower Sunday morning, and a 911 call was placed at 8:00 AM from a home registered to Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack. Murphy was then rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and was pronounced “dead upon arrival” two hours later.

Update: 2.11.2010 — In TMZ’s continued coverage, the L.A. County Coroner has concluded that Murphy’s cause of death was “accidental…caused by ‘community acquired pneumonia,’ iron deficiency anemia, and multiple drug intoxication.”

And in a follow-up story, TMZ reports that L.A.County Coroner officials say that Murphy’s condition was “treatable” and that the primary causes of death were “pneumonia and anemia”:

As for the multiple drugs found in her system, we’re told they were both prescription, including medicine for cramps, and over-the-counter medications, including cough syrup. Our sources say the drugs “pushed her over the line” but the underlying problems were the pneumonia and anemia.

A fundraiser was planned for February 3rd as a “launch party” for the Brittany Murphy Foundation which the official site says is “dedicated to arts education for children.” TMZ says, “Monjack insists the party was simply postponed — but so far, no new date has been set.”

I am truly sorry for her loss, and my sympathies go out to her family and friends. I will continue to provide updates on this story as needed.

It was believed that Murphy died of natural causes. Celebuzz.com states that Murphy “had reportedly been suffering from flu-like symptoms in the days prior to her death, and had been vomiting early Sunday morning.”

Murphy’s mother, Sharon (who found her in the shower Sunday morning) told paramedics that Murphy had a history of hypoglycemia and had been hospitalized in April 2009 for low blood sugar.

TMZ reported Dec. 21st that both Monjack and Murphy’s mother Sharon appeared on “The Today Show” to silence rumors that Murphy abused drugs and that she had an eating disorder.

In a Dec. 22nd interview with People.com Murphy’s husband Monjack again denied rumors of a drug overdose and anorexia:

He added that his wife of three years did suffer from a heart murmur (mitral valve prolapse), which can cause fatigue, dizziness and irregular heartbeats – but is generally not life threatening. Murphy didn’t require medication to treat it, says Monjack. But on Saturday, he says, his wife was ill, resting in bed all day suffering from laryngitis, which the actress treated with herbal tea, ginger and lemon.

“She was on herbal remedies that wouldn’t speed up her heart,” Monjack says. “There was nothing here that could endanger her; there was prescription medication in the house for her female time and some cough syrup. That was it.”

There had been earlier claims that Murphy’s health was suspect in the months prior to her death, and that her own alleged erratic behavior and relationship with her husband (who is said to have behavioral problems) had caused difficulties with her work on at least three films. In November 2009, it was rumored that she was fired from the film The Caller, amidst accusations that she and her husband had caused problems on set and even allegations that they were intentionally attempting to “sabotage” the film. A representative for Murphy stated at the time that she was merely “released” from working on the film and had, in fact, “never been fired from a film” but that she left due to “creative differences.”

Update: 1.27.2010TMZ reports:

The producers of “The Caller” tell TMZ “The decision for Brittany to leave the film was mutual and amicable, and was in fact related to a serious illness in Brittany’s family. Any rumors to the contrary are false, and in the circumstances, particularly hurtful.”

Monsters and Critics has a related report that Murphy was described as “upbeat” in one of her last public appearances December 3rd at a red carpet event in Los Angeles. She was quoted as saying, “I’ve been very blessed to have a really great loving husband… I spend more time with my family than anyone else in the world. As far as having a New Year’s resolution, I’d love to have a child next year.”

FoxNews.com reporter Holly McKay was at the same event and conducted what is reported to be the last known interview with Murphy. “I feel very blessed for everything I have in my life and my family,” Murphy said at the time.

On Monday, Dec. 20th, McKay was interviewed by Australia’s Daily Telegraph, and said that Murphy was “more than excited” about her New Year’s plans to fly to Australia with fellow Happy Feet voice cast member Elijah Wood where they would be reprising their roles recording dialog for Happy Feet 2.

McKay said Murphy “was like a lost little girl” — as though she “seemed to need a friend” and that “she sat very close, spoke softly and kept reaching for my hand”:

She was “noticeably distracted” and would stop talking mid-sentence. “One moment we were talking about fashion and Clueless then she opened up about the makeup artist that bleached her eyebrows and burnt them off years ago,” McKay said.

Murphy had denied her erratic behaviour was from cocaine abuse. “My worst vice is caffeine,” she said. “I can’t even take a Sudafed. Can you imagine? My God. I think my heart would explode.”

Writer-director René Eram, who had cast Murphy to co-star in his film Shrinking Charlotte (originally scheduled to begin production in January 2010) says in an interview with E! Online that he was “really looking forward” to working with Murphy, and describes her as “professional” and a “perfect fit” for the role, but “very skinny.”

“When I met Brittany, she was very impressive and very professional, but I noticed that she had dropped a lot of weight in the last six months,” Eram said. “I didn’t know or hear anything about eating disorders or anything like that, but I did notice she had lost some weight. She really had a deeper look into the characters she was playing. She was a very perceptive actress who brought a lot to the table as far as creative ideas and different layers of emotions.”

“It was all very positive and that’s what is so sad for me, to not have her involved in this movie,” he says. “This is a great loss of someone I felt was tremendously talented, had a lot to offer and had a long ways ahead of her career-wise.”

