Bill Paxton 1955-2017

It was quite a shock today for Hollywood and the rest of us to wake up and know that Bill Paxton has died due to complications following surgery. Judging from all the love for Paxton on Twitter, he was really popular in Hollywood. In the clip above from last summer’s Comic Con, he and Sigourney Weaver talk about the impact that one of their movies, Aliens (1986), had.

Born in Texas, Paxton’s first notable “appearance” may be in a now classic photograph from November 22nd, 1963 where the eight-year-old Bill can be seen in the crowds awaiting President John F. Kennedy shortly before the assassination. The photo is now on display in a museum in Dallas. Paxton’s film debut was Jonathan Demme’s Crazy Mama (1975), but his career got a real boost first when he was hired by James Cameron to play a punk who gets taught a lesson by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984).

Cameron kept coming back to Paxton, casting him as a whiny Marine in Aliens, a sleazy womanizer in True Lies (1994) and a deep-sea explorer in Titanic (1997). In between, Paxton had good roles in the vampire movie Near Dark (1987), noir thriller One False Move (1992), Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 (1995), the hugely entertaining Twister (1996) and Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan (1998), which was one of his best performances.

In later years, Paxton turned to TV and it’s possible that we’ll remember him chiefly as the Mormon businessman with three wives on Big Love (2006-2011), which earned him a Golden Globe nomination. A great role for him. Paxton fared less well with the current Training Day, which wasn’t liked by critics or audiences and is likely to be canceled now.

He played guys who were bad or pathetic, but we still remember Bill Paxton simply as a good guy. It was touching and heart-warming to read tributes today from virtually every star who had worked with him, from Tom Hanks and Cameron, to Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m sure his name will come up tonight at the Academy Awards. May he rest in peace.

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