The Hollywood Reporter is reporting the death of Mary Ellen Trainor, an actress whose resume reads like a list of the biggest hits of the 1980s and 1990s—particularly those directed by her two frequent collaborators, Richard Donner and Robert Zemeckis (the latter of whom was also her husband for many years). No official cause of death has been released, though THR notes that Trainor died on May 20, with the public announcement coming today from her longtime friend, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Trainor was 62.
Of Trainor’s many roles in various blockbusters, it’s difficult to pinpoint which one might be her best known. However, her most frequent was Dr. Stephanie Woods, the departmental psychiatrist who’s tasked with keeping an eye on Mel Gibson’s unhinged cop in the Lethal Weapon series. Trainor’s total screen time is brief—she’s mostly there as a bureaucratic foil—but she’s one of the few actors besides Gibson and Danny Glover to appear in all four movies. And for director Richard Donner, she was a clear favorite: Trainor also appeared in Scrooged as a network executive, and more importantly, she played Irene Walsh, mother to Mikey and Brand in The Goonies.
But it was with Zemeckis that she had her most successful partnership, both on screen and off. After meeting Zemeckis while working as an assistant on the Zemeckis-scripted, Steven Spielberg-directed 1941, Trainor made her big-screen debut in her then-husband’s Romancing The Stone, playing Elaine, the sister whose kidnapping sends Kathleen Turner hurtling toward Cartagena. Trainor also appeared in Zemeckis’ Back To The Future Part II, as one of the police officers who find the passed-out Jennifer in 2015; in Death Becomes Her, as a woman who’s shocked to hear Bruce Willis’ secret to corpse-beautifying; and in Forrest Gump as Jenny’s babysitter. She also starred in a Zemeckis-directed episode of Tales From The Crypt—the fan favorite Christmas story, “And All Through The House.”
Trainor’s other notable roles include Die Hard’s Gail Wallens, the newscaster who reports on the hostage situation at Nakatomi Plaza. Interestingly, she played the exact same newscaster in the Denzel Washington thriller Ricochet, linking those two movies’ universes. She was also seen in the Goonies-but-with-monsters family adventure The Monster Squad, again playing the ringleader’s mom, as well as in Ghostbusters II, as the mother who hires the Ghostbusters to perform at her kids’ birthday party—much to everyone’s chagrin.
Trainor’s other credits include such ’90s cable mainstays as Action Jackson, Executive Decision, Congo, Greedy, Little Giants, and Grand Canyon. Indeed, for a decade or so there, you probably couldn’t watch HBO for more than a day without seeing Trainor’s face. That was also true on other TV channels—most notably Fox, where Trainor played the mother to Corin Nemec’s title character in Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. (Trainor appeared in the show’s pilot before being replaced by Anne Bloom for the show’s first season, but returned in the second.) Her other regular TV roles included playing Eve in the short-lived ABC drama Relativity, and Diane, the adoptive mother to Jason Behr and Katherine Heigl’s alien teenagers in Roswell.
After Roswell, Trainor’s on-screen appearances lessened, though she could still be seen in bit parts in films such as Moonlight Mile and the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday. Off-screen, Trainor will also be remembered for championing a long list of charitable causes, everything from cancer research to clean water to The Wounded Warrior Project. But she will also live on as a warm, familiar presence in some of the most popular movies ever made.