Eileen Ryan Dies: Stars Pay Tribute to Veteran Actress, Mother of Sean, Christopher & Michael Penn

Eileen Ryan
Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Tributes have been pouring in for actress Eileen Ryan, the mother of actors Sean and Christopher Penn and musician Michael Penn, who has died at 94.

Ryan passed away on Sunday, October 9, at her home in Malibu. The death comes a week before Ryan would have celebrated her 95th birthday on October 16.

Ryan was a prolific actor, having appeared in over 60 television shows and films over her decades-long career. She had roles in numerous classic TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Matlock, ER, Little House of the Prairie, Ally McBeal, Private Practice, NYPD Blue, Without a Trace, and Grey’s Anatomy.

Born on October 16, 1927, in New York City, Ryan made her first on-screen appearance in 1955 in an episode of Goodyear Television Playhouse. In 1957, she married the actor Leo Penn, remaining together for over 40 years until Leo’s death in 1998. The couple had three children together, Michael, Sean, and Christopher, all of whom went on to have their own careers in show business.

Ryan starred alongside her sons Sean and Chris in the 1986 film At Close Range, where she portrayed the brothers’ grandmother. She also appeared in the drama film The Crossing Guard, which Sean directed.

Michael took to Twitter on Monday to share the news of his mother’s passing. “We lost mom yesterday,” he wrote alongside a broken-heart emoji and a picture of his mother in her younger years.

The tributes quickly poured in as news of Ryan’s death spread across social media. Director Dean Devlin, who worked with Ryan on the film Eight Legged Freaks, tweeted, “I had the pleasure and privilege to work with extremely talented and gifted woman on the film 8 Legged Freaks. The world lost a giant. RIP Eileen.”

Big Sky actress Rosanna Arquette wrote, “Rest in peace Eileen Ryan .you were a wonderful woman and actor and gave birth to gifted artists. Bless you.”

Fans also paid tribute, with one Twitter user writing, “R.I.P. to actress Eileen Ryan Penn, an astounding actress and the mother of Sean Penn and Chris Penn.”