Brittany Murphy's fresh start was just around the corner.
After being released from the set of The Caller in November, the deceased star was supposed to be clearing the slate with her next film, Shrinking Charlotte, which was to going to begin shooting in mid-January.
Writer-director René Eram tells E! News exclusively that Murphy was "professional" and "really looking forward to" working on the film, 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," he says. "I didn't know or hear anything about eating disorders or anything like that, but I did notice she had lost some weight."
Regardless, the film—which costars Matthew Lillard, Fred Willard and True Blood's Sam Trammell—was "a perfect fit" for the actress, Eram says.
The 8 Mile star would have portrayed a woman who is secretly in love with her therapist and pretending she has overcome all her issues in order to impress him.
"She really had a deeper look into the characters she was playing," Eram tells E! News. "She was a very perceptive actress who brought a lot to the table as far as creative ideas and different layers of emotions."
The film's helmer admits he pictured Murphy in the role from the start and, not surprisingly, is disappointed not to be able to move the project forward with her at the lead.
"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."
The show, Eram says, must go on, and meetings are already being arranged to recast the part.
—Additional reporting by Amy Paffrath
See Brittany in her brightest roles in our special gallery.