Brittany Murphy has starred in Clueless, Freeway and Drop Dead Gorgeous and was a series regular on Drexell’s Class and Sister, Sister. However, it’s her voice for which she is most famous. The 22-year-old actress voices the characters of Luann and Joseph Gribble on Fox’s King of the Hill.
In Girl, Interrupted, opposite Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, Murphy plays Daisy, a suicidal bulimic with an obsessive compulsion for rotisserie chicken and laxatives. We chatted at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills about the film, her co-stars, fascism and Janis Joplin.
Where are you from?
New Jersey. Edison. “Caufee.” “Wauter.” “Hauribble.” “Haurrible” instead of “horrible.” “Tornament?”
We say “Turnament”?
Turnament? I say Tornament. Pockibook.
So how did you get from Edison, New Jersey to Hollywood, California?
I always knew I was a stage people and that I wanted to perform. I loved performing so very much, but I didn’t know what venue it would ever take place in. And I knew since I was a small child that I was supposed to perform in some way shape or form. There’s just something inside of me that I can’t really put a word on. I haven’t found a word for it yet.
Okay. But how did that translate into a career?
I’m getting into that (laughs) …Just tenacity. And I was so grateful to have an overwhelmingly supportive mother who--well, after a few years of telling me, “Why don’t you wait for a little while?”--ran me back and forth to New York to audition for commercials.
I found out about the manager in New York through the dance studio that I was taking dance classes from when I was three years old. I loved these dance classes. Even if we didn’t have enough money to buy lunch meat, my mom would have me in these damn classes. It was because I loved it so much. It was my oxygen. And then I started doing regional theater around New Jersey when I was about nine-years-old and then, at twelve-and-a-half, I finally got her to bring me into the City.
So, now did auditioning for commercials in New York lead to Drexell’s Class and Sister, Sister and Clueless and King Of The Hill and now, Girl, Interrupted opposite Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie?
Okay, then, the manager wanted to bring me to LA for pilot season that year--that was ‘91. So, I came out here January 8 of ‘91, and I haven’t left since. I called my mom on the phone--I was with a chaperone--and I said, “Mom, I want you to move out here for me. Everything is right here! I can’t even believe it! It’s every thing I ever dreamed about!” And she said, “Sure,” and she packed up our house and moved out here for me. It’s amazing. She was tired of her job and tired of Jersey and, and, and I don’t know, I really don’t know. My mom’s exceptional. Yeah. And she never pushed me. I really pushed her to try to help me out. (giggles)
Did you always want to be a movie star?
Do I want to be a movie star? Sure. Yeah. Those aren’t my motives, but I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t somehow affect society on a whole, and perform and affect mass groups of people. I mean, this is what I want to do for a living.
You sound like der Fuhrer.
Oh no. (Cackles maniacally into the microphone)
Which would you rather be, a movie star or der Fuhrer?
Shall I answer that question? No, no. But, of course, I don’t know how I would deal with (superstardom), if it were ever to come. For now, I’ll just keep working and plugging away. And I’m not working to attain that goal; I’m more thinking for the second. But I do have a lot of long term goals that I keep very private. I’ll let you know once I’ve infiltrated.
Are you prepared for all the things that go along with celebrity, like stalking?
(laughs) I told people where I lived in my first interview. The publicists came up to me and sincerely said to me, “You did very well, but just (whispering) don’t tell people where you live.”
With Girl, Interrupted, did you specifically go after the role of Daisy?
Just because it was the one available.
Did you see playing Daisy as a challenge?
It wasn’t any more or less challenging than any other role; it was just different. It was a different character. So, Daisy was a challenge, but a challenge is a great thing. Of course, it’s challenging or I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m fortunate enough to do something that will always be challenging. I’m never gonna know everything there is to know about it. I’ll be doing it till I drop. I’ll be eighty and still not know everything there is to know about acting. There’s no book. There’s no context. It’s about human beings, and we’ll never really figure each other out. I think that, you know, it was a challenge, but everything’s a challenge. It was a rewarding challenge. Things that are difficult, in return, end up being really great..
Is Winona Ryder always as radiant as she seems?
Winona? Oh, I adore her. With all my heart.
And Angelina Jolie?
It was really a creatively rewarding experience because when you’re acting-- I can speak for myself only, of course--when I have the chance to act with someone and exchange emotions and intimacies with someone who is so pure to theirs and is so great at what they do and great at their craft, I can’t help but learn. In that respect, it was really just a fantastic experience. I loved working with Angie.
How are Ryder and Jolie different?
I can’t tell you what the differences are. You know, it’s night and day. Like everyone. Like the two of us, you know? Some people are more similar than others, but they’re quite different. They’re different about their acting and they’re different about their person, but they’re both equally as extraordinary. And I’m equally enamored of them both as humans and as artists. But, like I said. Night and day. Yeah. I’ll just leave it at that.
What’s coming up on the horizon for you?
I did Cherry Falls, and then a film called Trixie after that and then another one called Common Ground after that. And now we’re here today.
When are you going to play Janis Joplin in Piece of My Heart?
I don’t know! That’s something that was supposed to be filmed last summer. I will study very vigorously before it’s to come, but it’s something that consumes every bit of my life, because I have this really deep love for her. And once I start listening to things and once I start reading things, I can’t stop. And I can’t neglect these other characters I’m playing in the meanwhile, so when I finally find out… when Janis wants this movie to happen, it’ll happen. Her story is supposed to be told right, and when she knows it’s going to be told properly, whether it’s me or somebody else, I know that it will be told one day. It’s just all the components have to be proper, you know?
It was slated to be filmed last summer, but things sort of got derailed. I know the music rights are available February of 2000. I’ve been hearing since it was re-scheduled sometime after February of 2000, in 2000, hopefully. The director was slated to be Gary Freder. He is no longer attached to this film, but I’m gonna work with him Tuesday on his new film for Miramax, Impostor. He’s a good friend of mine, now.
What do you play in Impostor?
It’s a cameo. I’ve never done a cameo. I’m so excited! I’m gonna be an anchorwoman. I’m gonna be Sally Atwater, remember? Is that her name? Sally Atwater? What was that called? What was that song? (sings) “Do Do Do Doo Do… because you remember me?” My friend does the funniest impersonation of her.
Okay, let’s end this way--what was the first movie you ever made out during?
You mean, onscreen or off? (laughs) Onscreen… who was the first? Well, my first love scene was in a movie-of-the-week. I was 16 or 17. It was called Double Jeopardy: The Story Of Gina Marie, and it was with Joe Penny.
How about offscreen?
That’s private. (laughs)
What are you doing for the turn-of-the-millennium?
I don’t know. Something private and very homey with loved ones. I’m gonna be in a bomb shelter. Have a very Happy Holidays.