Brittany Murphy Rocks  | Return to Sender

Brittany Murphy, Movie Rock Star?

Did you know Brittany Murphy can sing and play the guitar? No? Well, I didn't either. But it turns out she can, and we may soon see her display her talents on the big screen.

Murphy, currently in theatres with "Uptown Girls," has been talking to actress-director Rosanna Arquette about starring in Arquette's feature-film directorial debut. Last night, at a New York screening of Arquette's documentary, "Searching for Debra Winger," the knockout hyphenate said it's all in the planning stages.

"It's about two girls and a guy," Arquette said. "One of them is a singer. Amos Poe wrote the script. It's called 'The Guitar,' and Brittany would be perfect."

Poe, who is also a Hollywood hyphenate, wrote the great script for the 1988 film "Rocket Gibraltar."

Arquette is also getting a second documentary together for filming. This one is about musicians and their lives. Having dated or married many of the world's best, it's a subject she knows well. The hit Toto record, "Rosanna," was written about her, for example.

But what about "Searching for Debra Winger"? Screened at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival out of competition, the $600,000 doc was a labor of love for Arquette.

It's currently playing on Showtime and should not be missed.

Last night, InStyle magazine threw Arquette and the film a swinging soiree at the Bryant Park Hotel to call attention to the cable airings.

Rosanna's "After Hours" co-star and old friend Griffin Dunne turned up with his fiancée, and the rest of the crowd wasn't too shabby either: Marisa Berenson, Ann Jones with daughter Annabelle, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Röhm of "Law & Order," talent manager extraordinaire Johnnie Planco and actress-comedienne Ann Magnuson all made the scene.

All of them, along with the InStyle staff, meant that there were more beautiful women per square inch than should be allowed during very humid weather.

"Searching" was inspired by Arquette's realization that Winger, with several Oscar nominations, had essentially quit show business around 1996.

Arquette wanted to know why, and how other actresses in Hollywood were faring as they neared the age of 40. She got quite a group of them on film, too, from Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave to Gwyneth Paltrow and Ally Sheedy.

In the end, of course, Winger — who since the interview started making films again — very succinctly explains her decision.

Assembled around different subject areas, "Searching" is never boring and not at all a feminist screed. The interviews are remarkably fun, and show softer sides of some actresses who are often thought to be hard.

Redgrave, for example, says she'd probably retire if she could afford to, admits to having been an absentee mother, and says what she really likes to do now is baby-sit her grandkids.

A lot of the younger actresses — Julianna Margulies, Sheedy, Martha Plimpton — are sanguine about being cast as "the girlfriend" in male-oriented movies. Samantha Mathis explains why she's working more in TV than in movies. And Daryl Hannah relates a funny story about playing the mother of a 16-year-old on film.

There are some casting couch stories, too. Whoopi Goldberg appears intermittently and keeps the whole thing light with her shtick about growing older and not having plastic surgery.

There's also an interesting subplot in "Searching" concerning Arquette and her sister, actress Patricia, which sheds some light on her own famous family. (Their brother, David, is married to Courteney Cox of "Friends." Their grandfather was Charlie Weaver, aka Cliff Arquette Sr., one of the original "Hollywood Squares.")

My favorite thing that Arquette caught — and something that should be used by the American Film Institute or the Academy for historical purposes — is an absolutely mesmerizing monologue by Jane Fonda on acting.

Fonda, for me, is still the great American actress. Her description of finding "the circle of light" in only eight of her 49 films — a "sweet spot" where everything comes together — is just pure genius.

One trivia note in "Searching" is hearing some of the actresses discuss their relationships when the film was made, in 2001. Since then, Sharon Stone has split from her husband, Salma Hayek has parted company with Edward Norton, and Fonda is completely severed from Ted Turner.

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Here's an address correction from a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago in this space. It turns out that HELP, the Hollywood Education Literacy Project, is in a different building than its parent organization, the Church of Scientology. It's about a mile away, on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and not housed at the group's headquarters or Celebrity Centre.