Murphy was on her way to stardom, but before reaching the A-list, the actress was found on the bathroom floor of her Hollywood Hills mansion on December 20th, 2009. The initial autopsy report concluded that her cause of death was pneumonia, iron-deficiency anemia, and multiple drug intoxication. However, no illegal substances were found in her blood.
Strangely, just five months later, her husband died in the same home under eerily similar circumstances. Although it was initially ruled a terrible, natural twist of fate, the shock of her demise led to questions and suspicions about foul play. Did the actress truly die of pneumonia? Or is it possible she was murdered?
A Rising Starlet
Ever since she appeared in the hit movie Clueless, it was clear that Brittany Murphy was destined for stardom. She made her mark in Hollywood with films like Sin City, Uptown Girl, and 8 Mile, where she played Eminem’s love interest. Naturally, it looked like she was becoming a victim to the dangers of fame, only to make a complete 180; she settled down and found her happily ever after.
Everyone was so happy to watch her turn her life around, which is what made her 2009 passing even more devastating. Police explained the tragedy away, but many people still believe there was something more mysterious that killed her.
Her Dad Was Connected to the Mafia
In 1977, Brittany Murphy was welcomed into the world by Sharon Murphy and Angelo Bertolotti. The family’s peaceful life began crumbling down when Brittany was still a toddler. Her father dragged them from Atlanta, Georgia to Edison, New Jersey so that he could be closer to his other children from a previous marriage. This move brought the family into his shady past.
Once they got to New Jersey, their small family was torn apart. Bertolotti was a WWII veteran and used to be part of the Italian Mafia; now, he was in close proximity to his mob connections. Sharon had to make a difficult choice about whether to take her daughter out of the dangerous situation.
When her daughter was just two years old, Sharon Murphy filed for divorce, but it seemed like the reason for their split was more than just his mob connections. Around the same time, Angelo Bertolotti knocked up another woman.
After the divorce, Bertolotti took a step back from Sharon and their daughter; young Brittany had very little contact with her father growing up. However, their relationship seemed to get better in adulthood because he played an important role later on in her story.
She Wanted to Be a Star
Ever since she was a little girl, Brittany Murphy knew she wanted to be a star and she was very determined to make her dream come true. In fact, when she was just five years old, she made an interesting prediction. She and her mom were at a restaurant when they noticed Hollywood legends, Burt Reynolds and George Segal.
Little Murphy marched right over to tell them that she would one day be a star too. That’s pretty bold for a five-year-old, but not very surprising. It takes a strong, brave person to make it in such an intense industry. Still, her prediction came true.
An Easy Choice
Everyone has big dreams at age five, but unfortunately, most of us grow out of them. People start to make realistic goals instead of chasing a Hollywood fantasy. But that wasn’t the case for Murphy. She remained determined to become a star.
Murphy’s single mother struggled to support her daughter, so when she got to high school, her mom gave her a choice. She could either enroll at the local high school with the kids she grew up with or pursue her dream. It didn’t take long for the aspiring actress to make a decision.
The Big Move
Sharon Murphy had a pretty messy divorce and was struggling in many aspects of her personal life. So, when her daughter made a crazy request, she took a chance and said yes. Brittany asked her mom if they could move to Hollywood!
She waited until her daughter got to high school and that’s when she gave her the choice. She wanted to make sure Brittany was absolutely sure before making such a big move. But Sharon believed in Brittany, so when she was 13, they moved to Los Angeles.
Her Breakout Role
Right when she arrived in Los Angeles, Brittany took on her mother’s maiden name as her stage name, in order to distance herself from her father’s sketchy dealings. Almost immediately, she started gaining small roles in new shows, as well as established sitcoms.
But nothing comes easily in Hollywood. It took four long, exhausting years for producers to cast her in a part that ultimately became her breakout role. Getting the part in Clueless felt like a victory for the aspiring star, but filming was a total nightmare.
