The entertainment business lost another actor recently. Chris Penn, best known as Willard Hewitt in “Footloose” and Nice Guy Eddie in “Reservoir Dogs” died Tuesday, Jan. 24 in Santa Monica, Calif. at his home of an unknown cause. He was only 40-years old. Penn was born in Los Angeles, Calif. on Oct. 10, 1965. He was the son of well-known television director Leo Penn and actress Eileen Ryan, and was also brothers with distinguished actor Sean Penn and musician Michael Penn.
Penn started acting when he was 12 and made his film debut in 1979’s “Charlie and the Talking Buzzard.” He had a small role in the 1983 teen movie “All the Right Moves” starring Tom Cruise. It was in 1984 where he had his first big role in “Footloose,” playing Kevin Bacon’s lovable and awkward friend Willard who could not dance. He starred in the movie’s most memorable scene where Bacon teaches Penn how to dance.
Penn was typically known for being a supporting actor in his movies. He co-starred in “At Close Range” in 1986 along side brother Sean and his mother. His other memorable role was in 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs” playing Eddie, who was involved with orchestrating a Los Angeles jewel heist. Penn’s latest movie “The Darwin Awards” co-starring Winona Ryder was scheduled to have premiered one day after his death at the Sundance Film Festival.
Investigators of Penn’s death suspect that he died of natural causes or an accident of some sort. Penn used multiple drugs in the past and suffered from an illness, which has not been disclosed to the public yet. The Penn family wanted “the media’s respect of their privacy during the difficult time” (news.bbc.co.uk).
“I really hope people go back and watch his movies,” Ryder stated at the Sundance Film Festival. “He was such a fantastic actor. He was not just Sean’s little brother. He was Chris Penn.