Entertainment

Did Brittany Murphy marry a ‘con man’? His ex says she escaped a similar fate

Using the Paris Métro residence from her workplace in 2007, Elizabeth Ragsdale started flipping by means of a difficulty of Us Weekly given to her by the receptionist on the legislation agency the place she labored as a paralegal. However simply as she was about to sink into the journal’s tales of Lindsay Lohan and Brangelina, Ragsdale seen a cover line that alarmed her:

“Brittany Murphy: Married to a Con Man?”

There, subsequent to the “Clueless” and “8 Mile” actor, was Simon Monjack, the person Ragsdale had as soon as beloved. The man who proposed to her with a diamond ring from Tiffany’s simply two weeks after they met. The daddy of her son.

“The primary feeling I had wasn’t jealousy. It wasn’t: ‘How may he do that?’” she recalled. “It was: ‘That poor girl.’”

Virtually instantly, Ragsdale mentioned she started writing a letter to Murphy. She needed to inform the 29-year-old newlywed that she felt Us Weekly was proper: Monjack was a con man. She needed to inform the star how he’d lied to, cheated on and ghosted her when she was 4 months pregnant with their little one.

However by then, Ragsdale had not been romantically concerned with Monjack for practically a decade. And he’d by no means met Elijah, the boy she claimed was his son. “I believed the letter in all probability would have appeared like me saying: ‘He’s acquired a child. He must pay little one assist and also you’ve acquired some huge cash, so that you pay it for him.’”

She by no means despatched the notice. For the subsequent 14 years, she stored the story personal — till this yr, when filmmakers approached her about taking part in “What Occurred, Brittany Murphy?” The 2-part docuseries, premiering Thursday on HBO Max, investigates Murphy’s unexpected death in 2009, at age 32 — an occasion that has been shrouded in thriller and spawned infinite conspiracy theories.

A headshot of Elizabeth Ragsdale, taken shortly earlier than she mentioned she met Simon Monjack in 1998.

(HBO Max)

Monjack, who himself died in 2010 at age 40, simply six months after Murphy, has lengthy been on the middle of that thriller. Murphy’s reason for demise, according to an autopsy, was pneumonia, anemia and a number of drug intoxication; his was acute pneumonia and extreme anemia. Each had been discovered useless on the Hollywood Hills residence they shared.

An investigation by the Los Angeles County Division of Public Well being dominated out poisonous mould of their home. Forensic specialists defined that traces of heavy metals present in Murphy’s hair, which her father Angelo Bertolotti claimed as evidence of poisoning, had been in step with somebody who often dyed their hair. And thru all of it followers and tabloids alike questioned the character of Murphy’s relationship with Monjack. She had beforehand dated rich performers like Eminem and Ashton Kutcher. He was an impartial movie producer with scant credit to his title and a historical past of authorized and monetary issues, pressured to pay greater than $500,000 in a pair of lawsuits in 2006 and 2007 and with 4 evictions on his report.

Within the HBO Max collection, Murphy’s co-stars and filmmakers allege that Monjack was concerned with Murphy for her cash and likewise managed varied components of her life: He allegedly urged her to shed pounds, forbade her from doing intimate scenes with different males and lower out her brokers and managers.

Cynthia Hill, the director of “What Occurred, Brittany Murphy?” started wanting into Monjack final summer time, when Blumhouse Tv requested if she’d be concerned with pursuing a nonfiction collection in regards to the star. Hill had beforehand made an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary about domestic violence and was concerned with exploring how “you don’t should be a poor girl dwelling in rural North Carolina to be a sufferer of this. Somebody in Hollywood who appears to have all of it may also be one — and Brittany was.”

A teenage girl in a striped shirt

Brittany Murphy as Tai Frasier in 1995’s “Clueless,” one of many roles that shot her to fame.

(CBS Picture Archive/CBS through Getty Photographs)

However even a dozen years after Murphy’s demise, few had been prepared to speak about her. Quite a few kin and members of her administration group declined to take part, although Hill had higher luck with fellow administrators who’d labored with Murphy, like Amy Heckerling (“Clueless”) and Shawn Levy (“Just Married”).

