LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. actress Brittany Murphy, who co-starred in such films as "Clueless" and "Girl, Interrupted" but saw her career wane in recent years, died in Los Angeles on Sunday after suffering cardiac arrest in her bathroom, officials said. She was 32.
Murphy was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center about 10 a.m. PST (1:00 p.m. EST), two hours after her mother reportedly found her unconscious in the shower of the actress' Hollywood Hills home. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner said there were no suspicious circumstances, but that an autopsy would take place in the next few days.
Celebrity gossip Web site TMZ, which first broke the news, reported late on Sunday that there was "a significant amount of vomit" in the bathroom area. It said Murphy had been taking medications for 'flu-like symptoms for several days, and that there were a lot of prescriptions in the house.
There was no immediate word from Murphy's publicist beyond a statement that was issued on behalf of her family: "The sudden loss of our beloved Brittany is a terrible tragedy. She was our daughter, our wife, our love and a shining star. We ask you to respect our privacy at this time."
Murphy starred in films opposite Michael Douglas, Ashton Kutcher, Eminem and Angelina Jolie, but failed to attain their level of success. In recent years, she worked mostly in low-budget movies, while her emaciated appearance sparked concerns about her health.
"(Today) the world lost a little piece of sunshine," Kutcher, a former boyfriend, wrote on his Twitter page. "(S)ee you on the other side kid."
Murphy was in the news earlier this month when she reportedly was fired from the Puerto Rico set of the indie thriller "The Caller." Her publicist said the split resulted from creative differences. When Murphy and her husband of two years, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, returned to Los Angeles, he lost consciousness on the plane and was rushed to hospital.
SMALL SCREEN SUCCESS
Murphy was last in theaters with the low-budget thriller "Across the Hall," which opened in one theater each in New York and Los Angeles two weeks ago. She recently finished work on the Sylvester Stallone action film "The Expendables."
Murphy was born in Atlanta on November 10, 1977, and raised in New Jersey. Accompanied by her mother, she moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s in hopes of stardom.
She made her breakthrough in the 1995 feature comedy "Clueless," playing a frumpy schoolgirl who gets a makeover from Alicia Silverstone's character.
"I always felt connected to her as we shared a very special experience in our lives together," Silverstone said in a statement to People magazine. "I feel love in my heart for her -- and hope she is at peace. This is truly sad."
Murphy built on her momentum with a succession of TV roles and appeared in two films in 1999 -- "Drop Dead Gorgeous" and "Girl, Interrupted," for which Jolie received an Oscar.
Murphy worked with Douglas in the 2001 thriller "Don't Say a Word," and played Eminem's love interest in the 2002 hit "8 Mile."
The following year, she co-starred with Kutcher in the romantic comedy "Just Married," and played Dakota Fanning's babysitter in "Uptown Girls." But the movies failed to generate much commercial or critical heat. Her last major role was in the 2005 comic-book adaptation "Sin City."
Murphy enjoyed more enduring success on the small screen, providing the voice of the vacuous Texan Luanne Platter in the cartoon series "King of the Hill." She also voiced a penguin in the 2006 box office hit "Happy Feet."
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Sandra Maler and Eric Walsh)