Cause of actor Chris Penn's death still unknown

The cause of United States actor Chris Penn’s death remained undetermined on Thursday after an autopsy, and the coroner’s office has ordered blood toxicology tests.

Penn, the brother of Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn and musician Michael, was found dead on Tuesday in his Santa Monica condominium.

The toxicology test is “just normal procedure for someone who’s 40 and has not seen their doctor”, coroner’s spokesperson Brenda Shafer said on Wednesday.

Penn’s latest film, The Darwin Awards, in which he appears with Winona Ryder and Joseph Fiennes, premiered later in the day at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Ryder, who had known Penn for 19 years, talked about the actor for four minutes during a question-and-answer session with the Sundance audience after the film’s premiere.

“I really hope people go back and watch his movies, because he was such a fantastic actor, and he is going to be so missed,” Ryder said. “And he was also an amazing person, and hilarious and, really, just really a great guy.

“Not just Sean Penn’s little brother, you know? He was Chris Penn.”

“He gave an incredible performance in the film,” writer-director Finn Taylor said before the screening. “I think he is going to be remembered for years to come and we will miss him.”

Chris Penn appeared in numerous films, including Reservoir Dogs, Starsky & Hutch, Rush Hour and Corky Romano.

Corky star Chris Kattan described Penn’s death as “a huge shock”.

“He was an amazing actor and a great comedian,” Kattan said.
“He was such a sweet soul and so funny. He had a really great innocence in his eyes. Of course he’ll be terribly missed.”

Sean Penn’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, issued a statement on Tuesday saying the Penn family “would appreciate the media’s respect of their privacy during this difficult time”. She released no further comment.

Penn’s agent, Cary Berman, of the William Morris Agency, referred calls to Buxbaum. Penn’s manager, Jonathan Brandstein, did not return a call for comment.—Sapa-AP

Associated Press movie writer David Germain in Park City, Utah, contributed to this report

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