Updated on Sunday, 8:15 p.m. PST:
Actress Brittany Murphy, who died at 32 on Sunday, had been fired from her last film just two weeks ago, and had lost consciousness during shooting on the set of another film that she’d recently completed.
The actress died suddenly on Sunday, reportedly of cardiac arrest. Several years ago, she told a Wrap columnist that she had a heart condition. But warning signs that Murphy was on a dangerous behavioral spiral were visible to those familiar with her life.
The actress, a charming if somewhat ditzy on-screen presence, had been fired from the horror film “The Caller,” directed by Matthew Parkhill in Puerto Rico, just two weeks ago. No reason was given for her replacement.
Fan sites reported that Murphy was replaced with Rachelle Lefevre, an actress from “Twilight,” for the role of a troubled divorcee who begins to feel haunted in her own home.
But that was not the only recent mishap in Murphy’s professional life. An insider on the production of another horror-thriller,”Something Wicked,” an independent film shot in Oregon, said that Murphy was barely able to shoot her scenes and would lose her focus in mid-sentence during a take.
“Her husband was her handler, he shuttled her around. She was barely there,” said an individual with knowledge of the production, referring to Murphy’s husband and manager, Simon Monjack.
“She’d go in and out of consciousness in the middle of takes.”
The individual said Murphy’s inability to stay fully conscious caused producers to rewrite her character, a therapist to the two main characters, and her scenes. He said colleagues on the set had presumed she used prescription drugs.
In an interview Sunday, Murphy’s “Clueless” director Amy Heckerling talked about a change she saw in the actress during and after that 1995 film:
“Everybody’s shaking their heads and going ‘drugs,’ of course. I don’t know what was happening on the last movie. I know that, you know, she seemed to go through a change … on ‘Clueless.’ Maybe she felt like she was not the, like, skinny, pretty girl, you know? And then the next few movies she was, you know, thinner, blonde … and going out with Eminem and Ashton Kutcher, and, you know, suddenly got more into that whole glamorous scene … I think she felt the pressure to become a different sort of commodity to survive in show business, and I think it was awful.”
An email to Murphy’s publicist seeking comment was not answered.
Murphy’s suspected excessive use of drugs had been the subject of widespread speculation, and was even the subject of a parody sketch on a recent “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update.
In the sketch, “Murphy” seems unaware that she is not the host of the show, and keeps telling Seth Meyers how happy she is to do so. Meyers mentions her being fired off of “The Caller,” and “Murphy” haltingly says she plans to go the premiere and shout, “Boo.”
At the end of her segment, “Murphy” introduces the group Blink 182, prompting Myer to repeat: “You are not the host, Brittany Murphy.”
* NOTE: An earlier anecdote in this story quoted Murphy from a 2002 interview for the movie “Spun,” saying she can’t take drugs because of a heart problem she’s had since childhood. That quote has turned out to be inaccurate and has been removed.