Heartbreaking Facts About Brittany Murphy, Tragic Starlet

From the moment she first came on screen in Clueless, which became her breakout role, it was clear to many that Brittany Murphy would be a star. She cemented her place in Hollywood with appearances in more dramatic films like 8 Mile and Sin City. But then, it began to look like she might become a victim to the perils of fame—only for her to turn things around, settle down, and find her happily ever after. This turnaround made it all the more shocking when she suddenly passed in 2009. Police explained it all away—but then the tragedy and mystery deepened. Here are heartbreaking facts about Brittany Murphy that prove there is often more to the picture than meets the eye.


1. They Skipped Town

Brittany Murphy was born in 1977 to parents Sharon Murphy and Angelo Bertolotti. The family’s peaceful life began to fall apart when Brittany was just a toddler. Her father moved them from Atlanta, Georgia to Edison, New Jersey so that he could be closer to his children from a previous marriage. This move put them on a collision course with his shady past.

2. He Fell Back To His Old Ways

Soon after they arrived back in New Jersey, their small family was torn apart. Bertolotti, a WWII veteran, was now once again in close proximity with his mob connections—he was a made man in the local Italian Mafia. Sharon Murphy had a tough choice to make. Ultimately, she chose to take her daughter out of the dangerous situation.

3. It Was Just The Two Of Them

Sharon Murphy sought a divorce from Angelo Bertolotti when Brittany was just two years old—but there may have been another reason for the split. Around that time, Angelo Bertolotti got another woman pregnant. Bertolotti stepped back from the girls’ lives after the divorce, and young Brittany grew up with very little contact with her father—although he would play an important part later in her story.

4. She Knew What She Wanted

You can’t say Brittany Murphy wasn’t determined to be a star. In fact, she made a very interesting prediction about it when she was just five. While at a restaurant, Murphy and her mother spotted Hollywood legends Burt Reynolds and George Segal. Murphy marched right up to their table, introduced herself to them, and told them that one day, she’d be a star too. Pretty bold for a five-year-old!

5. She Had Two Choices

Murphy’s certainty about her future didn’t falter as she grew up, and even though Sharon was a struggling single mother, she went to extreme lengths to support her daughter. When it came time for Brittany Murphy to enroll at the local high school, she had a tough decision to make. She could continue her education with the kids she’d been going to school with for nearly a decade, or pursue her dream.

6. They Made A Huge Move

Sharon Murphy didn’t have it easy after her divorce, but when her daughter made an extraordinary request, she took a chance and said yes. In 1991, Brittany Murphy asked her mother if they could go to Hollywood so that she could pursue her career. Sharon really believed in her daughter, and so, they moved to Los Angeles. Brittany was just 13 years old. Soon enough, it would begin to pay off.

7. She Got Her Breakout Role

In order to distance herself from her father’s shadier dealing, Brittany took her mother’s maiden name as her stage name when she arrived in Los Angeles. Right away, she began to win small roles in new shows and established sitcoms, but it wasn’t always easy. It would be four very long years until producers cast her in the role that would become her breakthrough. Getting the part in Clueless was a triumph—but filming was an utter nightmare.

8. They Faced A Terrifying Tragedy

Murphy was just 17 years old when she got the part of Tai in Clueless, which meant that her mother had to be on set with her during filming. Considering how supportive was, that shouldn’t have been a problem—but then a dark twist of fate overshadowed Brittany’s big break. In 1995, doctors diagnosed Sharon Murphy with breast cancer.

9. She Was Working Overtime

The diagnosis was devastating, but Brittany was there for her mother throughout it all. She spent time in the hospital with Sharon and supported her through treatment, as her mother had always done for her—but still, the hardship took its toll on the young star. Between the hospital and the film set, Murphy had almost no downtime.

According to director Amy Heckerling, Murphy handled it all like a pro—but sadly, it wouldn’t be the only time that factors beyond her control nearly derailed her career.