A Family Tragedy
Murphy landed the role of Tai in Clueless when she was just 17 years old. Since she was still a minor, her mother had to be on set with her. Considering how supportive Sharon was, it wasn’t a problem. However, a dark twist of fate overshadowed Brittany’s big break. In 1995, Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Obviously, the cancer diagnosis was heartbreaking, but Brittany was by her mother’s side through all of it. She spent a lot of time in the hospital supporting her mother during treatment, the same way her mom supported her. The difficult situation took a toll on the young actress. Between the movie set and the hospital, Brittany had no time to just relax.
She Lost a Friend
According to her director, Murphy handled the situation like a pro. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only time uncontrollable factors nearly disrupted her career. Around the time Clueless was released and Murphy’s stardom began to rise, she was completing another rite of passage: graduating from high school.
Brittany brought heartthrob Jonathan Brandis to her prom, but the pair had more in common than just being featured in SeaQuest DSV together in the ‘90s. Both rose to fame at a young age and both tragically died young. In 2003, Brandis took his own life at the infamous age of 27.
Working Her Way Up
When you think of Murphy’s most memorable roles, Luanne Platter on King of the Hill may not come to mind, but it was one of her most enduring roles. She voiced the character for more than 250 episodes. When Murphy was still a teenager in 1997, the long-running show debuted. It lasted more than a decade and ended right before Murphy passed.
In 1999’s Girl, Interrupted, Murphy got to appear opposite Hollywood heavyweights, Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. She held her own, beautifully portrayed her character, and was praised by critics. Murphy went into the next century ready to conquer Hollywood, but like so many before her, the industry did its best to chew her up and spit her out.
Her Starring Role Was Too Racy
Brittany Murphy started off the year 2000 full of hope. But disappointing obstacles stood in the way. Some movies were incredible successes, but others were misses. One was so risqué that it never even made it to the theaters. She then starred in Cherry Falls, a slasher film where the villain attacks virgin teenagers.
In the final scene, all the students participate in an orgy. Needless to say, the content shocked the studio to the point that it revoked its plans to have a theatrical release. But that wasn’t the only behind-the-scenes issue the young actress had to deal with.
Bad News, Take 2
In 2003, the Murphy family received heartbreaking news: Doctors said that Sharon’s breast cancer was back and worse. Her survival relied on a very serious surgery. Murphy immediately put her career on hold in order to tend to her sick mother.
As always, Brittany was right by her mom’s side. The actress often referred to her mother as her best friend and soulmate. It was an overwhelming and scary situation all around. Luckily, Sharon recovered and was able to beat this devastating disease.
She Had a Critic as a Fan
During this time, Murphy’s career had its fair share of ups and downs. Her movies were always either a hit or miss. But through it all, there was one major critic who saw something in the actress and always stood behind her – Roger Ebert.
Murphy captivated Ebert. He would frequently go out of his way to praise her performance in otherwise average movies. For example, in 2001’s Don’t Say a Word he felt like Murphy was a comedic genius and even compared her to Lucille Ball. That is quite the compliment.
She Hooked Up With Her Co-Star
Murphy really needed a win, and she got it when she was cast in the Eminem-starring drama, 8 Mile. The film was loosely based on the rapper’s life who was incredibly popular at the time. She played his love interest on camera, but, apparently, things got steamy behind the scenes.
After the movie came out, Murphy admitted that while they were shooting the movie, she and her co-star became romantically involved. Eminem was insanely famous at the time, but there was a sad dark side to Murphy’s confession.
As it turns out, there was a lot going on behind-the-scenes of the movie. Actress, Kim Basinger was also linked to the rapper – she played his mother, so take that how you will. Either way, no one is entirely sure if Brittany was heartbroken about the situation.
Whether she was or wasn’t, it was definitely the beginning of a very rocky dating history for the actress. Ultimately, the film was a massive success and Murphy got praised and positive attention for her performance as Alex. If you have watched the movie, you’ll know why.
They Thought She Had a Problem
Murphy’s blossoming fame came with its fair share of consequences. Tabloid scrutiny intensified but that was just the beginning. People began commenting on how she looked, claiming that the reason for her slim figure was due to drug abuse or an eating disorder.
Obviously, there was no proof to back up these allegations, but that didn’t stop people from believing these rumors, nor did it stop the media from spreading them. Murphy denied the gossip and explained that her metabolism changed. Alas, the gossip about her appearance never ended.
