Acclaimed actress Eileen Brennan died Sunday at her home in Burbank, Calif., it was revealed Tuesday. She was 80 years old, the New York Times reported. She had been working in the entertainment business for nearly 20 years before her 1973 breakthrough performance as Billie, a madam, in “The Sting” made her a household name.
According to the Internet Movie Database, Brennan is best known for playing the quirky Mrs. Peacock in 1985’s “Clue” and Tess Skeffington in 1976’s “Murder By Death.” The younger generation might know her as The Cat Lady in the 2001’s horror film “Jeepers Creepers.”
But fans most likely remember the veteran actress from films like “The Last Picture Show” and “Private Benjamin,” which earned her an Oscar nomination. Though she never won an Academy Award, the curly-haired Hollywood star won an Emmy for “Private Benjamin” in 1981 and a Golden Globe for the same series in 1982.
“Eileen Brennan was a brilliant actress, a tough & tender woman and a comic angel; RIP, pal,” tweeted Michael McKean, who played alongside her in “Clue” as Mr. Green.
Eileen Brennan was a brilliant actress, a tough & tender woman and a comic angel; RIP, pal. #irreplaceable
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— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) July 30, 2013
Though she achieved success professionally, Brennan’s life wasn’t without struggle. In October 1982 she was hit by a car and suffered from multiple injuries to her legs and jaw. Because of the brutal accident, one of her eyeballs was pulled from its socket and several bones in her face were broken. Her severe injuries left her with an addiction to to prescription pain pills, which eventually led her to be dependent on antidepressants and antianxiety medication, The Hollywood Reporter wrote.
“It was my only hope,” she told People magazine in 1985, according to THR. “I had reached the stage where I was taking anything could get my hands on.” She also was a breast-cancer survivor.
Eventually, Brennan began to speak openly about addiction. “It’s so horrible and it can be so disastrous, yet there’s something about the sensitivity of the human being that has to face it,” she said in a 1996 interview, as quoted by the Times. “We’re very sensitive people with a lot of introspection, and you get saved or you don’t get saved.”
Survivors include her sons Patrick and Sam Lampson, who she had when she was married to David John Lampson from 1968 to 1974. She also leaves behind a sister, Kathleen Howard, and two grandchildren, Liam and Maggie.