10. She Lost A Friend

Around the same time that Clueless came out and Murphy’s star began to rise, she was undergoing another important rite of passage—graduating high school. When it came time to go to prom, Murphy brought heartthrob Jonathan Brandis as her date—but sadly, the two had a lot more in common than just appearing on seaQuest DSV together in the 90s.

Both became stars at a young age…and both died tragically young. Brandis took his own life in 2003, at the age of 27.

11. She Never Stopped Working

One of Murphy’s most enduring roles is one that many may not necessarily associate with her—that of Luanne Platter on TV’s King of the Hill. She provided the voice for the character for over 250 episodes. The long-running show debuted in 1997, when Murphy was still just a teenager. It finally ended its run more than a decade later, just before Murphy’s untimely passing.

12. She Got A Win

Brittany Murphy appeared opposite two Hollywood heavyweights, Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder, in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted—but she managed to hold her own, and her performance impressed critics. Murphy entered the next decade ready to conquer Hollywood, but like so many starlets before her, it would do its best to chew her up and spit her out.

13. Her Starring Role Was Too Racy

Brittany Murphy began the 2000s full of hope, but soon began to encounter disappointing setbacks. Some of her movies were hits, while others were misses—and one was so risqué that it never even made it to theaters. Murphy played the lead in Cherry Falls, a slasher film where the villain targets teenaged virgins.

The film culminates in a scene where the local students participate in group intimacy. The content of the scene shocked the studio so much that it reneged on plans to have a theatrical release for the movie And that wasn’t the only behind-the-scenes problem plaguing the young actress…

14. She Had To Fight For Her Life Again

In 2003, doctors delivered absolutely devastating news to the Murphy family. Sharon’s breast cancer was back with a vengeance, and she would need very serious surgery in order to survive.  Again, Murphy put her career completely on hold to care for her mother, who she often called her best friend and soulmate. Luckily, Sharon recovered from this heartbreaking setback.

15. She Had An Important Fan

Her career might have been hit or miss during this period, but there was one major critic who always stood behind Murphy. It was none other than Roger Ebert. Murphy absolutely enchanted Ebert, and he often went out of his way to praise her performances in otherwise middling movies, like 2001’s Don’t Say A Word. He was so convinced that she was a comedic genius that he even compared her to Lucille Ball.

16. She Hooked Up With Her Co-Star

Murphy really needed a win at this point. Luckily, she got one when producers cast her in 8 Mile, the Eminem-starring drama film loosely based on the rapper’s life. She played his love interest—both on- and off-camera. After the film came out, Murphy revealed that she’d become romantically involved with Eminem while making the movie, but there was a disturbing dark side to her confession.

Eminem at the 8 Mile premiere

17. There Was A Lot Happening Behind The Scenes

At the time, Eminem had also been romantically linked to Kim Basinger, who played his mother in the movie. Whether Murphy was heartbroken or not, we don’t know—but it certainly was the beginning to a very rocky romantic history. Either way, the film was a huge success, and Murphy garnered a lot of positive attention for her portrayal of Alex.

18. They Thought She Had A Problem

However, Murphy’s increasing fame came with heartbreaking consequences. Tabloid scrutiny intensified, and many began to comment on her appearance, attributing her svelte figure to anorexia or substance misuse. Murphy denied the gossip and claimed that her metabolism had changed over time, but still, rumors continued to haunt her throughout the ensuing years.

Brittany Murphy in 2003

19. She Dated Another Co-Star

8 Mile wasn’t the only time that Murphy hooked up with a co-star. In her next time, Just Married, Murphy starred opposite Ashton Kutcher—and once again, life imitated art…in more ways than one. Not only did the pair date, but they apparently also attempted to replicate a scene from the film where their characters join the “mile high club.” They failed in the movie, and it’s unclear if they managed to succeed in real life…

20. Her Appearance Made Others Worry

She didn’t say anything at the time, but during this period, director Amy Heckerling was concerned for Murphy, who she’d met on the set of Clueless. As Heckerling later said, “She seemed to go through a change on Clueless. Maybe she felt like she was not the, like, skinny, pretty girl, you know? 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 continued: “I think she felt the pressure to become a different sort of commodity to survive in show business, and I think it was awful.”