On a tip from former Individuals journal reporter Sara Hammel, Hill turned to Ragsdale, who’d declined to speak within the aftermath of Murphy’s demise. Regardless of time’s passage, Ragsdale recalled, she was hesitant: “Why do I’ve a horse on this race?” Then she spoke to her son, now 22, who inspired her to share the story she’d solely ever written in a yet-to-be-published memoir. “If I may help one girl not do what I did — and what Brittany did — it might be value it,” she mentioned.

Monjack by no means took a paternity check, so Ragsdale offered Hill with electronic mail exchanges between herself and Monjack wherein they mentioned Elijah, in addition to {a photograph} of herself pregnant with Monjack’s mother and father. (The Occasions independently reviewed this documentation.)

Hill additionally spoke with a “checklist of girls” whom Monjack “engaged in the identical sample of habits with” who finally determined to not be within the docuseries, she mentioned. “That additionally gave us confidence in having the ability to consider Elizabeth. We began seeing the parallels between their tales, and it was like, ‘Hmm.’”

A director on a film set

Director Cynthia Hill on the set of “What Occurred, Brittany Murphy?”

(HBO Max)

‘An ideal sufferer’

Ragsdale met Monjack in Paris when she was 33. She’d spent the final decade in New York Metropolis, attempting to make it as an actor however making ends meet by waitressing and dealing as a paralegal. She landed some small gigs — “One Life to Dwell,” an off-Broadway present — and mentioned she misplaced out to Edie Falco for the a part of Carmela on “The Sopranos.” That’s when she determined to maneuver to France to pursue one other dream: writing.

She rented an condominium in Montmartre and compelled herself to finish a sure variety of pages a day. One evening, within the midst of writing, Ragsdale’s cellphone rang. It was one in every of her American associates: “My boyfriend has a buddy on the town who’s good-looking and British. Come out! They wish to take us to dinner.”

Recognizing Monjack on the restaurant, Ragsdale was upset. He was hardly her kind. She favored blond, trim males; he was brunette and heavyset. However as quickly as he began speaking, she mentioned, she was captivated.

“He had these electrical, penetrating eyes,” mentioned Ragsale, now 56. “I simply needed to know extra about him. He’s acquired this charisma that I believed he may appeal anyone. By way of dinner, he has this huge, wealthy chuckle. I simply felt like God had put him there, you already know?”

Inside two weeks, Monjack had taken her to London and proposed to her in the course of Harrods department store. She began speaking to marriage ceremony planners at Cliveden House, a luxurious lodge within the English countryside well-liked with royals. They hung out at a villa in Monaco that she mentioned he instructed her as soon as belonged to Cary Grant.

A woman standing outside the Louvre

Elizabeth Ragsdale, seen right here on the Louvre in France, mentioned she met Simon Monjack whereas dwelling in Paris.

(HBO Max)

He purchased her costly garments and a brand new cellphone that she mentioned he instructed her to make use of solely to name him. Typically he made jabs about her weight — “Honey, I don’t know should you ought to put on these denims” — however she tried to disregard them. She by no means noticed him working and didn’t know the place his cash got here from, however she mentioned she didn’t really feel it was her place to ask.

“I’m an ideal sufferer, as a result of I’m from the South. We go away our doorways unlocked,” she mentioned, talking in a thick Alabama drawl. “I’ve had issues with that. I’ll simply set my purse down and maintain up garments in a store, and folks will go, ‘Put that purse on you, any person’s gonna steal it!’ So I had that mentality. I simply trusted him.”

It was in Monaco that Monjack’s habits started to alter, Ragsdale mentioned. One evening, he needed to have intercourse and she or he didn’t. He stored pushing the problem, she mentioned, and she or he grew upset. Then, she alleged, he abruptly broke down in tears and instructed her he had spinal most cancers. He mentioned their journeys to Monaco had been as a result of the truth that he was receiving experimental shark cartilage remedies there from the physician who had “saved Elizabeth Taylor’s life.” (Alison Bennett, a movie producer who doesn’t know Ragsdale, says within the HBO Max collection that Monjack additionally instructed him in regards to the most cancers therapy.)

Monjack would return from the remedies with a big bandage on his hand saying he was nauseated, in line with Ragsdale. “He all the time needed again rubs and it made me extra affectionate in direction of him, although I didn’t see that till it was throughout,” she mentioned.

