DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST
Is nothing sacred? A fracas broke out yesterday at the funeral for actor Chris Penn when a paparazzo got too close for grieving brother Sean's comfort.
Sean Penn, 45, became irate over the shutterbug's intrusion at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, Calif., sources said.
The scuffle soon involved "Rumor Has It..." actor Mark Ruffalo, who snatched the memory card from the photographer's camera, the sources said.
The Penn family has been hard hit by the sudden death of character actor Chris, 40, whose body was found Jan. 24 in his apartment. An autopsy failed to reveal the cause of death, and the results of toxicology tests are pending.
Mourners who turned out to pay their respects to the "Reservoir Dogs" and "Footloose" actor were angry that the family's mourning had been so rudely interrupted.
"It was private property, it's a gated cemetery. That guy didn't belong there," said a friend. "It's disgusting that Sean couldn't bury his brother in peace."
A spokeswoman for Penn said she wasn't aware of the dustup.
"The Penn family, with the loving support of family and longtime friends, buried their youngest son and brother, Chris, today at a private service," said spokeswoman Mara Buxbaum. "I have no knowledge of an incident and have no intention of disturbing the family at this time."
It's not the first time hotheaded Sean has had run-ins with paparazzi. In 1987, while married to media magnet Madonna, the actor spent 32 days in jail for assaulting a photographer.
One source said it was no surprise that the Oscar winner had become so upset at what he would feel was an invasion of his brother's funeral. "If you violate his personal space, he goes berserk."
Culver City Police said no complaints had been filed in the latest incident.
With many members of the family in show biz, it's no surprise the Penns attract so much attention. The brothers' father, Leo Penn, who died in 1998, was a director, and mother Eileen Ryan is an actress.
Michael Penn, older brother of Sean and Chris, is a musician who is married to singer Aimee Mann. And Sean is married to actress Robin Wright Penn.
With Jonathan Lemire