Lifetime has another controversial movie on its schedule when it premieres "The Brittany Murphy Story" this Saturday, Sept. 6, which tells the story of the actress' short-lived life. Her father, Angelo Berolotti, who doesn't even rate a mention in the movie, has reportedly said, "I am disgusted and outraged that Lifetime decided to produce such a trashy project, defiling the memory of my beautiful, talented daughter, Brittany Murphy."
But Amanda Fuller, who stars as Murphy and was a fan of the actress, defends the project, saying they were just trying to honor her memory.
Fans of Murphy will have to judge for themselves after viewing the movie, but one thing for sure is that it in no way indicates that Murphy was murdered, despite reports in the media to the contrary. Fuller says after finishing the project, she thinks that Murphy's death "was an unfortunate accident. I don't think it was foul play or intentional."
"The Brittany Murphy Story" follows the life of the talented young actress and her supportive mother Sharon (Sherilyn Fenn), who were determined to make Murphy into a star. After her breakout role in the '90s hit "Clueless," Murphy's career continued to shine with the high-profile hits "Girl, Interrupted" and "Uptown Girls." But the relentless rumors in the media, coupled with Murphy’s insecurities, took its toll on both her personal and professional life. Through it all, her mother remained steadfastly by her side, but it wasn't enough to save Murphy from her demons.
In this interview with Fuller, she defends the movie, talks about being a fan of the actresses, how she wishes she had had more time to prepare for the role, her transformation for the part, and more.
Why do you think it was important to tell Brittany's story?
When I read the script, I completely related to her story in a very personal way. On a smaller scale, I have lived almost the same life, and struggled with the same struggles. I have been working since I was eight, and I have the same body-image issues, and the negative attention. I always wanted my work to speak for itself and have opportunities to do interesting work, and not just puff pieces. I felt like a kindred spirit to her.
I didn't know a lot of the stuff like her mom having cancer and that she wasn't a party girl. All of those rumors were misrepresented by the media at the time, and I didn't know the truth behind that. Once I discovered it, I felt light should be shed on that, so her memory can be honored as a girl who was so insanely talented and such a light on this earth, but who let the negative influences affect her so she lost her sense of self.
What was the key to finding her for you?
I grew up loving her. I totally loved her from afar. "Clueless" was one of my favorite movies of all time. My friends and I knew it word for word. Then there was "Girl, Interrupted" and her other work, like "The Dead Girl." She was so incredible in it. I was very much aware of her work and her career.
I tried to find as much footage of her as I could not in her movies -- does that make sense -- to see what she was really like. There's an MTV Diary that had the most B-roll that I could find of her just being her quirky self. I only had a few days to prepare, so it was kind of daunting. I just had to dive in. It became much more about showing her essence than imitating her because I didn't have time to do all the vocal work and all the physical work that I would have loved to have done to portray her perfectly. At the end of the day, I just had to commit to putting my heart into it and hoping that she was breathing through me in some way.
There were a lot of different looks in the movie as Brittany transitions. They try to make you less attractive in the beginning. Can you talk about all the wigs and transformations?
We had about seven wigs. We didn't even end up using all of them because at times, we had to blend a couple of different looks we had together. We were going back and forth from her at 13 to 28 to 16 to 22. We were all over the place. I wore brown contacts. It was the one thing going into it, I was, "I can't do this unless I have the brown eyes because they are so representative of her." It was a whirlwind. The hair and makeup teams were working their booties off.
Was there padding? There is a lot of conversation about her body image in the movie.
No, that's all my voluptuous curves. I wore tighter clothing and we styled it in a way that emphasized my bust. If I had had more time, I would have loved to lose the weight to make that transformation more distinct, but we shot it in 16 days. It is a lot about styling.
How do you see her relationship with her mother?
My mom and I are extremely close. There were a lot of parallels. When my mom saw the film, she was, "Are these scenes from our life? This is crazy." I think in its intention, their love and support for each other is a beautiful thing. I think maybe it was a little codependent and a little unhealthy. As I have gotten older, I am more of an independent woman and my mom and I have our own lives, but we are still best friends and can be there for each other. Maybe they didn't do that and were a little too close. At the heart of it, they had this really beautiful bond that a lot of people are lacking. Also, when Simon [Monjack, who became Brittany's husband] got in the picture, that was also a codependent relationship. I don't know how healthy that was.
How much was real? Like the scene where Ashton Kutcher comes to the diner to find her because he can't reach her any other way. I was curious if that was real, or if it was a scene to show us how much Simon was controlling her life.
I think that was definitely the purpose of that scene. You would have to ask the writers. Because it was so fast, I just had to trust, but I did want to know the source of everything. I was also trying to learn lines, so I had to trust. I don't know if that actually happened, but I know that Ashton was always supportive and loving towards her. I think they wanted to show that he was there for her and that they had a bond. The diner, itself, is real.
What is your take on Brittany's death? There are online stories that the movie indicates she was murdered but I didn't get that from watching it.
I agree. I have no idea where that came from. I believe in my heart of hearts that she was sick with pneumonia, she had a heart murmur, she was anemic, and all that, and was taking a bad combination of prescription pills to get better, but her refusal to not go to the hospital kept her from getting the medical attention she needed. Tragically, I do think if her relationships were a little healthier, maybe they would have taken her sooner. But I also know moms and daughters, and if your daughter is so terrified of going to the hospital because of the negative [press] … I'm pretty sure my mom would have taken me to the hospital. I think it's a muddy situation. She was terrified of going because of her reputation and how events were taken from her life and spun in ways that weren't true. It took away her ability to work. She was dropped by her agency. So, I think it was an unfortunate accident. I don't think it was foul play or intentional.
You are on "Last Man Standing," which is a comedy, but you took on this serious role. Is this a way of building your career?
It is interesting because I've worked for 25 years and I've done a lot of nitty gritty. Before "Last Man Standing," I did a lot of indies, which were raw and controversial and much darker. That is where I feel most secure as a storyteller. That is what I am drawn to the most. "Last Man Standing" has been an amazing treat because it is the best day job you could have because we laugh every day. It lightened me up a bit because I tend to go to some dark places. So when this came up, it was a no-brainer for me. It is what I built my career on before "Last Man Standing" came along. I am actually more comfortable and confident doing this kind of thing. The important thing is taking roles that speak to you, whatever shape that takes.
"The Brittany Murphy Story" premieres on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.