21. They Broke Up

After dating for seven months, Kutcher and Murphy broke up, with friends reporting that he wanted to return to his bachelor lifestyle. They also speculated that her mom had become too involved in the relationship, and that was part of Kutcher’s reason for leaving. It wouldn’t be the last time that this type of rumor popped up about Sharon…

22. She Had A Brief Engagement

After her split from Kutcher, Murphy jumped from disastrous relationship to disastrous relationship—and the first hit a little close to home. In 2003, the actress began to date her manager, Jeff Kwatinetz. He proposed in January 2004 and Murphy accepted, but it didn’t last long after that—they announced that they’d broken up just four months later.

Murphy didn’t wait long to rebound, either…

23. People Wondered About Her

When Brittany Murphy presented a trophy at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2003, a bizarre incident led to a minor controversy over the starlet’s behavior. Murphy behaved erratically while reading the names of the nominees, and had to be interrupted multiple times by producers—but Murphy’s #1 fan quickly came to her defense.

24. He Thought It Was Hilarious

After the awards show, famed film critic Roger Ebert argued that Murphy had been attempting to be funny, and that she had been in control of her performance the entire time. Ebert called it an example of “screwball improvisational comedy” and said that: “There were those in the audience who were dumbfounded by her stupidity. I was dumbfounded by her brilliance.”

Regardless, many others who witnessed it found it troubling.

25. She Rebounded Again

After back-to-back relationships with Ashton Kutcher and Jeff Kwatinetz, Brittany Murphy wanted to take it slow. So, when she met production assistant Joe Macaluso on the set of her film Little Black Book, she did just that—and took it to extreme lengths. The two actually went on 17 dates (!) before sharing their first kiss.

However, after that, it was off to the races, and Macaluso proposed to Murphy in December of 2005.

26. It Fell Apart

With Macaluso, it looked like Murphy had finally found real love—but sadly, their union was doomed to a heartbreaking end. Eight months after Murphy accepted his proposal, their relationship suddenly ended. Murphy began appearing in public without her ring and was evasive when journalists asked her about it. Finally, after much speculation, Murphy announced that they’d ended things.

Well, you know what they say…third time’s the charm—or is that three strikes and you’re out?

27. She Felt It All

Roger Ebert may have had her back, but other critics weren’t so nice. Stephen Holden of the New York Times once wrote that she “suggests a dumbed-down Meg Ryan with a gloss of Melanie Griffith.” The combination of criticism and tabloid scrutiny on her personal life ended up getting the best of Murphy, and her friends reported that she suffered from brutally low self-esteem.

28. She Spilled The Beans

Once, in an interview, Murphy revealed scandalous details about her—ahem—first time. She said: “I lost my virginity in a car. But it wasn’t a very nice one.” Was she talking about the experience or the car itself? Either way, she never revealed who the man in question was…

29. It Was The Right Time

Things seemed to change for Murphy when she fell for British writer and director Simon Monjack. In 2006, Murphy had read his script for an upcoming film and contacted him to pass on her compliments. Monjack, then freshly divorced from his first wife, took an interest in Murphy. They went on a date, and within a week, they were spending every night together.

But when people found out they were together, scandal began to swirl…

30. He Was Her Dream Come True

Monjack seemed to be the opposite of the men that Murphy had been involved with before. He was serious, well-educated, and wealthy…or at least, he presented himself that way. A quick look into Monjack’s past revealed a disturbing dark side. Wherever he went, he left behind a string of bad checks, scorned ex-girlfriends, unpaid bills, and outraged collaborators.

31. He Had A Checkered Past

Before he met Murphy, Monjack had once had a warrant out for credit card fraud, and he’d also lost a lawsuit after being evicted from four different homes. He had to pay a bank back nearly half a million dollars. On top of that, he owed his ex-wife months’ worth of rent. It wasn’t long before Murphy was drawn into his web of lies.