Life Imitated Art
As it turns out, Eminem wasn’t the only co-star Murphy hooked up with. In her next film, Just Married, Murphy starred alongside heartthrob Ashton Kutcher. Once again, her on-screen romance with Kutcher because a real-life relationship.
The pair dated for a little while, but not only that. They apparently tried to replicate a particular scene from the film where their character joined the “mile high club” (if you know what I mean). They didn’t succeed in the movie, but it’s unclear if they accomplished it in real life…
People Worried About Her
Although she didn’t say anything at the time, her Clueless director Amy Heckerling was worried about Murphy during that period. “She seemed to go through a change on Clueless. Maybe she felt like she was not the, like, skinny, pretty girl, you know?” the director later said.
“And then the next few movies she was, you know, thinner, blonde… and going out with Eminem and Ashton Kutcher, and, you know, suddenly got more into that whole glamorous scene.” Heckerling went on, “I think she felt the pressure to become a different sort of commodity to survive in show business, and I think it was awful.”
Moving On, Fast
After seven months together, Kutcher and Murphy called it quits. Reportedly, Kutcher missed his bachelor lifestyle. It was also speculated that her mom was too involved in their relationship and it was too much for Kutcher. After their split, Murphy jumped from one disastrous romance to another.
The first was a little too close to home when she started dating her manager, Jeff Kwatinetz in 2003. In January 2004, he popped the question and Murphy said yes. Sadly, the pair broke up just four months after announcing their engagement. It didn’t take Murphy long to find a rebound, though.
Is She Crazy? Or Brilliant?
In 2003, Murphy presented a trophy at the Independent Spirits Award which raised a couple of red flags and sparked controversy due to her bizarre behavior. She acted strangely while reading off the names of the nominees, and producers had to interrupt her multiple times. Luckily, her number one fan came to her defense.
Famed film critic Roger Ebert argued that Murphy was trying to be funny and that she was in complete control of her performance the whole time. He called it a case of “screwball improvisational comedy” and said: “There were those in the audience who were dumbfounded by her stupidity. I was dumbfounded by her brilliance.”
Following her relationships with Ashton Kutcher and Jeff Kwatinetz, Murphy wanted to tone it down. When she met Joe Macaluso, a production assistant of the set of her movie Little Black Book, she decided to take it slow. And when I say slow, I mean extremely slow.
Murphy and Macaluso went on a total of 17 dates together before finally sharing their first kiss. That’s pretty impressive. But after that, things sped up dramatically. In December 2005, Macaluso proposed to the actress and she couldn’t wait to be his wife.
Third Time Is Not the Charm
It looked like Murphy found true love with Macaluso, but there was trouble in paradise. Their relationship had a heartbreaking end. Just eight months after the actress accepted his proposal, the couple suddenly broke up.
Murphy was spotted out in public without her ring and when journalists asked her about it, she was very vague. After rumors and speculations, they announced that they ended things. Sadly, it looks like the third time wasn’t the charm for the hopeless romantic. But she did find love before her untimely death.
Meeting “The One”
Murphy’s luck in the romance department seemed to change when she fell head over heels for British writer and director Simon Monjack. In 2006, the starlet read his script for an upcoming movie and contacted him to tell him how impressed she was.
At the time, Monjack had just finalized his divorce and took interest in the actress. They went out on one date and within one week, they were spending every night together. She was finally happy. But the tabloids weren’t kind. As soon as people found out they were dating, rumors began to swirl.
Too Good to Be True?
Monjack seemed different from Murphy’s past boyfriends. He was serious, well-educated, and rich. Well, at least that was the way he presented himself. But a look into Manjack’s past revealed a dark side. Wherever he seemed to go, he left behind unpaid bills, bad checks, scorned ex-girlfriends, and furious collaborators.
Before meeting the actress, Monjack had a warrant out for credit card fraud. Plus, he lost a lawsuit after he was evicted from four different houses and had to pay the bank almost half a million dollars! On top of all that, he had to pay his ex-wife months of rent.
