“Tired is not a word in my vocabulary”, exclaims a perky Brittany Murphy, who is desperately trying to finish a slice of pizza prior to her next round of interviews. There is genuine warmth to this Hollywood actress, and sense of affection that doesn’t seem forced. Sitting in a hotel room overlooking New York’s Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty, Murphy loves to laugh.
With her high-pitched voice, Murphy, who stars in the black comedy Little Black Book, says her attraction to what could have been a far more conventional romantic comedy was its unusual honesty. “The main reason that I was attracted to this film is that it was real, I love that the ‘romantic comedies’ heroes were not only flawed but were all betraying themselves in other people,” Murphy explains, as she downs some more pizza. “I also love the character of Stacy, and that everyone has a devil and angel on their shoulder tempting them to do something. I loved that she had this whole journey of planning her whole entire life, getting her career in line first, college second then adhering to her career, get the man, and so forth.”
Murphy’s Stacy is an associate producer for a daytime talk show, and becomes confounded by her boyfriend Derek’s (Ron Livingston) unwillingness to talk about his previous relationships. Egged on by her co-worker Barb (Holly Hunter), Stacy sneaks a look at his Palm Pilot, scores the names and numbers of his ex-girlfriends, and sets up interviews with them—all in an effort to get closer to her man. However, her plan starts to unravel, when she becomes friends with one of the women. In trying to define her character without revealing too much, Murphy sees Stacy as someone “who had been taught her whole life to control everything, and the more she starts to try and control her life, the harder she is grabbing onto the reins, until there is a snowball effect.”
Murphy avoids directly offering parallels between this character and her own life, only admitting that she identified with the character as “a real breathing human, who can control things. I think there are those moments in life where to me I think anybody would be lying if they say they didn’t try to control something at some point or another.” As the theme of ‘jealousy’ tends to rear its ugly head throughout Little Black Book, Murphy insists that is one character trait she does not share with her fictional alter ego. “God forgot to give me the jealous bone,” says Murphy, laughingly.
To the point that whenever the actress is in a relationship, she is more than happy to trade secrets, including past loves. “I just happen to ask. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I’m very curious. I always ask tons and tons of questions in the beginning, but I’ve noticed that men don’t like hearing about ex-boyfriends, because they don’t like, I don’t think, correct me if I’m wrong, envisioning women with other past relationships. I think it’s the visual that is the most off putting.” But, Murphy adds, that some secrets are still left unsaid. “As Stacy says, some secrets should remain secrets. “I’m not sure that I have yet. For some reason I cannot think of myself that way, because I am very close with my family and I suppose that I live a life that’s sort of very separated from the Hollywood to-do’s. I understand that there’s a premiere, I understand my face is on the poster and I feel very blessed. But I look at Little Black Book as an ensemble piece.”
Murphy laughs loudly when asked if she takes Hollywood seriously. “I don’t even take mySELF seriously, so how could I possibly take Hollywood seriously?” Yet after pausing, she further concedes that as far as her work goes, that’s a whole other story. “I take business seriously, and I take work very seriously, and telling the truth in my job and professionalism. But I don’t think Hollywood per se is supposed to be taken seriously, otherwise, dear Lord, that would be frightening.”
While there remains a youthful spirit within this actress, Murphy says that she has grown up at last. “This year has been really, really a large one as far as life experiences are concerned,” she says, partly referring to the end of engagement to talent manager Jeff Kwatinetz, which she won’t discuss. “I know I’m a young woman, and I’ll always have a childhood spirit. I know that. I just, love gaining wisdom, any bit where I can get it. Unfortunately, it takes most of the time, and the more trying experiences to gain the greatest amount of wisdom in life, so you have to go through these things. But I can’t wait until one day I can sit back when I’m 60, and all the personalities get to know each other, and it’ll be pretty great. But I feel the most myself and the most in my own skin and feet on the ground that I ever have in my life, happy to be alive and happy to be young.”
Murphy is equally happy to have a busy acting career, not to mention developing her music. “I’ve been working in the studio for the past year, have been learning more and more what type of music I am going to make and have started to do the album very slowly. It’s something that I never wanted to do while doing anything else, but actually after this film opens I’m going to take three weeks aside and kind of plough through a chunk of it with someone that I decided to work with for a while. It’s turning up to be a hybrid of jazz and hip-hop.” Murphy says that her music is likely to reflect who she is now, as much as her acting, “if not more so. But I’ve noticed that there are alter egos within what I’ve been writing and characters within the album, so I don’t know if it’s life affecting art or art affecting life. As long as it comes out OK.”
LITTLE BLACK BOOK OPENS AUGUST 6
– PAUL FISCHER