by Joal Ryan | Sun., Dec. 20, 2009 7:10 PM
Brittany Murphy's career was marked by transformations—from child actor to Clueless teen to "It" girl to Saturday Night Live punchline. One thing, however, never changed, especially after she found breakout stardom: the book on Murphy.
She was different.
With Murphy's sudden death today at age 32, the question is what did different mean exactly. If it meant anything at all.
Different can mean "difficult," a catch-all Hollywood descriptor for jerks, perfectionists and free spirits, and applied to Murphy by the New York Times in 2002. (The story noted she'd been fired by a publicist.)
Different can mean "extremely difficult," as in the Murphy of a 2008 New York Post item. (According to the paper, Murphy required a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich—diagonally cut, no crusts—on the hour, every hour on the set of the just-released, if barely, thriller Across the Hall.)
Or it can mean "erratic" (per a 2004 MSNBC report on Murphy's behavior at a press junket for Uptown Girls), and "barely there" (per The Wrap on Murphy's behavior during the recently completed shoot for another thriller, Something Wicked.)
Or it can mean unique. As in uniquely talented.
Murphy, who'd been acting since the boyband days of ABC's "T.G.I.F." sitcoms (Sister, Sister, Boy Meets World), was forever turning heads—from her "terrific" turn as the mute teen in the Michael Douglas thriller Don't Say a Word, to her big-voiced belting at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, to her "sharp, sexy" star-making performance in Eminem's 8 Mile.
In a review of 2003's Just Married, which paired Murphy with future boyfriend Ashton Kutcher, Roger Ebert panned the film, and praised half of its star tandem. The Murphy half.
"With her fraught eyes and husky voice, she has a rare and particular quality (I think of Jennifer Jason Leigh)," Ebert wrote.
Just Married was one of three movies Murphy starred in after 8 Mile. Uptown Girls and Little Black Book were the others. Bruce Willis' Sin City, in which Murphy costarred, followed. And then, as fast as it caught fire, the career, two decades in the making, flamed out.
Of all the things different means, it doesn't mean forever.
Get complete coverage on Brittany Murphy's life and career here.