Brittany Murphy dies at 32

11:22 AM PST 12/20/2009 by Sta

Coroner's rep: Death appears to be from natural causes

Brittany Murphy, the actress who got her start in the sleeper hit "Clueless" and rose to stardom in "8 Mile" before her movie roles declined in recent years, died Sunday in Los Angeles of what appeared to be natural causes, a Los Angeles County coroner's official said. She was 32.

Murphy was pronounced dead at 10:04 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Sally Stewart said.

Murphy was transported to the hospital after the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to a call at 8 a.m. at the home she shared with her husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, in the Hollywood Hills.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Murphy apparently collapsed in the bathroom, and authorities were looking into her medical history.

An official cause of death may not be determined for some time, since toxicology tests will be required, but "it appears to be natural," Winter said. He said an autopsy was planned for Monday or Tuesday.

Winter said Murphy's family was cooperating with the coroner's investigation.

Monjack and the Murphy family released the following statement Monday: "The sudden loss of our beloved Brittany is a terrible tragedy. She was our daughter, our wife, our love, and a shining star. We ask you to respect our privacy at this difficult time."

The family added that funeral arrangements are pending.

Los Angeles police have opened an investigation into Murphy's death, Officer Norma Eisenman said. Detectives and coroner's officials were at Murphy and Monjack's home Sunday afternoon but did not talk to reporters. Paparazzi were camped outside the multistory home, located above the Sunset Strip.

Messages left for Murphy's manager, agent and publicist by the Associated Press were not immediately returned.

Neighbor Clare Staples said she saw firefighters working to resuscitate the actress Sunday morning. She said Murphy was on a stretcher and "looked as though she was dead at the scene."

Murphy's husband, wearing pajama bottoms and no shoes, appeared "dazed" as firefighters tried to save her, Staples said. "It's just tragic," she added.

TMZ.com first reported Murphy's death Sunday morning. The report cited multiple sources claiming that she went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai.

Murphy's father, Angelo Bertolotti, said he learned of her death from his son, the actress' brother, and was stunned.

"She was just an absolute doll since she was born," Bertolotti said from his Branford, Fla., home. "Her personality was always outward. Everybody loved her -- people that made movies with her, people on a cruise -- they all loved her. She was just a regular gal."

He said he hadn't heard much about the circumstances of Murphy's death. Bertolotti divorced her mother when Murphy was young and hadn't seen Murphy in the past few years. He said he used to be in the mob and served prison time on federal drug charges.

"She was just talented," Bertolotti said. "And I loved her very much."

Born Nov. 10, 1977, in Atlanta, Murphy grew up in New Jersey and later moved with her mother to Los Angeles to pursue acting.

Her career started in the early 1990s with small roles in television series, commercials and movies. She is best known for parts in "Clueless," "Girl, Interrupted" and "8 Mile."

She also voiced numerous animated characters, including Luanne Platter on more than 200 episodes of Fox's "King of the Hill" and Gloria the penguin in the 2006 feature "Happy Feet."

Although she encountered career problems in recent years, she nevertheless kept working in low-budget indie projects and TV films. This past year, she was seen in the Lifetime movie "Tribute" and the Syfy movie "Megafault" and the indie thrillers "Across the Hall" and "Deadline," the latter of which was just released on DVD.

She'd been at work on several movies scheduled for 2010 release: "Abandoned," in which she stars opposite Dean Cain; "Something Wicked"; and Sylvester's Stallone's "The Expendables," by far her highest-profile project in recent years.

She was to have filmed "The Caller" in Puerto Rico, but as the project was getting under way last month, she was replaced by Rachelle Lefevre of the "Twilight" series amid press reports -- denied at the time by Murphy's publicist -- that Murphy had been fired.

Her role in "8 Mile" led to more recognition, Murphy told AP in 2003. "That changed a lot," she said. "That was the difference between people knowing my first and last name as opposed to not."

Murphy credited her mother, Sharon, with being a key to her success.

"When I asked my mom to move to California, she sold everything and moved out here for me," Murphy said. "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."

She dated Ashton Kutcher, who co-starred with Murphy in 2003's romantic comedy "Just Married."

Kutcher sent a message on Twitter Sunday morning about Murphy's death: "2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine," Kutcher wrote. "My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany's family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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