32. She Paid His Way

After they were together, when Monjack ran into a conflict, it would be Murphy who came to his rescue. She defended his name to those in the business that he’d screwed over, and once even paid off someone who was suing him—to the tune of $10,000. No matter what people told her about him, she stood by his side…and soon, she’d be in too deep to ever get out.

33. He’d Been Interested In Her For A Long Time

After Brittany Murphy’s tragic passing, her husband Simon Monjack made a series of disturbing comments about his relationship with the star. Monjack revealed that he’d actually met Murphy long before they ever became involved, when she was 17, and even claimed that he’d taken her very first photograph for a magazine.

Monjack, who was eight years older than his wife, said Murphy was “too young to touch” when they first met, but “to make a long story short, I was very patient.” Yikes.

34. They Nearly Sent Him Back To England

In their first few months together, Murphy and Monjack were inseparable. There was just one problem—he wasn’t supposed to be in the US. In February of 2007, authorities detained him after they found out he was in the US on an expired visa. Well, there’s one way to justify staying in the US that doesn’t involve getting a job…

35. They Didn’t Tell Anyone

Murphy had been through two very public engagements that had precipitated two very public breakups—and she’d learned her lesson. This time, Murphy and Monjack made one announcement, telling the world that they’d secretly married in May of 2007. It should’ve been a joyous time, but as Murphy’s friends later reflected, it had been the start of a strange new chapter.

36. He Made Bizarre Claims

Murphy and Monjack celebrated Father’s Day that year with her family friend and occasional father figure, Alex Ben Block. He noted that Monjack in particular was strangely paranoid. Monjack insisted that some mysterious force had them under surveillance and that someone had bugged their phone. As time wore on, this paranoia only increased, serving to separate Murphy and Monjack from friends & family—everyone except Sharon, who lived with the couple.

37. She Had One Final Hit

Perhaps due to Monjack’s erratic behavior and bad reputation, Murphy’s career floundered—but there was one bright side. Murphy was thrilled to provide the voice for Gloria in Happy Feet. She even said that the joyful penguin was the one that she’d most related to of the many characters she’d portrayed over the years. Happy Feet ended up being the highest-grossing film of Murphy’s career.

38. The Stories Don’t Line Up

As the studio began preparations for the Happy Feet sequel, Murphy was overjoyed—but in an instant, her elation turned to utter sorrow. Her husband claimed that Warner Bros. had dropped Murphy from the movie, citing rumors about substance use. According to him, the starlet was absolutely heartbroken by the decision.

However, other sources reported that the studio hadn’t actually fired her, and only recast the role after she’d passed on. Was this another in Monjack’s web of lies?

39. She Couldn’t Have Used

According to Murphy and her family, there was an ironic twist in the tabloid’s allegations of substance misuse. Murphy claimed that she had a heart murmur, and avoided illicit substances at all costs as a result. She said that her only vice was an occasional glass of champagne.

40. She Didn’t Feel At Home

In 2003, Murphy had purchased a fully furnished home in the Hollywood Hills from Britney Spears—one the singer had once shared with ex Justin Timberlake. As the years wore on, Murphy grew to dislike the house. Every time they’d be on their way home from a job or a Hollywood function, Murphy would ask to stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel instead, but Monjack would refuse.

Well, as it eventually turned out, she had good reason to feel averse to the place.

41. She Wanted To Escape

In 2009, as the turn of the decade approached, Murphy formulated a plan to save her ailing career. She wanted to leave behind the house that she was so hostile about and move to New York City. There, Monjack would find more work as a screenwriter, and she could begin to appear in indie films that would help her build some artistic cred. Sadly, the plan would never come to pass.

