By Vanessa Juarez
Updated December 29, 2006 at 04:00 PM EST

Trust us when we say that Brittany Murphy looked far prettier last week — in skin-tight leggings and a red velvet blazer over a Seinfeldian puffy shirt — than she does in the first scene of her new film, The Dead Girl (pictured), which also stars Toni Collette, Josh Brolin, James Franco and Marcia Gay Harden. (The film opens Friday in limited release and goes wider on Jan. 12.) At a press junket in Manhattan last Monday, Murphy braved an interview with PopWatch after many, many cups of espresso and nearly 9 hours of talking to journalists about her role as — you guessed it! — the dead girl. The 29-year-old was surprisingly spunky as she discussed her dark new film, her kid-friendly cartoon work (including Happy Feet), and her personal Must List:

You must be so tired of talking about The Dead Girl. If you could talk about anything right now, what would it be?
I’m really excited about going home [to New Jersey] for the holidays.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
I never really make solid resolutions. I think if there’s something one needs to change with oneself, it doesn’t have to happen in the New Year. You can do that any time you please — not that it’s not a good inspirational tactic for the people that it works for.

All right, so this is a bad segue, but The Dead Girl. You take on another self-destructive character, which you do so well. How’d the role come about?
I was asked by Karen Moncrieff, our writer-director extraordinaire, to play the role of Krista, who is the dead girl. I was a huge fan of hers from Blue Car, her first film. It was so raw and real and honest. Her cinematic signature is very specific, and I adore it. Anyway, cut to me reading the script, [which] reads like a psychological thriller, especially “The Stranger,” the first vignette of five. I realized that the journey really is the destination. I was so engrossed in these characters that were so layered, so richly written that I didn’t care who did it. Or why. Or any of the things that you wonder while reading a psychological thriller. And I felt as if I was a voyeur, sort of walking through a desolate neighborhood looking into different people’s windows.

Which is sort of a tease, you know, just being able to peek in.The vignettes make you want to know more about those people’s stories.
Exactly. Krista definitely hit a soft spot with me.

Watching it, I realized Krista’s favorite word is F—.
It seems as if she definitely uses the F quite often.

Do you have a favorite curse word or phrase?
Dag nabbit.

Dag nabbit?
I’m not going to cuss in print.

We can use asterisks and question marks.
No. I’m taking the high road. Thanks though for the offer

It’s sort of funny that Dead Girl and Happy Feet are going to be out at the same time.
It’s a bit ironic. I’ve been working on Happy Feetfor four and a half years. And I love that film. I’ve had the goodfortune of being part of films that were pop culturally very effective.Clueless and 8 Mile both really did leak into the mainstream. But Happy Feetis just a transcendent film. It’s refreshing to know that so manypeople actually went to the theater to see a film that has suchbeautiful messages, such as embracing one’s own individuality. It’s themost universal film I’ve ever been able to be a part of. It’s for ages2 to 202!

I haven’t actually seen it yet. I’m waiting to go home and take my nephew, who’s about to be three.
Oh, he’d love it.

I took him to his first movie this year: Cars. It was so cool towitness a child’s first movie theater experience. He was freaked out bythe darkness and then wowed when the movie finally came on.
Yes. I agree. I have little nieces and nephews that… they’re three aswell, boy and girl twins that were both dancing on their seats as theywere watching it. It’s extraordinary. Those are the important things inlife.

You’re also going to be the voice of Tinker Bell, which I think is supposed to come out next year?
That’s true, yes. Tink’s an icon, and Disney decided to give her avoice. They thought anyone that left such a lasting impression onpeople without ever having spoken a word deserved a movie of her own.So she speaks for the first time in history. We’ve already recorded it,and it explores what Tinker Bell’s life was like when she’s not withPeter Pan and the Lost Boys. She lives in a place called Pixie Hollow,and you meet her fairy friends. It’s really fantastic.

Since we’re on the topic, I thought it would be fun to go downmemory lane with a little pop culture from our generation. So I’ll giveyou a couple of pop culture icons and you pick which you like more.
Go for it, babe.

Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Snow White, or Alice in Wonderland?

Saved by the Bell or California Dreams?
Uh, pass. Next question. I take the fifth on that one.

