On the heels of Framing Britney Spears comes another documentary about another much-maligned Brittany: HBO Max has just ordered a two-part series about the late Brittany Murphy, directed by Cynthia Hill and produced by Blumhouse Films.
The documentary, which has no release date, will explore the circumstances behind Murphy’s death in 2009 at the age of 32, and the speculation and rumours surrounding her sudden passing. Murphy’s cause of death was ruled an accident, caused by a combination of pneumonia, anemia, and an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter pills. But the death of her husband, Simon Monjack, just six months later from similar causes has caused many to question whether there might be more to the case than originally thought.
The as-yet-untitled series aims to give us some answers, but will also pointedly focus on Murphy’s talent and impact as an actress, which over the last decade have been obscured by her tragic end.
“I agreed to do this film because I think it’s a shame that Brittany’s promising life and career has been eclipsed by the circumstances of her death,” Hill, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "I think it’s important to celebrate Brittany’s talent as we struggle to explain the tragic circumstances of her and Simon’s deaths.”
“Our Brittany Murphy documentary cuts through the tabloid noise with an elevated, nuanced depiction of a sensational story,” Jennifer O’Connell, executive vice president, non-fiction and live-action family programming, HBO Max added in the press release. “Crafting a grounded account of Brittany Murphy’s life struggles and sudden passing comes with great responsibility and we’ve partnered with a masterful creative team to produce a thoughtful examination of a tragedy that has long been cause for speculation.”
The news comes as we’re seeing growing public interest in re-examining the legacies of women celebrities from the 90s and early aughts brought low by tabloid culture and dismissed in their own time. Alexandra Dean’s This Is Paris, about heiress and reality TV star Paris Hilton, and Samantha Stark’s Framing Britney Spears have brought renewed attention to the sexism and misogyny baked into our cultural conversations about famous young women. Murphy, whose range extended from her breakout role in Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, to comedies like Uptown Girls and Just Married, and even awards-fare like 8-Mile, was no exception.
“Brittany Murphy was a rising star whose filmography includes movies that defined a generation,” said Mary Lisio, executive vice president, alternative and non-scripted programming, Blumhouse Television. “We thought her story warrants a deeper exploration, and examination into the environment that allowed her to become a victim of success.”