Bill Paxton was a tough loss... He will forever be a cinema icon.
I am honored to be given the opportunity to write about the life and career of Bill Paxton and to say some final words in remembrance of one of my favorite actor/directors.
Born on this day in 1955 and raised a good ol' boy in Fort Worth, Texas, Bill first wanted to make movies but not necessarily star in them. His desire was reinforced by his father who supported his children's imaginative and artistic spirit.
After graduating high school, he and a friend studied abroad at the private University of Richmond College in England. When they returned to Texas, they began making Super8 films with another friend they had met while away at school.
In 1974, Bill decided to make the move to Los Angeles and work his way into the film industry. With the help of a friend of his father, he got his first job as a production assistant. He later worked in the art department as a set dresser on super low-budget films for Roger Corman, which is where he first met and became friends with James Cameron.
At the age of 21, he moved to New York and enrolled at NYC in order to study under famous acting teacher Stella Adler. He completed 2 years, but never earned his degree. He returned to L.A. in the pursuit of putting all he had learned to work for him, and he has said that he didn't think he needed a degree to do that.
In the 1980s, Bill was steadily getting small roles, some of which were in some important cult classic films, such as the blue haired punk in the opening of The Terminator (1984) and the biker vampire Severen in Near Dark (1987). In 1986, he met, fell in love with, and, less than a year later, married his wife and mother of his two children, Louise Newbury.
Regardless how small the role, Bill always left an impression. The first movie role he really stood out in for me was as the tyrant older brother with the goofy laugh, Chet Donnelly in Weird Science (1985). Even though we hated that guy, we still couldn't help but like him. One of his most memorable character roles is the young and cocky marine with the witty one liners, PFC William L. Hudson, in Aliens (1986). He also played the role of Patrick Swayze's brother, whose death is avenged in Next of Kin (1989).
In the 1990s, Paxton continued to steadily get acting roles. He teamed up with the other Bill, Bill Pullman, in the twisted horror sci-fi film Brain Dead (1990) and played LAPD detective Lambert in Predator 2 (1990). Another memorable character, though maybe not as well known as others is Graham Krakowski, the young up and coming professional who is framed for murder by a crazed squatter in the hilarious horror comedy The Vagrant (1992).
In 1993, Bill Paxton had finally risen to well deserved fame co-starring along side Sam Elliot, Kurt Russell, and Val Kilmer as Morgan, Wyatt Earp's younger brother, in Tombstone.
Throughout the 1990s, he continued to work alongside some of the most iconic actors of our time and under the direction of some of the best in the business in films like True Lies (1994) opposite Jamie Lee Curtis and, once again, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And directed by longtime friend James Cameron. The Academy Award-nominated Ron Howard film Apollo 13 (1995) co-starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon in which he was nominated and won a SAG award and One of my personal favorites, the natural disaster thriller Twister (1996) He worked again with friend James Cameron on Titanic (1997) and starred opposite Billy Bob Thorton in A Simple Plan (1998), with whom he also co-starred in his first starring role back in 1991s One False Move. Paxton received his first Golden Globe nomination in 1999 for his work in the HBO miniseries A Bright Shinning Lie (1998).
In 2001, Paxton directed his first feature film Frailty in which he co-starred with Matthew McConaughey and Powers Booth. Rightfully he was nominated and won the 2003 Filmmaker's Showcase Award. A few years later he directed his second feature, Disney's biographical film The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) starring Shia Lebouf.
Between his two directorial debuts, Bill Paxton played the free loving musician/ resort owner, Coconut Pete in the Broken Lizard slasher comedy Club Dread (2004).
In the last decade of his life, Bill seemed to only take on more serious roles, starring in the HBO series Big Love in which he portrayed a Utahan polygamist and which explored his relationships with his multiple wives. He received three Golden Globe nominations for that role.
In 2012, Bill won a well-deserved, SAG award for his role as Randall McCoy in the History Channel's miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. He continued to stay busy with several film projects throughout the next seven years, including the horror sci-fi The Colony (2013).
He had a substantial supporting role as crooked ex-black ops CIA agent Earl in the Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlburg action comedy 2 Guns (2013). Paxton always did play a good bad guy.
He had a recurring role on Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. as a vengeful member of Hydra, John Garrett, and he played Joe Loder, Louis Blooms' (Jake Gyllenhaal) main competitor in the pursuit of gruesome accident/crime scene footage, in Nightcrawler (2014).
Bill did a superb job of portraying Sam Houston in History Channel's miniseries about the Texas revolution, Texas Rising, alongside Jeffery Dean Morgan, Chistopher McDonald, Ray Liotta, and many others.
In 2016, he co-starred as crooked cop Det. Keenan in Term Life opposite Vince Vaughn and Mike Epps as well as another crooked cop and abusive father Wayne Carraway in Mean Dreams.
At the time of his death, Paxton had completed filming 13 episodes of the CBS spinoff of the 2001 film Training Day. He even got to work alongside his son James in an episode of the series.
Looking back at his life and works actually makes saying farewell to this beloved actor even more bittersweet. Laughter and a few tears went into this article, and I think that's fitting for a man like Bill Paxton who, by all accounts, was a friendly, and joyous person in life and seamlessly and fearlessly let that, as well as everything else he was or was just pretending to be, get absorbed by the cameras for his fans to enjoy. Thank you for the many years of entertainment that will continue.
May 17, 1955 - February 25, 2017