By: Nick Gambino
As Hollywood readied itself for the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday night, word quickly spread that beloved actor Bill Paxton died at 61 due to complications from heart surgery.
The Texas-born thespian was known for his versatile work over the past four-plus decades in movies like Aliens, True Lies, Twister and Edge of Tomorrow as well as recent TV shows Big Love and Training Day.
As we come to grips with his shocking departure, those who knew him best are penning thoughtful tributes illustrating someone who was more than a great actor but a great man.
James Cameron, who cast him in Terminator, Aliens, True Lies and Titanic spoke of his friend in a statement to Vanity Fair, “He was a good man, a great actor, and a creative dynamo. I hope that amid the gaudy din of Oscar night, people will take a moment to remember this wonderful man, not just for all the hours of joy he brought to us with his vivid screen presence, but for the great human that he was.”
While Bill wasn’t included in the In Memoriam portion of the Oscars, Jennifer Aniston, who introduced it, spoke of the great loss while holding back tears.
Sigourney Weaver, who starred as Ripley opposite Bill in Aliens, released her own statement, “He was the quintessential Texan – incredibly charming, warm, generous, always with a twinkle in his eye,” she wrote. “He loved his family, his friends, his work and gave them his all. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
Neither can I, nor the many others who grew up watching in awe as Bill transformed but always retained that charm in a treasure chest of classic films.
To pay tribute let’s look back at some of his greatest movie roles.
As Private Hudson in the wildly successful sequel to 1979’s Alien, Bill offered a mixture of humor, bravado and total god-awful fear in a memorable role that’s still quotable more than 30 years out.
“Game over man! Game over!”
Bill played Wyatt’s older brother, Chet, in this off-beat comedy by John Hughes about two nerds who build the perfect woman using their computer and some magazine cut-outs while wearing bras on their heads.
No one plays the obnoxious, abusive older brother better than Bill Paxton. Sorry, Buzz, you never pulled a shotgun on Kevin.
Chalk this one up as a classic. This flick about feuding exes chasing an F5 tornado should have been a forgettable disaster film. Instead Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt turned this into an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride thanks to their on-screen chemistry and flying cows.
Reuniting with Cameron for this classic spy action film from the early 90s, Bill plays a scene-stealing sleazebag car salesman trying to make it with Schwarzenegger’s wife.
In a movie where the Terminator himself plays a badass with Tom Arnold as his comedic sidekick, it’s Bill who really delivers the acting goods in this movie. You love to hate him. There are layers to his worthlessness as a human being.
His cowardice and humiliation on are on full display but it takes a real actor to make you also feel sympathy for the guy.
If others on this list are classics than Near Dark is a cult classic. Kathryn Bigelow (Cameron’s ex-wife) of Hurt Locker and Point Break fame directs this whacked-out 1987 movie about vampires traveling around in a van with blackout curtains.
Bill is at his most unhinged as bloodsucker Severen. It’s a reunion of sorts as several actors from Aliens portray the nightwalkers but again it’s Bill who steals every scene he’s in. You can even see this character’s influence on Ledger’s Joker years later.
Though he’s gone, Bill Paxton’s legend will live on thanks to a wide array of unforgettable films that never die.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.