Murphy was born in Atlanta, GA in 1977, but after her parents divorced two years later she was raised by her mother in Edison, New Jersey. In her early teens, they moved to Los Angeles so she could pursue acting. In a 2003 interview with the Associated Press, Murphy said, ”When I asked my mom to move to California, she sold everything and moved out here for me. I was really grateful to have grown up in an environment that was conducive to creating and didn’t stifle any of that. She always believed in me.”

Murphy found early success landing supporting and principal roles on a number of TV series such as Murphy Brown (1991), Drexell’s Class (1991-92), Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (1992), Almost Home (1993), Blossom (1993), Party of Five (1994), and Sister, Sister (1994-95).

Her starring role as Tai in Clueless (1995) was a tremendous boost for her career, and she went on to star in more than two dozen feature films, including memorable performances in 8 Mile (2002), Don’t Say A Word (2001), and Girl, Interrupted (1999).

But animation fans and voice actor enthusiasts will remember her always from King of the Hill as the voice of Hank Hill’s niece, the naive but sweet and loveable Luanne Platter, for which she was thrice-nominated (1997, 2000 and 2004) for an Annie Award for “Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production”, and won the award in 2004.

Murphy also had other notable roles in animation: “Tank the 8th grader,” a recurring character in Disney’s Pepper Ann (1999-2000); the singing penguin “Gloria” in the popular computer-animated feature Happy Feet (2006); and Colleen O’Hallahan, Fry’s shared girlfriend and a pivotal character in Futurama: The Beast With A Billion Backs (2008).

Following Murphy’s death, there has been an outpouring of sympathy from fans on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and many of her co-stars, friends and family are expressing their grief publicly as well:

Kathy Najimy (via People.com), Murphy’s co-star on King of the Hill :

Brittany Murphy was like no other. A bright light. Never a mean or judgmental word, wildly fun, silly, loyal friend. Sweet, funny, smart, unbelievably talented actress and singer. Brilliant, moving body of work. I was lucky enough to know, love and work with her for 15 years. Love to her family and the many many people who adored her and were touched by her. We hope that in honor of her life and in the reflection of her glorious light, the pressures that girls and women face, will fade. Her spirit still soars.

– Ashton Kutcher (via Twitter.com), co-star in Just Married (2003): “[Today] the world lost a little piece of sunshine.”

– Alicia Silverstone (via E! Online), co-star in Clueless:

I loved working with Brittany. She was so talented, so warm and so sweet. I always felt connected to her as we shared a very special experience in our lives together. I feel love in my heart for her and hope she is at peace.

Popeater.com has collected other statements via Twitter.com from other of Murphy’s former co-stars, friends and acquaintances such as Alyssa Milano, Peter Facinelli, and Eliza Dushku.

Murphy’s family has released the following statement to The Associated Press: “The sudden loss of our beloved Brittany is a terrible tragedy. She was our daughter, our wife, our love and a shining star.”

Murphy’s father, Angelo Bertolotti, also tells AP, “She was just an absolute doll since she was born. Her personality was always outward. Everybody loved her. She was just talented… And, I loved her very much.”

TMZ reported Dec. 21st that Murphy had willed her estate to her mother, Sharon, and reportedly never revised the will to include her husband.

RadarOnline reported Dec. 23rd that Murphy’s funeral was scheduled for Christmas Eve, Dec. 24th.

Murphy will appear in five more films which were recently released, currently in post-production or will be released soon:

Deadline [<– official MySpace movie site], a horror flick directed by Sean McConville and starring Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch and Marc Blucas. Released on DVD December 1st, 2009.


On a related note, TMZ reported Dec. 23rd that DVD kiosk vendor Redbox is working to remove promotional posters for Deadline which show a tragically ironic image of Murphy’s character in a bathtub. The distributor for the movie also plans to reissue the DVD with an alternate cover.

Across the Hall, an indie thriller directed by Alex Merkin and co-starring Brittany Murphy as June. Released on DVD Jan. 19th, 2010. Trailer:

Abandoned, an indie psychological thriller directed by producer/director Michael Fiefer with Murphy in a leading role and co-starring Dean Cain, Mimi Rogers and Peter Bogdanovich. As of this writing, the movie will be released sometime in 2010 but a specific date has not been announced.

Added: 12.23.2009Abandoned director Fiefer talks with People.com about working with Murphy on his film (article includes publicity photo):

Brittany was a pro. When she needed to turn it on, she just threw a switch and she was on. She didn’t have to be all method. There was a moment where she needed to cry, and we were kidding around where she actually said she could cry out of one eye and you just had to pick which eye you wanted. She was that good at her craft. So playing frantic came really easy and playing sweet came really easy. It hurts me to hear all this salacious stuff because my experience with Brittany was really one of my best experiences with an actress.

The New York Daily News has a related article with additional publicity photos from the film.

Abandoned movie trailer and preview clip:

Something Wicked, an indie film directed by producer/director Darin Scott with Murphy in a lead role. No release date has been announced.

The Expendables, written/directed/starring Sylvester Stallone with a cast of action stars galore: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Danny Trejo, Arnold Schwartzenegger and reportedly even Bruce Willis. It was reported in May 2009 on the film’s official blog that Murphy’s character was written out of the film; however, a follow-up post in July states that her role was “diminished” and became a “bit part” that ended up being barely more than a cameo. The release date is currently slated for April 23, 2010 has been pushed back to August 10th, 2010 after it was reported Jan. 5th, 2010 that Stallone was severely injured while filming a fight scene.


One Response to ‘King of the Hill’ Star Brittany Murphy Dies

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