Truly Loved Each Other
After they were together, Monjack ran into a conflict, and his new girlfriend came to his rescue. She defended her man to those in the industry that he had allegedly screwed over. One time she even paid off someone $10,000 so that they wouldn’t sue him. She stuck by his side no matter what people said about him.
After Murphy’s passing, Monjack made some disturbing comments about his relationship with the starlet. He confessed that he and Murphy actually met way before they started dating… when she was 17. Eight years her senior, Monjack said that Murphy was “too young to touch” back then, but “to make a long story short, I was very patient.” Yikes!
Say what you will about their relationship, but Murphy and Monjack’s untimely death was not what either of them deserved.
The Beginning of the End
Brittany Murphy’s career seemed to be deflated by the end of 2009. She was dropped from several movie roles and a lucrative voice acting part as Luanne on TV’s King of the Hill, after tabloid allegations of her abusing drugs spread through the industry.
The actress was depicted as unfocused, and barely able to say her lines because of her drug habit. Meanwhile, Monjack, claimed that her former managers and agents started the rumors in order to sabotage her career. It seemed to work. Murphy’s career wasn’t flourishing during that time.
Her Stardom Was Fading
With her career in jeopardy, Murphy and her husband considered moving to New York City to have a fresh start. The couple also wanted to start a family. However, Murphy was financially supporting and caring for her mother who had had breast cancer multiple times, as well as her husband who had heart problems of his own.
So, the actress decided to continue working in Hollywood and starred in low-budget films just to pay the bills. Unfortunately, Murphy’s stardom continued to fade. Although she wasn’t in the spotlight as much, no one would have guessed the tragic way her life would suddenly end.
Trip to Puerto Rico
In November 2009, Brittany, her husband, and her mother flew to Puerto Rico to shoot her next movie, Caller, a low-budget horror movie. However, it didn’t take long for problems to creep up here. After he allegedly showed up drunk, the movie’s producers tried to ban Monjack from the set.
As a result, Murphy quit the movie on the first day of filming. Her husband later told The Hollywood Reporter that Brittany was led to believe the movie was a thriller, and she was disappointed when it turned out to be a horror flick.
Just a Case of Pneumonia
Since they decided to turn the work trip into a family vacation, Murphy and her family stayed on the island for another eight days. On their way home, her mom and husband got sick with Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria that causes staph infections. Reportedly, Monjack was so sick that they did an emergency landing mid-fight to get him to a hospital.
When they got back, the couple was still sick and treated for pneumonia. Then, in the early hours of December 20th, 2009, Murphy collapsed on the balcony of her Hollywood Hills home. “She was lying on the patio trying to catch her breath,” her mother explained. “I said ‘Baby, get up.’ She said: ‘Mommy, I can’t catch my breath. Help me. Help me.’”
Famous Last Words
The coroner’s report cited pneumonia, anemia, and “multiple drug intoxication” as her cause of death. At this point, Murphy had been sick for six weeks and her mother claimed that since she was known for her dramatic flair, her cries and complaints were often not taken seriously.
Monjack recalled his wife telling her mom, “I’m dying. I’m going to die. Mommy, I love you.” What makes this even more heartbreaking is that hours later, Murphy collapsed for the last and final time in the bathroom. Murphy was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where the 32-year-old actress died.
Her Sanctuary Turned Death Bed
Monjack expressed that the bathroom was a special space for Murphy; she used to enjoy spending hours in front of the mirror trying on all different types of makeup. She loved hanging out in that bathroom reading magazines or listening to music. Now, that sacred room became the place of her shocking death.
The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled Brittany Murphy’s death “accidental.” They ultimately believed that she had a fatal combination of pneumonia (which was likely caught from a staph infection that her family members contracted on their trip), an iron deficiency, and multiple drug intoxication. All three factors at once reportedly contributed to her death.
Simon Monjack Dies Months Later
However, Monjack had other opinions on his wife’s death. He said the actress died of “heartbreak” due to the way Hollywood mistreated her. Many times, emotional pain can lead to physical illness and, according to Monjack, death. Strangely, evidence shows he may not have been wrong.
But Monjack’s similar death five months later raised many flags. Reportedly, his death was also caused by pneumonia and anemia. Some theorized that toxic mold might have made its way into their home; others suspected that there was violence or foul play involved.
