I don’t write a lot of obituaries but in this case it feels like a bit of my youth has passed away with the loss of actor Bill Paxton. Paxton is in so many of the movies I loved as a teenager (and still do) that it’s hard to believe he’s gone at age 61. TMZ reports he passed away Saturday as a result of complications from surgery:
The family says, “It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery.” The family accurately describes his “illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and flimmaker.” The family adds, “Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable.”
I’m sure the first time I really noticed Bill Paxton was at a test screening for Weird Science in 1985. If you recall the film then you certainly remember Chet, the cigar-chomping older brother of the film’s main character. Chet was a jerk in the film who eventually gets his comeuppance as an oozing frog creature. But before that he gives one of my favorite double-takes of all time after discovering his grandparents are frozen in a food pantry (Note: some NSFW language):
A year after Weird Science, Paxton was one of the highlights of Aliens. This is one of my favorite action films and it really wouldn’t be nearly as good without Paxton as the cocky soldier revealed to be a coward who finds his courage in a final battle with the xenomorphs. It’s a great arc but it’s really Paxton’s panic that is memorable. He’s comic relief but in this case he actually feels necessary to relieve the tension and the grim tone of the film. Pop quiz: How many Bill Paxton lines from this 31 year old film can you remember? I can think of 4 without cheating:
- “Game over, man, game over!”
- “Maybe you should put her in charge.”
- “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.”
- “Maybe you haven’t been keepin’ up on current events but we just got our asses kicked.”
There are a bunch more I left out (again some language is NSFW):
In 1995, Paxton had a support role in Apollo 13 as astronaut Fred Haise. Paxton’s big leading role came a decade later in Twister. He’s more of a straight romantic lead in this film but it still relies on his ability to sell a regular person’s reaction to an unbelievable situation. Watch his deadpan after the truck drives through the house:
Variety reports that storm chasers paid tribute to Paxton, superimposing his initials over tornado alley:
Using their Spotter Network markers, hundreds of storm chasers and weather fanatics lined up to Paxton’s initials across the infamous ‘tornado alley’ in Kansas and Oklahoma in a heartfelt ode to the late actor.
Storm chasers and weather nerds are awesome. Tribute for Bill Paxton. pic.twitter.com/1evkrZKdbl
— Amber Leigh Turner (@amberlturner) February 26, 2017
Paxton also had a major role in Titanic as the salvage captain searching for the blue diamond known as the Heart of the Ocean. These are just some of Paxton’s hits but he also had a small role in the original Terminator and a funny part in James Cameron’s True Lies. In 2014 he was the drill sergeant who repeatedly introduced Tom Cruise to the glory of combat in Edge of Tomorrow:
In addition to his film work, Paxton had a lead role in the TV series Big Love which ran for 5 seasons and recurring roles in a number of other shows including Marvel’s Agents of Shield. He was most recently co-starring in the show Training Day.