Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sayonara, Nice Guy Eddie

It's always sad when someone dies. It's a little creepy when someone dies who's younger than you are.

So I was both sad and a little bit creeped out tonight when I heard about the sudden death of actor Chris Penn, the 43-year-old brother of Academy Award winner Sean Penn.

Chris Penn was one of those character players who always got cast as the best friend of the handsome lead. As a younger actor, he was the best friend of Tom Cruise's high school football star in All the Right Moves, the best friend of Kevin Bacon's rebel with a cause in Footloose, and the best friend of Eric Stoltz's sincere romantic in The Wild Life. (Ironically, the latter was screenwriter Cameron Crowe's follow-up to the film that made Chris Penn's brother a star — Fast Times at Ridgemont High.)

As he got older and bulkier, Chris Penn played a lot of tough-guy roles, including his memorable turn as Nice Guy Eddie Cabot in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Many of his tough guys were lawmen, as when he played one of the members of Nick Nolte's rogue "Hat Squad" in Mulholland Falls. He even starred as the voice of a cop in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. He wasn't his brother's equal as an actor — not many people are — but Chris always gave solid performances with a hint of flawed humanity.

My condolences to his family.

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