42. It Was Another Crushing Blow

In late 2009, Murphy flew to Puerto Rico—with Monjack and her mother by her side, as always—to work on a film named The Caller. Once there, things quickly took a dark turn. On day one of filming, producers wanted to ban Monjack from the set. Everyone involved has contested what happened next. One thing is for sure: Murphy never made it past that first day. She either quit or producers fired her—while an official announcement called it a mutual decision.

Murphy and her entourage of two decided to stay in Puerto Rico for another week and enjoy the sun and sand—they didn’t know that it would be a fatal mistake.

Brittany Murphy FactsSomething Wicked, Merchant Films

43. It All Broke Down In Public

While in Puerto Rice, both Sharon Murphy and Monjack came down with colds. Then, on the flight back home, Monjack suffered a medical emergency that necessitated CPR, which Murphy herself performed. Between Murphy losing her role and what happened on the plane, the tabloids went wild. It was devastating—but things would only get worse once they arrived back at their Hollywood Hills home.

44. She Was Struggling

Murphy caught the same cold that her husband and mother had suffered from—but it hit her much worse. The actress took a daily cocktail of prescriptions for various ailments, and was taking a number of medications to combat the flu-like symptoms she was battling. On the night of December 19, 2009, she struggled to breathe, yet she refused to call a doctor, thinking of the negative attention she’d received after Monjack’s episode on the plane from Puerto Rico.

It was a Saturday night, and she finally gave in and made an appointment for Monday. Sadly, she’d never get to see that doctor.

45. She Knew What Was Happening To Her

In the early hours of December 20, 2009, the power went out in Murphy’s home and their backup generator failed. Murphy called out for her mother, making an absolutely heartbreaking plea. She said: “I’m dying, I’m going to die. Mommy, I love you.” She’d always had a flair for the dramatic, so Sharon didn’t necessarily take her daughter seriously—but a few hours later, Murphy collapsed in the bathroom, and they were forced to spring into action.

She called 9-1-1 and took instructions from the operator as Monjack tried to revive Murphy. Paramedics brought the actress to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, but it was a futile gesture.

46. The Sense Of Loss Was Palpable

Murphy went into cardiac arrest at Cedars-Sinai and passed on at 10:04 that morning, two hours after the initial 9-1-1 call. She was just 32 years old. The next day, the coroner performed an autopsy. Two months later, they revealed the results, citing pneumonia as the primary cause, with anemia and the combination of medications she’d been on as the secondary causes.

While the coroner ruled it to be an accident, they also emphasized that such a potent cocktail of medications could have a terrible, adverse effect on the body. And soon after, the dark truth emerged.

47. They Were Gaming The System

A Hollywood pharmacist claimed that he’d suspected Murphy and Monjack of doctor shopping, where users acquire their medications from multiple doctors at a time. The couple mostly avoided doctors, for fear that medical professionals would leaks the news of their health problems, potentially damaging their careers. For his part, the pharmacist was apprehensive about any repercussions if anything should happen to them.

He told Monjack that he could no longer help them fill their prescriptions just months before Murphy’s tragic passing.

48. She’d Struggled To Help Them

When Brittany Murphy passed on in 2009, few knew about the secret struggles she’d been enduring in her final months. Murphy had been acting as caregiver to both people she shared her home with. After two bouts of breast cancer, Sharon was now suffering from neuropathy, where damaged nerves can cause debilitating pain—and that wasn’t all.

Brittany Murphy FactsShutterstock

49. Everyone In Their House Was Unwell

Murphy’s husband Monjack had been having frequent seizures. On the plane back from Puerto Rico, they suspected that he had a minor heart attack. When he’d seize, the petite actress would have to hold him down and prevent him from hurting himself or swallowing his tongue. Her final weeks had been relentlessly tense and terrifying.

50. Bad Luck Comes In Twos

The loss of Brittany Murphy sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood, and condolences poured in from friends and collaborators. The coroner released the autopsy report and it seemed like that was end. But it was then that the tragedy—and mystery—deepened. Five months after Murphy’s passing, her husband, Simon Monjack, died in the same bedroom that Murphy had spent her final moments in.

