Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Monday, 21 December 2009

The day I met Brittany Murphy

Brittany Murphy
Murphy was a red carpet regular in Hollywood

Entertainment reporter Neil Smith remembers a 2005 encounter with actress Brittany Murphy, who has died in Los Angeles, aged 32.

I interviewed Brittany Murphy in August 2005, when she was in London promoting the comic book action film Sin City.

Physically tiny and perhaps a little jet-lagged, she struck me as quite a fragile creature ill at ease with the rigours of an international press junket.

I remember asking a fairly innocuous question about child actress Dakota Fanning, with whom she had worked on an earlier film.

I got a perfectly harmless response in return, though clearly the question had taken her by surprise and she was not happy with her answer.

As we said goodbye, she implored me not to misconstrue her remarks or quote her out of context.

"Dakota means the world to me," she said.

I got the impression she had been burned by reporters before and was anxious for it not to happen again.
Brittany Murphy autograph
Murphy was happy to oblige with an autograph

Looking back on the transcript of that interview, I now feel Brittany was at a transitional stage in her life.

London love

"Instead of going to college I went to the college of life and kept working," she said.

"But I'm 27 now so I can mix it up a bit more."

We spoke of her fledgling music career, which she described as "the beginning of a new part of me and my life".

"I want to make sure it's something I'm very proud of," she went on. "It needs time and dedication."

We spoke of her experiences making Sin City in Austin, Texas, a film-making hub thanks to the efforts of director Robert Rodriguez.

"It was very much like going back to the Hollywood of old, when it was still young and promising," she said.

I remember detecting a touch of jadedness in those words - a sense of disenchantment with the Hollywood machine. But I could have been wrong.
Brittany Murphy
Murphy moved with her mother to Los Angeles to pursue acting

She certainly seemed delighted at the prospect of coming back to London to shoot a film, a romantic comedy she described as "Jane Austen meets Four Weddings meets Will and Grace".

"I love your city," she said. "It's my second favourite city in the world."

I intended to ask what her favourite was, but my interview time elapsed before I got the chance.

I don't generally ask for autographs when I interview celebrities.

Yet something made me break that rule with Brittany Murphy.

She was happy to oblige, writing "Love Brittany Murphy" on some promotional material and adorning it with two hearts and a smiley face.

Back then, that autograph was little more than a memento of a friendly yet slightly tense encounter.

Now, of course, it has taken on an altogether more poignant resonance.

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