New doccie reveals chilling details of Brittany Murphy’s final days: 'She was in so much pain'

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
The death of actress Brittany Murphy in 2009 has spurred another documentary looking into the mystery surrounding her final days. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)
The death of actress Brittany Murphy in 2009 has spurred another documentary looking into the mystery surrounding her final days. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

More than a decade on, the tragic and mysterious passing of Brittany Murphy continues to fascinate the world.

Brittany’s large brown eyes and bubbly demeanour dominated cinemas during the mid-2000s but just days before Christmas in 2009, the 32-year-old star was found dead inside her California home.

A new documentary, What Happened, Brittany Murphy?, airing on HBO Max on 14 October, looks into the chilling details of her final days. 

On the morning of 20 December 2009 Brittany apparently complained of feeling ill and nauseous. Although the Uptown Girls actress had been suffering from laryngitis and flu-like symptoms for several weeks, no one close to her apparently understood how much danger she was in.

At 8am her mom, Sharon Murphy, found her unconscious in the shower and her husband, the British screenwriter Simon Monjack, called an ambulance.

Simon, in pyjama bottoms and without shoes, appeared dazed as paramedics tried to save her, neighbour Clare Staples reported at the time. 

“First I couldn’t even tell that it was Brittany on the stretcher. It looked like an older woman. Brittany was completely white and her face was covered with a mask. You could tell something horrible had happened,” she said.

Weeks later the Los Angeles County coroner ruled her death as accidental and determined to have been caused by a combination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and drug intoxication from prescription and over-the-counter medications. 

Brittany tied the knot with British screenwriter S
Brittany tied the knot with British screenwriter Simon Monjack in 2007, after a whirlwind romance. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

The death of her 40-year-old husband – also ruled as caused by severe anaemia and acute pneumonia – just months later, in May 2010, added another layer of intrigue.

The upcoming doccie delves deep into Simon’s shady past.

"He was a disturbed individual who was used to conning people and Brittany was one of his last victims," says director Cynthia Hill. 

The exposé features Simon’s former fiancée, Elizabeth Ragsdale.

“I thought I’d met my Prince Charming,” she tells People magazine.

“But he lied to me about everything. He told me was a billionaire. He told me he had spinal cancer. I believed it all.”

Elizabeth became pregnant and the Brit insisted she give birth in the US. He paid for her plane ticket to New York and told her he would meet her there. 

"When I got to my little studio in New York, I called him and he answered. I said, 'Simon, I've made it to . . .' and before I could get that sentence out, he hung up on me. He left me pregnant and abandoned”.

Elizabeth never met Brittany but sees striking similarities in their stories.

Simon was “constantly watching my weight and making comments about it, and then I saw Brittany getting thinner and thinner” in photos, she says.

‘She was manipulated emotionally by her husband’
- doccie director Alex Merkin

Those who encountered the couple in their final months knew something was deeply wrong. They had become increasingly concerned about her erratic behaviour and dramatic weight loss as the London-born businessman took control of her.

Makeup artist Trista Jordan, who worked with the actress on 2009's Something Wicked, says her appearance in her final months was alarming. 

"Her eyes were so sunken, and she just seemed so sad," Trista says. "She wasn't herself. She was in so much pain. She had Bambi legs and couldn't stand up."

Brittany was born on 10 November 1977 in Atlanta. Her parents divorced when she was two. Her father, Italian-American Angelo Bertolotti, has done time on various drug charges.

Sharon raised her daughter alone in New Jersey and later moved to Los Angeles so the preteen could pursue an acting career.

And Brittany didn’t disappoint. At 13 she’d already done a few TV advertisements, then landed a small role in hit TV series Blossom.

After that there was no stopping her. That year she got a bigger role in the TV series Drexell’s Class, before Clueless in 1995 with Alicia Silverstone put her in the limelight.

Her star was shining brightly by the time she was 18. Then Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer and Brittany was shattered. She told newspapers she’d gone to every doctor’s appointment and chemotherapy session with her mom.

Brittany Murphy with co-star Eminem in a scene fro
Brittany Murphy with co-star Eminem in a scene from the 2002 film, 8 Mile. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

As her career in Hollywood skyrocketed, things on the home front seemed to be going as well when Brittany started dating Simon in late 2006. She and Simon married in LA in April 2007 after a whirlwind courtship.

At a celebrity bash in December 2009, she spoke of her big plans for 2010.

“I would love to have a child next year. But that’s kind of a large one! I’ve been blessed to have a really great loving husband,” the Just Married actress said enthusiastically.

But sadly, only 17 days later Brittany’s dream of motherhood died with her at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

But despite the tragedy and questions that surrounded her death, director Cynthia says everyone she spoke to mentioned the importance of remembering Brittany’s kindness.

"Everyone was so consistent when they would describe her. She was so generous, caring and always thinking about everybody else and I think sometimes that gets forgotten because of all the mystery surrounding her death," Cynthia says. 

"She was loved by everyone."


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()