December 22, 2009 07:00 AM

At the end of filming the thriller Something Wicked last summer, Brittany Murphy gave her costar Robert Blanche a big hug and told him, “Take care of those girls” – his three daughters, whom the actress adored.

“She was very nervous but she was present [and] still,” recalls Blanche. “That’s where you get your hope from that she was going to be OK. I said to her, ‘Take care of yourself and have fun, and hope I see you again soon.’ Now that’s not going to happen.”

While the wait continues for answers to how Murphy died at just 32, her Something Wicked colleagues are reflecting on an actress who was both talented and troubled.

On the set in Eugene, Oregon, Blanche got to know Murphy and felt she was slowly climbing out of a dark place as she attempted to get her career – and her life – back on track.

“She was underweight – she was struggling with that,” Blanche recalls. “Her weight represented some sort of struggle for her. We talked a little about food, and you don’t want to say, ‘Geez Brittany, you’re too thin,’ but she seemed much too thin.”

Still, he says, over many conversations he also saw the beginnings of a potential recovery, and of redemption.

Prayers for Strength

“I was worried about her and I was hopeful for her,” Blanche says. “There was a strength there, still something there to be hopeful for. You could see there was this person who was strong and was moving in a better direction. [She was] the kind of person you want to pull for. I really hoped she’d get there and to hear that she didn’t, it’s pretty awful.”

Something Wicked executive producer Scott Chambers says a recent illness didn’t help Murphy. “She addressed her weight with me on the first day we met,” says Chambers. “She apologized and said she’d been ill for about a week. After the first day she seemed to be a bit better. She was a trouper.”

But more recently she happier, he says. Another producer on the film spoke to Murphy and her husband, Simon Monjack, just three days ago. “They were both in good spirits,” Chambers says. “They said they recapped their year and the highlights as a tradition, and filming in Oregon was one of them.”

Baby Plans

Murphy had said in the past she wanted children, and Blanche says she was hoping to do it soon.

“She had talked about wanting to have a child, to get healthy enough to have a child,” Blanche remembers. “She loved kids, she said she’d had some difficulty and talked about her mom quite a bit. She brought it up a lot, the importance of her family.”

But he says Murphy, who Blanche admits was looking “sallow” last summer (a coroner official also referred to her as a "small woman"), seemed to realize she wasn’t quite strong enough yet to be pregnant.

“She wanted to have them, but needed to get strong first,” he says. “Some people get lost and don’t realize they’re not up to par. She realized it, and thought, ‘I need to get stabilized with weight, life, get my career back in order, to where I can afford to take time.’ That’s why there were are all these movies she was working on.”

Trouble on Film Sets

Blanche says Murphy had some trouble at the start of filming Something Wicked, which will be released next year, but that her difficulty filming seemed to be nerves.

“She was dedicated, and concerned that things go well, and that was why that first day on the set was extra intense,” Blanche says. “I remember shooting the scene and I really wanted to help her get through [it].”

Executive producer Chambers also says Murphy kicked into gear after that first day and was nothing but professional. “It didn’t come across as well as it could have,” he says of her performance in that first scene. “But the next day she was a feeling better and we had no other issues the rest of filming.”

Adds Blanche, “There was this certain professionalism about her where she didn’t want to come out and say, ‘Look, I’m having a hard time, I’m going to get this.”

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