Bill Paxton was an unstoppable man. He’d taken on robots, aliens, twisters, and still could get out of bed each morning. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s he consistently lead major blockbusters, with many roles centered around his tough, slightly gritty demeanor. But even when writers tried their hardest to make us hate him, we liked him. Paxton had a lasting friendship with director James Cameron, being featured in The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), True Lies (1994), and Titanic (1997). He was also featured in Cameron’s documentary Ghosts of the Abyss (2003), both as narrator and actively participating in the featured expedition.
In addition to being familiar on camera, Bill also worked behind the lens. He both directed and starred in 2001’s Frailty, alongside Matthew McConaughey. The film was well-received by critics, with the late Roger Ebert calling it “an extraordinary work” and awarding it 4 out of 4 stars.
Bill was perhaps most acclaimed for his work in television. He was nominated at the Golden Globes for Best Actor four times, three of which came for his role in HBO’s Big Love (2006-11). In History Channel’s miniseries Hatfields & McCoys (2012), he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor. He recently appeared in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, upon his death, he had just finished filming Training Day (2017) for CBS.
Personally, my favorite Bill Paxton moments were the lesser-seen. He had an absolutely brilliant role in Near Dark (1987), playing a psychotic vampire. If you thought The Lost Boys (1987) was a cult-classic, Near Dark is a cult-masterpiece, and an objectively better film. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (who would go on to be the first woman to win Best Director for 2009’s The Hurt Locker), Bill was truly at his best. I can’t recommend the film enough. Even more shrouded in obscurity is Bill’s 1988 new wave music project ‘Martini Ranch’, one song of which featured three members of Devo. I’ll invite audiences to take a look at their quirked-out music video for “Reach”, directed by James Cameron.
Bill Paxton was the definition of a working actor. He touched so many large and small projects within his career, never falling into obscurity. Perhaps it was his personality on and off screen, but we felt like we knew Bill, and rooted for him each time. Rest in Peace.