Valderrama on Chris Penn: 'We Loved Him'

Valderrama on Chris Penn: 'We Loved Him'
Chris Penn
Jeffrey Mayer/Wireimage

01/26/2006 08:00AM

Costars and crewmembers of The Darwin Awards remembered the late Chris Penn at the movie's Sundance premiere on Wednesday.

The 6', 4", 310-lb. Penn, 40, was found dead in his Santa Monica condominium on Tuesday. The cause remained undetermined despite an autopsy performed Wednesday just hours before the Sundance premiere.

"It's very sad for all of us," Darwin costar Wilmer Valderrama told PEOPLE about Penn's death. In the film, which stars Winona Ryder and Joseph Fiennes and is based on the Web site that lists gross real-life examples of human folly, Penn appears as a driver who makes the fatal mistake of pulling on to very thin ice.

"Winona stood up tonight after the screening and talked about how amazing he was and how much we all loved him," said Valderrama. "She wanted to acknowledge what had just happened, and it was very sweet."

Valderrama called Penn "an incredibly talented actor and just a very wonderful person. It's so sad. We all feel it's a very big loss."

After the screening, Ryder said of Penn during a question-and-answer session: "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. ... Not just Sean Penn's little brother, you know? He was Chris Penn."

Toxicology tests have been ordered on Penn, which Los Angeles County coroner's spokeswoman Brenda Shafer said is "just normal procedure for someone who's 40 and has not seen their doctor."

Penn's body was discovered in a bed inside his residence, located in a four-story condominium complex near the beach, said Capt. Ed Winter of the county coroner's office. Penn's housekeeper called authorities to the condominium complex, Winter said.

Penn, with more than 50 credits to his name, appeared in such films as Reservoir Dogs, At Close Range, Mulholland Falls, Short Cuts and Footloose.

The California-native hailed from a show-business family: In addition to his Oscar-winning brother Sean, his brother Michael is a musician; his father, Leo, was a TV director; and mother Eileen Ryan is an actress who appeared in the films I Am Sam and Magnolia.

Sean Penn, 45, is said to have gone into seclusion since learning of his brother's passing.

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