Filmmaker Alex Keshishian considered shutting down production on Brittany Murphy's final movie

Brittany Murphy and Alex Keshishian at the 2006 premiere of Love & Other Disasters

Over a decade on, the 2010 death of actor Brittany Murphy remains a captivating and troubling case. Murphy’s official cause of death was pneumonia, but as the 2021 HBO Max documentary What Happened, Brittany Murphy? spotlighted, there remains a strong air of mystery around Murphy’s all-too-short career and tragic death.

Filmmaker Alex Keshishian is one of the select few who got a front-row seat to Murphy’s luminous charisma as a performer. Keshishian directed Murphy in her final film, the 2006 rom-com Love & Other Disasters, which also starred Matthew Rhys and Catherine Tate.

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“Brittany was an amazing light,” Keshishian tells The Independent in a new interview. “But she had a lot of demons.”

Despite the glow emanating from his leading lady, Keshishian doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of working with someone in a self-destructive space. Keshishian says Love & Other Disasters was his worst experience in filmmaking, in part because Murphy was struggling and he wanted her to be safe.

“I was making it in the city I loved, with an amazing crew and an amazing producer, but it was troubled. Because I had a troubled actress in the lead,” he shares. “I was protective of her. I considered shutting down the movie, but that would have put 70 crew members out of work. So we carried on... I think that affected me.”

That decision to carry on and some of Keshishian’s clear regrets about it inform the director’s current process behind the camera. Most recently, Keshishian directed the 2022 Selena Gomez documentary My Mind & Me, which follows Gomez through an especially turbulent period for the star emotionally, physically, and mentally. Keshishian and Gomez first began working on the film in 2016, but after only a few weeks, Keshishian chose to stop rolling when he sensed Gomez just wasn’t well. It’s a decision he says he likely wouldn’t have made 20 years ago.

“You start realizing movies are what you do—they’re not the be-all and end-all,” he reflects. “That’s why in 2016, I was like, ‘This isn’t right—I don’t want to film this.’ Selena needed to live through that and hopefully get better and figure it all out. If I was still 24, I probably wouldn’t have stopped. I would have been, like, ‘Oh, this fascinates me—let’s just keep rolling.’ But I do hope that I’ve gotten wiser with age. I hope I’ve gotten more compassionate.”

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