Nearly 12 years after a star's shocking death, the HBO Max documentary "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" revisits the actress's life and tragic end. At 32, Murphy was found nonresponsive in her Los Angeles home in 2009 and was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Despite the title of the two-part project, the doc actually offers little new information about the actress's death. It does, however, do a good job in clouding Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack (who died of similar circumstances five months later in 2010), in further suspicion. Those interviewed – journalists, Murphy's "King of the Hill" co-star Kathy Najimy, her friends and a director of one of her last films – paint Monjack as a controlling, creepy villain.
Dr. Lisa Scheinin, the deputy medical examiner who conducted Murphy's autopsy, also appears in the documentary and explains her findings – that Murphy died of pneumonia with anemia as a contributing factor. Scheinin describes Murphy's iron deficiency as a "life-threatening situation" and concludes the actress would've been battling a severe case of pneumonia "for some time." Though Murphy had prescription and over-the-counter medications in her system, Scheinin says, "she had no evidence of alcohol or any drugs of abuse in her system."
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It's Scheinin's belief that medical intervention could've saved Murphy's life that will pain fans.
"If she had gotten to a hospital early enough, you can detect pneumonia on a chest X-ray," she says in the film. "It's very easy to do. They could've possibly started treatment, but she would've had a chance."
So then the question naturally becomes, "Why didn't she go to the hospital?" Elizabeth Ragsdale, who was previously engaged to Monjack and says she shares a child with him, believes her ex is to blame.
"I believe that Simon Monjack – even if he did not kill Brittany Murphy – he allowed her to die because he did not get her to the doctor and get her help," she says in "What Happened." "And I believe that he did the same thing to himself."
Here are the most shocking claims about Monjack, Murphy and their relationship from the new documentary:
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Murphy worried she was 'dying'
In an appearance in January 2010 on the "Today" show, Monjack, alongside Murphy's mother, Sharon, told former morning show anchor Matt Lauer that Murphy was fine leading up to her death. "She had a little bit of laryngitis," Monjack said. "That was the only thing. Other than that she was perfectly healthy and well."
But the next month, to Larry King, Monjack, again paired with Sharon, told King that Murphy struggled for air on the day of her death. "That morning she woke up. She couldn't breathe," he said. "She went out to get some air. Sharon followed her out. (To Sharon) I'll say this because I know you can't. She said, 'Mom, I'm dying. I love you.' "
A stunned King asked, "She knew she was dying?" It seemed Murphy knew exactly how severe her illness was, which again raises the question of why she didn't seek medical attention. In "What Happened," Simon's mom, Linda Monjack, recalls a conversation with Murphy that occurred "just before she died." "'I'm having trouble breathing ... (When) I get to the top of the stairs. I can't breathe,'" Linda remembers Murphy saying. "She said, 'Do you think I'm dying?' I said: 'No, of course you're not dying. You're fine, but you need to go to the doctor.' "
Murphy's friend: 'Simon took her away'
Friends and colleagues remember an impenetrable fortress Monjack erected about Murphy. Monjack would drive Murphy to work, Najimy says, and stay, monopolizing any of her free time. "Every time there was a break, she would leave and go be in the car with him, and it got more and more restrictive," Najimy says. "And it got more and more apparent to all of us that she wasn't hanging out or having lunch with us or talking."
Celebrity fitness trainer Harley Pasternak says he tried to contact Murphy's representatives about training her for a role. They supposedly told him: "She fired all of us. Simon is her agent, manager and lawyer and everything now. You have to go through Simon. And they said, 'We're concerned because no one can contact her directly.' "
A friend of Murphy's, actress Lisa Rieffel, says: "One day (Murphy's) numbers were changed, no one knew where she was, couldn't find her. Disappeared. Simon took her away. That was it. He made sure no one could get to her.”
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Alex Merkin directed Murphy in one of her last films, "Across the Hall," made in 2008. "I learned that she didn’t have access to her own email address," he says. "I learned she had no access to her own phone, and if I wanted to reach her, I had to reach her through him (Simon)."
Merkin asserts that his star's marriage was "something that felt completely unhealthy, something that felt delusional on some level – a manipulative ploy on his part to control her and to keep his hooks in her."
Monjack allegedly lied about having cancer
"Autumn in New York" screenwriter Allison Burnett says in the documentary that he met Monjack in 1999. In addition to bragging about former flames that supposedly included singer Madonna and model Elle Macpherson, Monjack proclaimed "he had been dying from terminal brain cancer and that he had bought an experimental treatment derived from the fins of sharks and that it had saved his life."
Monjack spun a similar lie to Ragsdale. "Simon tearfully told me one night after I would not make love with him that he had spinal cancer, and that he was going to have to go to have this shark cartilage treatment in Monaco," she says.
"And then we have sex – after that," she adds. "He got what he wanted.”
Monjack's mom, who comes to his defense in the documentary, says her son "was terribly fearful that his father got cancer at 29. I certainly don't think he went out to tell people he had cancer. I think he believed it."
Monjack also 'cut off' ex 'from everybody'
Ragsdale says in 1998, Monjack hurried them to conceive because the cancer treatment would make him infertile. She says early in her pregnancy she experienced "severe nausea where I couldn't raise my head" and wanted to have her sister and others around for comfort, but Monjack wouldn't allow that. A friend of Ragsdale's made an unannounced trip out of concern. "She was also very worried about me because I'd been cut off from everybody," Ragsdale explains.
"She said, 'You look like you've just come out of a concentration camp,' " Ragsdale remembers, adding that her friend threatened to take her if Monjack wouldn't take Ragsdale to the doctor." She says without doubt: "I believe that my friend saved my life."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brittany Murphy documentary: Simon Monjack, more shocking claims