Cabbage Patch Kids or Barbie?
Oh jeez, that’s like Sophie’s Choice. [Laughs] Which would you pick?

Cabbage Patch.
I’m going to have to go with Cabbage Patch as well, because it was sonew when I was little. It was so exciting and thrilling. But I have tosay that Barbie was always so glamorous to me. I found her veryglamorous. So I appreciate them both for different reasons. My firstcabbage patch kid’s name was Lindsay.

Hmm, I’m a bad parent. I don’t remember the name of mine. But nowthat I think back, I do remember one of my friends giving me a blackeye with one.
No? From a Cabbage Patch Kid? Oh, because they were plastic. Oh, I’m sorry. Ow.

Okay. So Duran Duran or Depeche Mode?
Duran Duran.

Skittles or Starburst?
Um, long-lasting flavor or… I’m not really a big candy eater.

Weren’t you in a Skittles commercial once?
Skittles was the first job I ever had, so I’d have to represent. Skittles.

I’m blanking. Prom. Did you go? What was the most memorable song to dance to?
I was working during my own personal prom so I went to prom with one ofmy best friends in the world. And his school was very small and theydidn’t dance. It was really weird. No one danced.

Hypothetically, what would your song have been?
Does it have to be a slow song? Because we were friends. Um, something by Tony! Toni! Toné! or TLC or En Vogue. [Laughs]

Okay, back to 2006. Do you have a preference over playing one typeof a character over another. There’s the voiceovers, then the romanticcomedies, then the self-destructive characters.
I don’t. It definitely has more to do with the material. I was at apoint in my life where I was in my mid-20s where I realized that I wasspending more hours of the day at work. My job at work is to becomeother people or let them become me, and if I was going to be [somebodyelse] more hours of the day than I am myself, I thought it would be alot healthier to be people that were closer to reality.

Which we hope is as far away from Dead Girl as possible.
Exactly. And it is. And as much as I love the gritty characters, I liketo play all sorts of characters. I’m an actor. I love to create.

Is there an actress from any sort of time period that you aspire to be or you look to for inspiration?
I love Clara Bow. She was the original “It girl.” The phrase was coinedfor her. It was the 1920s, when any form of naturalistic acting wasn’tseen on screen before. She really cinematically changed things byshowing natural emotions within that heightened reality. She was also asex symbol at the same time. I love Giulietta Masina, who did a lot ofFellini films. She’s brilliant. And Meryl Streep. And Barbra Streisand.I respect multi-taskers so much. Anyone that has a music career and anacting career I think is pretty fantastic.

What’s on your Must List right now?
I love the Beatles’ Anthology,Disc 1. It’s so random, but fabulous. And I’ve been listening to a lotof Radiohead lately. I go through phases of all sorts of differentthings, and I’ll overplay it. Also, an artist that I love thatis not very popular is Rose Murphy. Or maybe she is. She was deemed theBetty Boop of jazz in the 1950s, and her music is incredible.

Have you seen any movies lately that you like?
I haven’t seen movies. I’ve been traveling. I was working in Tokyo. Tokyo’s on my must list. I just spent three months there.

What were you there for?
It’s called The Ramen Girl,and I’m producing it. I had a very incredibly rewarding, just amazingexperience. It was a lot of hard work. I love producing. My dream as aproducer is to be able to build a company that can be a safe haven forartists, for directors and for writers and actors to do what they dobest and let them have final edit. I’d like to build something to thateffect.

So first you’re The Dead Girl, and now you’re going to be The Ramen Girl. What girl are you going to play next?
It’s very bizarre. I don’t know yet. I’ll make sure it has “Girl” in it.

What ever happened to the Janis Joplin movie?
The music rights were… yeah, that is not happening.

There are so many biopics in the pipeline, and that one’s been trying to get made for like 30 years.
Yes. The closest they’ve come to making it was The Rose. I was so sad. This was 8 years ago. “Break another little piece of my heart…”

Well, I think that’s about it.
Thank you, sweet one.

Go enjoy your night.
Well I have to work. We have a Q&A for Dead Girl.

Just don’t give them anything you gave me.
Oh yeah, I’m sure the Writers Guild of America is definitely going to ask me whether I prefer Barbie or Cabbage Patch Kids.