Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack: Crazy in love
I suppose Brittany Murphy always seemed a bit unhinged -- the "Clueless" star had issues with fluctuating weight, a loopy persona and a whispered-about marriage to British screenwriter Simon Monjack.
The rumors that had plagued the pair since their 2007 nuptials were varied and salacious: Monjack's visa had conveniently expired around their wedding; rumors of infidelity abounded on both ends; allegations that Monjack had bad debts and a worse business reputation.
Neither would elaborate on these claims, consistently dismissing them through publicists or lawyers. Still, doubts lingered in the media and show business over the legitimacy of their love.
In January 2008, I spent an afternoon with the couple at the Sundance Film Festival, where Monjack had been hired to photograph a series of celebs, including his wife, for a Rock the Vote campaign.
I was working for the New York Post at the time, and Murphy wasn't short on humor: When I introduced myself, she told me that her lawyer Martin Singer was quite familiar with the publication.
Still, she played ball. We had the kind of ice-breaking talk that's specific to an actress ...
... about dressing up and down, landing good parts as a woman, work versus family. All very pleasant. Her strokes of eccentricity played as well in person as they did on screen; it was refreshing to know she wasn't so studied.
But while she was the movie star, it was Monjack who dazzled me. They were a strange pair: Hollywood via London via Outer Space. But they were in love.
In the interview I conducted for the Post, Monjack revealed a rather interesting fact about the couple's history. He claimed to have taken the first editorial photo of a then-underage Murphy, and immediately fell in love with her.
"No one knows this, but I took Brittany's first photograph for a magazine. It was Jane magazine; Brittany was this big," he told me, waving his hand at hip level.
Back then, she was "too young to touch," Monjack said. "To make a long story short, I was very patient."
And about all those rumors, the allegations of owed money and expired visas and indiscretions?
"We never addressed it, and I'm not going to now," he said.
Monjack told me about their professional life, in which one would book a job and the other would tag along to support."We've created an environment that's conducive to making art and having fun and enjoying each other, and we can take that environment with us everywhere we go," Murphy echoed.
She loved her sizable diamond engagement ring, but hated showing it because of her dirty fingernails. Monjack loved to tease her about putting on a full face of makeup 10 minutes before getting off any airplane. They traded barbs and stole kisses like a sincere couple.
Now that she's gone, the rumors will be stirred up again. Monjack's moves will be analyzed by the same skeptics, as he's already garnering suspicion for requesting that no autopsy be performed on his deceased 32-year-old bride.
I can't say he'll handle his loss gracefully, or even in an acceptable social manner. I can't say he won't give bizarre catharsis chats with Diane Sawyer or release home movies that could further document their quirks. I can't say he isn't doubting himself or the universe at the moment.
I can say that to the best of my knowledge that he was in love, and I'm terribly sorry for his loss.
-- Matt Donnelly
Photo: Brittany Murphy and husband Simon Monjack in 2007, the year they were wed. Credit: Dan Steinberg / Associated Press