Actor Chris Penn (died in 2006), the brother of Sean Penn and Michael Penn, gave an impressive acting performance as Jerry Kaiser in Robert Altman’s ensemble movie Short Cuts (1993) and took home a Golden Globe Special Award and a Venice Film Festival Award. The late Penn earned his second Venice Film Festival Award for playing Chez Tempio in the crime drama The Funeral (1996). The actor had taken part in numerous films (primarily with supporting roles), such as At Close Range (1986), Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), Rush Hour (1998) and Corky Romano (2001). He will also be seen in the upcoming King of Sorrow (2006) and Aftermath (2007, as Tony Bricker).
Chris Penn was found dead at his condo in January 2006, reportedly of an enlarged heart. At the time of Penn’s death, there was valium, morphine, marijuana, an antihistamine and a high level of codeine in his system. However, the drugs did not play a significant role in his departure. On Chris’ demise, brother Sean Penn commented on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” “He had certainly been a fantastically self-abusing guy over periods of his life, but that wasn’t the case in the end. I mean, it was a natural death; but a natural death that was brought on by some hard living, but particularly weight.”
Karate Black Belt
Childhood and Family:
On June 10, 1965 (some mentioned 1962), in L.A., Christopher Penn was born to director/actor Leo Penn (born on August 27, 1921, died on September 5, 1998) and actress Eileen Ryan. He was the younger brother of actors Michael Penn (also musician, born on August 1, 1958) and Sean Penn (born on August 17, 1960).
As part of a performing family, Chris began acting at age 12 at L.A.’s Loft Studio and studied acting under Peggy Feury. The black belt holder in karate also competed as a heavyweight wrestler in high school. He lived with partner Steffiana De La Cruz from 1993 to 1999.
On January 24, 2006, Chris was found dead at his Santa Monica condominium with no signs of foul play, according to the Los Angeles County Coroners Office. Although the toxicologists reported there was a cocktail of drugs in Chris’ system when he died, the official cause of the death was an enlarged heart. He was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in L.A., near his father’s site.
Chris Penn earned his first screen credit as Pete in Charlie and the Talking Buzzard (1979). Several years later, he appeared in an episode of “Magnum, P.I” (1982) and played B.J. Jackson in Francis Ford Coppola’s star-studded Rumble Fish (1983).
Penn had his first starring role in the drama comedy The Wild Life (1984), where he was cast as Tom Drake. He then shared the screen with father Leo in North Beach and Rawhide (1985, TV) and brother Sean in the crime drama At Close Range (1986). The actor was also seen taking a supporting role in Made in USA (1987), Best of the Best (1989), an episode of “The Young Riders” (1990) and the Christian Slater-starring Mobsters (1991).
In 1992, Penn was famous as a mob boss named Nice Guy Eddie Cabot in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The actor then joined director Robert Altman and played Jerry Kaiser in the 22-actor ensemble movie Short Cuts (1993), in which his superb portrayal brought in a Golden Globe Special award and a Venice Film Festival award for Best Ensemble Cast. After taking part in Imaginary Crimes (1994) and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995, as homophobic cop Sheriff Dollard), the prolific actor won his second Venice Film Festival award, this time for Best Supporting Actor, for his role as Chez Tempio in the crime drama The Funeral (1996).
Penn later starred as a mysterious fugitive in the indie film The Boys Club (1997), played Clive Cod in the comedy thriller Rush Hour (1998), joined director Nick Stagliano in the dark comedy The Florentine (1999), costarred opposite Stellan Skarsgård and Paul Bettany in the comedy thriller Kiss Kiss (Bang Bang) (2000) and carried out the turn of mafia son Peter Romano in the mob comedy Corky Romano (2001). Within a year, the narrator of the reality series “AFP: American Fighter Pilot” (2002) was picked by writer David E. Kelley to play Waylon Shaw in the brief CBS drama series “The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire” (2003).
Penn, whose voice was heard as Officer Eddie Pulaski in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004), tried a hand at producing with the direct-to-video crime drama Juarez: Stages of Fear (2005), in which he also carried out a role. Before his death, the actor carried out the role of Tom in the adventure comedy movie The Darwin Awards (2006) and Freddie in the low budget feature Holly (2006).
In addition, he took part in Damian Lee’s upcoming drama thriller King of Sorrow, which is slated for release in 2006. Chris Penn will also be seen a year after his death in the crime thriller Aftermath (2007), starring as Tony Bricker, alongside Anthony Michael Hall and Tony Danza.
- Venice Film Festival: Best Supporting Actor, The Funeral, 1996
- Golden Globe: Special Award - Best Ensemble Cast, Short Cuts, 1993
- Venice Film Festival: Best Ensemble Cast, Short Cuts, 1993