Hollywood is full of sad stories about bright lights turned out way too soon for reasons that challenge our notions of fortune and fair play, and Brittany Murphy’s life appears to be unfolding as one of those beguiling tragedies.
The doe-eyed actress died Sunday morning of cardiac arrest, a pronouncement that struck family, friends and fans as a senselessly and sadly premature end, at age 32, to a gentle spirit.
Almost immediately, though, news of Murphy’s death was greeted by rumors of drug use, eating disorders, and a troubled personal life, none of which were quashed as details about her final days emerged. The New York Post spoke to a makeup artist who said Murphy “dabbled too much in heroin and cocaine and referred to the star’s reputed eating disorder.”
“She had too many drugs and too little food,” the makeup artist told the Post.
Amy Heckerling, who directed Murphy in the 1995 film ‘Clueless,’ told the Post she had dropped out of touch with the actress but heard rumors of drug use and unhealthy living. “Obviously, I can’t say that I know this for sure,” she said. “But when you hear of a 32-year-old girl dying of natural causes, then you know, health-wise, she just wasn’t in the same place.”
According to Murphy’s husband, screenwriter Simon Monjack, who spoke to Access Hollywood, the actress’ last day began like “a regular day,” until he grew concerned at the long time Murphy was taking in the bathroom. Her mother barged in, he said, adding, “Her mom screamed for me and I ran. Then called 911.”
Notes from investigators have since come out saying that Monjack “attempted to revive the decedent by placing her in the shower and running the water.” The Los Angeles Fire department received a call from the home at 8 a.m. Within minutes, paramedics were there and administering life support to Murphy. Neighbors reported seeing the actress brought out of her sprawling hillside home on a gurney as firemen worked feverishly to keep her alive. She was rushed to Cedars Sinai Hospital, where, after emergency-room personnel attempted, by one account, to revive her three times, she was pronounced dead at 10:04 a.m.
Murphy was said to have died of “natural causes,” yet on Monday, an autopsy was performed by the L.A. County Coroner’s office in an attempt to find out why such a young woman would suffer a fatal heart attack.
“The family reported to us some flu-like symptoms leading up to her death,” a Coroner’s office spokesman told the New York Daily News. “They said she was feeling ill for several days.”
TMZ reported that investigators found and confiscated multiple prescription medications on Murphy’s bedroom nightstand, including Prozac, Hyrdocodon, and Vicobrofen. The stash raised more questions since the prescriptions were reportedly in names of her husband, mother and unidentified third parties, but none were illegal, and the coroner’s spokesman said it could take more than a month before toxicology reports come back.
Monjack dismissed speculation that Murphy was fighting any kind of serious illness. “She had laryngitis,” he told Access. “She had been tired at the end of the year. She had made a couple of movies.”
In hindsight, though, Murphy’s behavior over the past few weeks is the reason there are questions about her death. At the end of November, she was fired from ‘The Caller,’ a movie shooting in Puerto Rico. Her rep denied reports, saying, “She was not nor has she ever been fired from any job big or small.”
Hollywood 411 columnist Roger Friedman reported that Monjack had been on the set and caused the problems that led to her departure. “The producers wanted to keep him away,” Friedman quoted a filmmaker, who planned on hiring Murphy for another movie. “Brittany of course defended him. And so she was let go.”
On the flight back to Los Angeles, Monjack became sick and was briefly hospitalized at LAX. A week later, Murphy gave what turned out to be her last interview, telling Fox News at an event that she was “a bit thinner now than what I would like to be.” In a stylish, size 2 black dress and high heels, she blamed her weight loss on dance classes. “I still take ballet lessons,” she said. “What it does to your body is incredible.” Later, she told another outlet that her New Year’s resolution was to have a baby next year.
In 2007, Murphy wed the British-born Monjack, who wrote and produced the 2006 film ‘Factory Girl’ – ironically about fragile model Edie Sedgwick, who died of a drug overdose. She said marrying him was the “easiest thing” she had ever done. She referred to him as her soul mate and ignored a reported history of financial and legal problems.
Three months before marrying the actress, Monjack was reportedly arrested and briefly jailed for staying beyond his visa. According to the Post, Murphy later told friends that her husband had been kidnapped and she had to pay to get him back.
On Monday, Monjack, who had asked L.A. county officials to refrain from performing an autopsy on his wife, told Access Hollywood he was especially moved by Ashton Kutcher’s comments on Twitter: “2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany’s family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon.”
At the same time, others were shaking their heads and repeating what one studio insider told the Daily Beast, namely that Murphy’s death, “really doesn’t come, unfortunately, as a shock.”
Regardless of the sordid and disturbing details that come out, the actress’ death will remain terribly sad – and the questions remain the same ones that Friedman asked: “How does a 32-year-old woman die of a massive heart attack? What is going on here?”