Brittany Murphy and Anna Nicole Smith Were Similar Targets for Howard Stern — but That’s Not All They Had in Common
The tragic stories of Clueless actor Brittany Murphy and ’90s model extraordinaire Anna Nicole Smith seem to have a few striking similarities. First, both were once bright Hollywood stars who found themselves targeted by the same cruelty in the press. Next, they both died suddenly in their thirties, and only a few years apart.
But those weren’t the only things Murphy and Smith had in common. A few details of their public setbacks and celebrity deaths are eerily the same.
Brittany Murphy and Anna Nicole Smith are icons of the ’90s
Though both Murphy and Smith died more than a decade ago, they still remain emblems of their era. As a star of Clueless and a voice actor on King of the Hill, Murphy solidified her place as an iconic ’90s actor. She continued to enjoy success into the new millennium, lending her voice to the 2006 animated hit, Happy Feet.
It seems Murphy’s press downfall began with speculation about her husband, Simon Monjack, and alleged intoxication on sets. She was eventually dropped from Happy Feet Two. And just before her death, she was released from the last movie for which she was hired, and after only a day of filming.
As for Smith, she was one of the modeling world’s “it girls” for the decade. She landed the coveted honor of Playmate of the Year in 1993, the same year she was chosen to succeed Claudia Schiffer as the Guess girl. But her marriage to oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 — when he was 89 and she was 26 — made her a target for some parts of the press.
After a little more than a year of marriage, Marshall died. Smith was not provided with half of his fortune as she said she was promised, so she pursued it legally. For the record, Celebrity Net Worth reports Marshall was worth $2 billion at the time of his death.
She developed addictions to Vicodin and alcohol that required treatment in 1996, so she stayed at the Betty Ford Center. Even after that information became public, Smith was openly hounded about her sobriety, her weight, and her challenge to her late husband’s estate until her death.
Howard Stern body-shamed both stars while they were alive
Murphy and Smith were also both targeted by Howard Stern, who body-shamed them in separate interviews. Stern pressured Smith to get on a scale during one of her visits to his show. Even after Smith told Stern she thought he was being a “jerk,” he continued to pester her. “I know I’m a big woman. So what?” she eventually asked him.
Murphy wasn’t present when he took aim at her. In the HBO documentary film What Happened, Brittany Murphy?, a clip of an interview Ashton Kutcher did on The Howard Stern Show is revisited. In it, host Howard Stern talks to Kutcher about dating Murphy, who he called “the fat chick” from Clueless.
Anna Nicole Smith and Brittany Murphy both collapsed from illness and intoxication prior to their deaths
After having daughter, Dannielynn Birkhead, only three days before the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, Smith seemingly spiraled into debilitating heartbreak. She died on Feb. 8, 2007 at the age of 39 after collapsing in her hotel room alone. The coroner noted her cause of death was accidental overdose, but she’d been battling both illness and infection leading up to her death, according to Today.
Similarly, when Murphy died at 32 on Dec. 20, 2009, her cause of death was eventually determined to be the combined effects of anemia, pneumonia, and multi-drug intoxication. Also like Smith, she collapsed and was never revived. But she was in her own bathroom at home, and her husband and mother were both home with her.
So, from interesting marriages to body remarks from Stern to the ways they died, Murphy and Smith have more in common than first meets the eye.
How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.