05.24.10

What Killed Brittany's Husband?

The death of Simon Monjack, 39, follows five months after that of his actress wife—in the same house, filled with prescription medication. Jacob Bernstein reports on the sometime director's messy Hollywood demise.

When Simon Monjack died in the same house where his wife died five months earlier, the tabloids exploded with allegations of a dark and troubled past.

Celebrity drug addicts, and those who supply them with drugs, have all sorts of ways to try and convince people that they are sober individuals, with no connections to illicit substances. Witness Simon Monjack, who died on Sunday night at the age of 39, amid a torrent of speculation that he and his deceased wife Brittany Murphy had had problems with cocaine and prescription medications.

When his wife died in December, there were pill bottles lying all around the house. But Monjack had explanations: She was hypoglycemic; he had heart problems and survived oral cancer.

Click Image to View Exclusive Images of Brittany Murphy Photographed by Simon Monjack

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Getty Images; Simon Monjack Photography

The final autopsy report later pointed to “multiple drug intoxication,” though it found no evidence of illegal drugs.

Now Monjack is dead, too. And, yet again, reports have surfaced that there were significant amounts of prescription medications in the house. "We're not sure if it is natural causes or a possible accident, maybe because of the prescription medication found there," Ed Winter, the assistant chief coroner in L.A., told People magazine on Monday.

A family spokesman, meanwhile, told the magazine that Monjack was due for a bypass. “I don’t believe he had an overdose,” the spokesman said. “If you have a heart condition, you’re going to have prescription medication for yourself. You’re going to be on some kind of medicine.”

At the time of his death, Monjack, a Brit, was known in Hollywood as a sometime director, with a history of messy romantic entanglements, bad debt, and other legal trouble.

In 2001, he married Simone Bienne, a British TV presenter and self-described “sex and relationship expert.” But five months after their gunshot wedding in Las Vegas, the couple got divorced.

For a spell, Monjack dated Alexandra Kerry, the daughter of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, according to the New York Post.

But Murphy already owned his heart.

The couple met when Murphy was just 17, the actress later told OK Magazine. “We checked in with each other over the years and remained friends,” she said. “I was very patient,” Monjack added.

Shortly after their wedding in 2007, New York Post’s Page Six reported that Murphy’s behavior on the L.A. set of Across the Hall had become “increasingly bizarre.” A major issue, according to the gossip column, was Murphy’s “ever-present oddball husband,” who “lurks around the set and intervenes so much that producers had to call a meeting to discuss how to deal with him.”

Other Hollywood trouble included a spat with director George Hickenlooper, who claimed that Monjack had muscled his way to a producer’s credit on Factory Girl, a biopic of Edie Sedgwick. According to a post by Hickenlooper on the Hollywood Elsewhere blog, Monjack had “nothing to do” with the movie’s development but falsely claimed that the movie’s script had been stolen from him and “held us hostage,” Hickenlooper wrote. “We were forced to settle with him as he held our production over a barrel.” In another post on Hollywood Elsewhere, Hickenlooper wrote about Monjack: “He is a con man and a bad guy. When Brittany married him I warned her and warned her as did so many others.”

Monjack also appeared to have had money trouble. In 2006, he was sued by the New York-based mortgage firm Coutts & Co and forced to pay $470,000 worth of debts on four different homes he lived in during the previous decade, according to the New York Post.

Us Weekly reported other trouble: two warrants for his arrest in connection with credit-card theft and fraud; a $502,910 judgment against him in a case involving a British investment firm and allegations from a former fiancée, who claimed Monjack gave her an engagement ring, passing it off as a real diamond, when in fact it was a colorless synthetic stone.

Monjack, a Brit, was known in Hollywood as a sometime director, with a history of messy romantic entanglements, bad debt, and other legal trouble.

Monjack’s explanation for the bad press? Jealousy.

He told journalists that he didn’t fit the Hollywood image of what Murphy’s husband should look like. Hollywood was “a village,” he said on the Today show. “And once you upset the villagers, they talk, and they gossip, and they rumor-monger, and they have blood on their hands. I hope they wash them with very hot water, because the way they treated Brittany Murphy while she was alive was terrible.”

Just weeks before her death, Murphy lost a voiceover gig in the second installment of the animated film franchise Happy Feet. After her death, it bothered Monjack to read allegations that he was responsible for the decline of his wife’s career. In interviews, he defended himself and said that his wife had trusted people she shouldn’t have trusted.

But while Hollywood turned on Monjack, one person remained faithful to the end: Murphy’s mother Sharon. According to a CNN report, it was Sharon who found the unconscious Monjack in his bedroom and called for help on Sunday night.

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Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. Previously, he was a features writer at WWD and W Magazine. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.