A few weeks later, she mentioned he revealed extra distressing information: If he needed to have youngsters, his physician mentioned he’d should do it now earlier than the most cancers remedies ruined his fertility possibilities. Already engaged, Ragsdale went off contraception and rapidly acquired pregnant.

However the being pregnant wasn’t straightforward. Ragsdale was vomiting always. Her associates had been so fearful about her that one in every of them flew to Monaco to assist, Ragsdale mentioned. Upon seeing how emaciated she was, Ragsdale’s buddy insisted Monjack take her to a health care provider. He did, and she or he was admitted to Princess Grace Hospital Centre for a few week, she mentioned. She mentioned she has subsequently requested the hospital for her bloodwork historical past however was instructed information from over twenty years in the past now not exist.

After being discharged from the hospital, Monjack organized for Ragsdale to return to New York. When she walked into her studio condominium there, she known as her fiancé to let him know she had arrived safely.

“Hiya?” she mentioned he requested.

“Simon, I made it,” she answered. “I’m right here in New York and —”

Click on.

She thought one thing was incorrect with the telephones. She known as him again incessantly, however he didn’t reply. After 24 hours of silence, she determined to name his mom, Linda Monjack.

“I mentioned, ‘Linda, the place is Simon?’ She mentioned, ‘Properly, I’ll let you know, Elizabeth. I’ve had a personal detective following him for weeks now and he doesn’t have most cancers. He has not had one surgical procedure. He has bled me dry. I’ve given him the entire cash that I’ve and any cash that I’m going to inherit.’”

Linda Monjack didn’t reply to detailed questions despatched to her by The Occasions by means of Simon’s brother, James. However within the docuseries, she says she didn’t assume her son deliberately lied to anybody about having most cancers. As a result of Simon’s father died at 29 from the illness, his mom says he “in all probability believed” he had it. She additionally acknowledges that she did give Simon “copious quantities of cash. However I gave it willingly and freely. In all probability foolishly, however however, he didn’t cheat me.”

As for Ragsdale, she mentioned the dialog with Monjack’s mom satisfied her to promote her engagement ring — she acquired roughly $3,000 for it — and use the cash to fly to Florida to be together with her sister. There, she mentioned, Linda Monjack visited her and was “treasured,” taking her to a child retailer and buying varied issues for the unborn little one.

Simon Monjack and Ragsdale by no means noticed one another once more.

“I’m a survivor of Simon Monjack, and I consider that Brittany didn’t survive him,” she mentioned. “She wanted any person round her to say: ‘Get your ass to the physician. You’ve gotten pneumonia. You’re sick. Have a look at you.’ He was letting me be sick like that pregnant till my buddy walked in.”

The docuseries means that Murphy was extra prone to sickness as a result of her physique had been weakened by an consuming dysfunction and potential prescription drug use. When she acquired sick, Hill instructed, Monjack was so involved with “outward appearances and what paparazzi would say” that he didn’t wish to take her to the physician.

“I believe she was in such a way of thinking — and, frankly, arrested improvement from being a toddler star — that she didn’t know the best way to make choices for herself. So she trusted the individuals round her to make choices for her,” the director surmised.“ She is absolutely spiraling when he comes alongside. He’s going to supply this stability and this care and luxury and he’s not going to go anyplace. Who wouldn’t fall for any person who adores you? I don’t assume that even when she died she knew who Simon actually was.”

Ragsdale, in the meantime, is hopeful that her story will assist Murphy’s followers perceive why the actor was so taken in by Monjack.

“As a result of they beloved Brittany a lot, and she or he doesn’t have a voice anymore — and I’m not saying I’m Brittany’s voice, however I do have a historical past with him,” she mentioned, starting to tear up. “There’s something there. Nonetheless. This may occasionally sound sappy and like, ‘Oh, she simply desires to make some huge cash on a guide’ and yeah, certain, I do. But when this could deliver mild to a state of affairs a girl is in? That’s what I really need. As a result of these males exist. These narcissists, sociopaths — they’re on the market, and so they prey on us.”

‘What Occurred, Brittany Murphy?’

The place: HBO Max

When: Any time

Score: TV-MA (could also be unsuitable for kids beneath the age of 17)




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