As you’ve probably heard by now, Lifetime is airing “The Brittany Murphy Story” on Saturday night (September 6). As you’ve also probably heard, the late actress’ father, Angelo Bertolotti, is furious, taking issue with everything from the casting of actress Amanda Fuller to the term “chunky monkey” being used to describe his daughter, to the existence of the film in general.
“I am disgusted and outraged that Lifetime decided to produce such a trashy project, defiling the memory of my beautiful, talented daughter, Brittany Murphy,” he told The Examiner. “Frankly, I am amazed at their audacity of calling it ‘a true story,’ without conducting any research or consulting with any members of the family. ‘The Brittany Murphy Story’ is an affront to everything my daughter was in real life. It’s hideous, unauthorized and completely untrue.”
We at MTV News have not seen the movie at this point — we’ll reserve all judgment until we’ve taken in the full thing — but we do agree with Bertolotti that Lifetime has sensationalized the story based on this trailer, which makes Murphy’s life look like a tabloid murder mystery.
So before you head in and absorb Lifetime’s take on Murphy’s life (and death), learn the facts that everyone — Bertolotti included — know to be true:
1. Her toxicology report says she died from pneumonia, anemia and over-the-counter and prescription drug intoxication.
Murphy died on December 20, 2009. It was initially said that she died of natural causes, but the report confirmed that a combination of pneumonia, anemia, and prescription and over-the-counter drugs (like hydrocodone and acetaminophen) were the culprits. She was in a weakened state due to her illness, which might explain why a 32-year-old woman stopped breathing.
2. Her husband, Simon Monjack, died of pneumonia and anemia five months later, in the same bedroom.
Monjack’s death opened up a whole new can of worms, due to the shocking similarities to Brittany’s. We’ll get to these worms in a second…
3. Her mother thinks Brittany and Monjack died from toxic mold.
Murphy’s mother, Sharon Murphy, at first seemed to accept the popularly accepted cause of death. However, nearly two years after her daughter’s death, Sharon filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the attorneys who first represented her during her case against the builders of her daughter’s home, because they apparently did not tell her about a possible wrongful death suit due to mold.
According to Sharon, she became aware of this mold after Monjack’s death, when she was working on selling the home. She reportedly moved to a hotel to avoid the problem.
4. Her father thinks Brittany and Simon were poisoned.
Here’s where the Lifetime-worthy stuff factors in — in January of 2012, Bertolotti sued the LA Police Department and coroner’s office for their investigation. He had toxicology tests done on his daughter’s hair, and since the tests revealed higher-than-normal levels of 10 heavy metals, he claimed — still claims, in fact — that Brittany and Monjack were poisoned by a third party.*
Sharon has dismissed these claims, specifically in an open letter published in The Hollywood Reporter, since Bertolotti’s test results could have come from any number of factors, and a real poisoning — rat poison, specifically — would need to be proven with blood and tissue samples.
5. Things between Sharon and Bertolotti are ugly.
Bertolotti was estranged from his family for years, though the specifics of his presence in Brittany’s life are hotly contested by the man himself. Sharon called his murder investigation an “insult,” and his involvement with whistle-blower Julia Davis (who was supposedly writing her own biopic about Brittany with Bertolotti around the time that the hair tests came out — you can read her wild side of the story here) surely didn’t help their relationship.
So that’s where we stand. An actress and her husband are dead, her parents are estranged, and the cause of death has always seemed a little suspicious — to the point where some (her father included) have called it a government conspiracy. Lifetime seems to be saying that Hollywood itself killed Brittany, but we highly doubt that anymore answers will be found in this biopic — if anything it will only raise more questions.
“The Brittany Murphy Story” airs Saturday, September 6 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.
*An earlier draft of this story said that Bertolotti thought the U.S. government poisoned his daughter. Julia Davis contacted me and said, though Murphy and Monjack were “followed by the Department of Homeland Security for reasons unrelated to their deaths,” neither Bertolotti nor Davis ever claimed the third-party poisoning was by the government. Instead, they believe the culprit was Brittany’s mother, Sharon.