In a disturbing coincidence, the coroner also listed the cause of his passing as pneumonia and anemia—and the story didn’t end there.

51. It Was A Terrible Loss

Among the many, many celebrity tributes was one particularly heartbreaking one—from Brittany Murphy’s first love, Ashton Kutcher. He tweeted: “Today, the world lost a little bit of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out to Brittany’s family, her husband and her amazing mother, Sharon. See you on the other side, kid.”

Monjack and Sharon Murphy said that beautiful message was deeply comforting—but their peace wouldn’t last long.

52. They Were Disturbingly Close

Sharon Murphy publicly mourned both her daughter and Monjack—which seemed to add fuel to the flames. Case in point: Among the more bizarre claims that emerged after the passing of Brittany Murphy was a report that stated that Murphy’s mother Sharon and her widower Simon Monjack shared a bed after Murphy’s passing. All we’ve got to say is: yikes.

53. Was It The House?

After the loss of both Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack, Murphy’s mother Sharon was determined to get to the bottom of the real cause of their deaths. She came forward with a disturbing claim. Sharon Murphy has said that both her daughter and son-in-law passed due to a presence of toxic mold in their house—the one that Brittany had hated so much.

Somehow, things got even more bizarre from there.

54. He Has His Suspicions

Following the loss of Murphy, her father Angelo Bertolotti came out of the woodwork and made some shocking allegations of his own. He acquired some of his daughters hair and had a toxicology test done on the strands. The results convinced him that someone had poisoned his daughter and son-in-law…and his suspicions fell on one person in particular: his ex-wife, Sharon Murphy.

Murphy disputed the claims in a public letter—but Bertolotti wasn’t done yet.

55. Things Got Even Weirder

The tabloids went wild covering the public feud between Brittany Murphy’s parents—but what many missed was the couple’s bizarre potential connection to an alleged government cover-up. Remember how many remarked that Monjack was particularly paranoid about surveillance? Well, if the story is true, he may have had good reason…

56. Another Character Appears

The tale is strange and complicated, so buckle in. In 2004, Former Department of Homeland Security officer Julia Davis reported an influx of people with “suspicious” backgrounds entering the US on July 4th to her superiors. Upon finding that most of them were on leave for the holiday, she escalated her report to the FBI.

It was then that Julia Davis alleged that DHS retaliated—and where Brittany Murphy comes in.

57. They Were Targets

Julia Davis claims that she was close friends with Murphy, and that Murphy even testified on her behalf during Davis’s litigation against the government. She says that, as a result, the DHS put Murphy and Monjack on a DHS watch list and that the DHS targeted Monjack, who was British, for deportation. Still with us? Well, it gets deeper…

58. They Lived In Fear

Davis produced a documentary about her experiences titled Top Priority: The Terror Within in 2012. One of her interview subjects? None other than Angelo Bertolotti. In the doc, Davis claims that Simon Monjack suspected that the government was monitoring him and his wife and that agents had bugged their phones. A few days after Monjack made his suspicions public, Murphy passed on.

Brittany Murphy FactsWikimedia Commons
Brittany Murphy’s father, Angelo Bertolotti, national security whistleblower Julia Davis, and director Asif Akbar attending the premiere of documentary film Top Priority: The Terror Within.

59. She Doesn’t Believe A Word

It’s worth noting that Murphy’s mother Sharon has refuted all of Davis’s claims about her daughter, saying that “Brittany never cooperated with Julia Davis, never signed any statement in support of her, never met with her and barely knew she existed.” Well, considering that her ex-husband was working with Davis, it’s not surprising.

60. They’re Still Fighting About It

In January 2019, nine years after Murphy’s loss, Angelo Bertolotti passed on at the age of 92—but that doesn’t mean that his cause did. His son, Brittany’s half-brother, has continued his father’s quest for the truth about Murphy’s passing, keeping her name in the news more than a decade after she took her final breaths. With all the competing stories and third parties, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know what really happened to Brittany Murphy.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45

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