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Brittany Murphy 1977 - 2009

TMZ reports that Brittany Murphy died from cardiac arrest Sunday morning, December 20, 2009. She was 32.

When she was discovered unconscious in the shower Sunday morning, 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.

In TMZ’s continued coverage, they have reported that authorities do not suspect foul play. Nevertheless, the LAPD is conducting an investigation and an autopsy is planned in spite of objections by Murphy’s husband.

On Dec. 22nd, TMZ published an overview of the notes from the investigator for the L.A. County Coroner’s office.

It is believed that she died of natural causes, although there are reports that “a lot” of prescription drugs were found in her home. 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.

There were other claims that Murphy’s health was suspect in the months prior to her death, including some that her own alleged erratic behavior and relationship with her husband (who reportedly has 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.”

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, stating 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 central 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.”

According to IMDb, Murphy is scheduled to appear in three more films which are currently in post-production: Something Wicked (an indie feature with no release date as of this writing); Abandoned, a low-budget thriller with no confirmed release date; and The Expendables (coming to theaters April 23, 2010), a highly-anticipated action film extravaganza written/directed/starring Sylvester Stallone along with many of the top action stars of the last two decades, although Murphy reportedly has only a “glorified walk-on role” in the film.

This is an abridged version of a tribute article originally published by Voice Actors in the News and is reprinted here by permission.

Original reporting for Toonzone News by Dan Collins.

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