Brittany Murphy’s breakthrough role. She gained a supporting part as Tai, the new girl at a Beverly Hills high school, who is taken under the wing of two popular girls, Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne (Stacey Dash). As their ‘experiment’, Tai is given a makeover and the two socialites attempt to play matchmaker between the clueless newcomer and the object of her affection, Elton.
The movie is also recognizable for giving an early role to comic actor Paul Rudd as well as attempting to give Jane Austen’s novel Emma a 20th century teenage socialite makeover, with largely comic success.
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Again, playing a more supporting role to both Angelina Jolie (who won an Academy Award for the film) and Winona Ryder, Murphy did her career no harm by taking the part of Daisy Randone in Girl, Interrupted. The film is based on Susanna Kaysen’s memoir and follows Susanna (Ryder), a troubled teenager who ends up in a mental asylum following her failed suicide attempt. During her time there she meets a range of weird and wonderful characters, including Daisy, a sexually abused girl with an eating disorder that renders her a private and lonely character. The film emphasised Murphy’s versatility and aptitude for gritty roles and gained widespread critical acclaim on its release.
Twisted and visually experimental tale from Swedish music video director Jonas Ackerlund. Spun is certainly not for the faint hearted. This indie film works almost unintentionally as America’s answer to Trainspotting, mixing fast editing and crude comedy to tell the story of a group of drug-addled youngsters from LA who are indebted to crazy drug dealer The Cook (Mickey Rourke) after desperately searching for their next fix. The negative spiral of life as an addict is told brilliantly by Ackerlund, both shocking and hilarious in equal portion, Spun’s visceral abrasiveness won fans from the student demographic. Brittany Murphy utilised her sex appeal and rough-edged persona to play The Cook’s dependent girlfriend Nikki.
Sin City (2005)
Robert Rodriguez’s groundbreaking film noir fused comic-book animation with live action to tell four short stories based in the fictional Basin City. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, Sin City’s ensemble cast meant Murphy’s screen time was limited, but her part as downtrodden barmaid Shellie was memorable nonetheless. After being beaten up by possessive ex-boyfriend and crooked cop Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), her new squeeze Dwight (Clive Owen) goes on a mission to hunt Jackie Boy down as an act of revenge. The narrative sequence comprises one of the film’s four interweaving vignettes.
Sin City became a cult classic amongst comic book fans and won the Technical Grand Prize for director Robert Rodriguez at the Cannes Film Festival.
8 Mile (2002)
Probably the film that Brittany Murphy will be most remembered for. She played Alex, an aspiring model who falls for Jimmy ‘B-Rabbit’ Smith (Eminem), a talented rapper who uses music and head-to-head rap contests at a club across Detroit’s notorious 8 Mile boundary as a way of channelling his anger and escaping the reality of his trailer trash life. Jimmy’s life is turned upside down when he learns of Alex’s infidelity and troubles at home with his irresponsible mother threaten to distract him from the final showdown at the club in the film’s climax.