Brittany Murphy’s Death Is Still Sowing Controversy
An independent inquiry into Brittany Murphy’s death was launched in 2013, by her father, Angelo Bertolotti. The second toxicology report was analyzed by a forensic pathologist and it found that there were traces of different heavy metals in her blood, which made her dad believe that his daughter was poisoned.
“I have a feeling that there was definitely a murder situation here,” Bertolotti revealed to Good Morning America. The heartbroken father also implied that “different family members” were involved in Brittany’s death.
Accident? Or Murder?
Apparently, he initially believed that her husband Monjack was responsible for killing her since he thought he was controlling and purposefully trying to destroy her career. But Sharon Murphy had her own feelings on the situation. Sharon disputed her ex-husband’s claims in an open letter.
She revealed that the metals found in the new report were specifically antimony and barium, which have both been dismissed as a likely result of Brittany’s frequent hair dying. Plus, the fact that Monjack died under the same circumstances made him a less likely suspect.
The Conspiracy Theory
There was also a peculiar conspiracy theory circulating that the government was after Brittany Murphy, targeting her because of her friendship with a Hollywood filmmaker and whistleblower. The rumor made sense because of the allegation that Monjack was acting paranoid in the months leading up to her death.
According to a passage in The Hollywood Reporter from a book written by a long-time family friend, Monjack believed that he and his wife were being watched. The couple even apparently installed 56 cameras across their property. Furthermore, it was reported that Monjack installed a device that prevented their phone conversations from being wiretapped. The only confirmed connection between the alleged whistleblower and Brittany Murphy was a letter that he sent her publicist asking for public support in the case. The publicist politely declined.
Could It Have Been Mold?
There were also allegations that the actress died from toxic mold growing inside her home and that her death was covered up because of a non-disclosure agreement with the property developers, although some professionals, and even Murphy’s mom, originally claimed that the toxic mold theory was “absurd.”
But Sharon Murphy changed her mind in December 2011 and claimed that toxic mold was what killed her daughter and son-in-law. She also filed a lawsuit against the attorneys who represented her in a previous dispute with property developers.
A Grieving Mother
Meanwhile, fans have thrown suspicions toward Sharon Murphy. Especially, after rumors spread that she began sharing a bed with her daughter’s husband after Brittany died. In fact, Mojack was reportedly found in the bed he shared with Sharon Murphy on the day he died.
But Sharon’s famously close relationship with her daughter indicates that she wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. She was also never deemed a suspect by investigators. However, the public and the press have no problem jumping to conclusions. Sharon also stopped discussing her daughter’s death publicly. Can’t the tabloids let her mourn in peace?!
Not a Drug Addict
When those allegations came to light, Murphy’s husband and mother made a statement. They explained that Brittany relied on prescription pills throughout her adult life in order to cope with the chronic pain she had from a car accident, but they also insisted that she wasn’t a drug addict – no matter what the tabloids said.
It was also reported that the actress suffered from heart murmurs. Furthermore, her husband and mother said that would have made it impossible for her to consume any illegal drugs or substances without putting herself in danger.
All Legal Drugs
On the day she died, Murphy supposedly took a cocktail of drugs including the antibiotic Biaxin, cough medicine, migraine pills, the anti-depressant Prozac, a beta-blocker she apparently got from her husband, and a few over-the-counter meds for nasal discomfort and period cramps.
So, because all of these substances are legal, her tragic death was ultimately ruled an accident. However, the coroner did recognize that the mixture of drugs combined with her declining mental state likely had “adverse effects” on the actress.
Ultimately Ruled an Accident
Although her death was sudden, it appeared to be a result of her deteriorating physical and psychological health. Maybe her husband wasn’t all wrong about her feeling heartbroken. We know that mental instability can lead to physical illnesses.
Yet, Brittany’s death is still considered one of the most shocking in Hollywood’s recent history. The tragedy continues to inspire the industry. There is a documentary about the mystery surrounding her mysterious death that came out in 2020 on the Discovery Channel, which is entitled The Missing Pieces: Brittany Murphy.