“My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies.” — Bill Paxton.
I woke up this morning to read that Bill Paxton had passed away due to complications during surgery. He was 61 — too young to die. Bill Paxton was an actor, and if you’ve ever seen a movie, odds are you’ve seen a movie with Pill Paxton in it. He was one of the good guys, even when he played a bad guy. Though he had a handful of very minor rolls in films before playing the Punk Leader in The Terminator, it was the James Cameron directed Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi flick that served as your introduction to Bill Paxton.
Remember Private William (Game over, man. Game over.) Hudson from Aliens (1986)? Again, directed by James Cameron.
If you’ve never seen the 1987 vampire movie Near Dark, in which he played psychotic vampire Severen, you need to put it near the top of your current movie queue. He also played older brother Chet in John Hughes’ Weird Science (1985), Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), sleazebag Simon in True Lies (another James Cameron directed flick), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), and Bill “The Extreme” Harding in Twister (1996). You saw Titanic (1997), right? (Again with the James Cameron.) He was Brock Lovett, the treasure hunter searching for the “Heart of the Ocean.” He was Hank in A Simple Plan (1998), Dinky Winks in the Spy Kid movies, Jeff Tracy in the live-action Thunderbirds (2004), Joe Loder in Nightcrawler (2014), and Master Sergeant Farell in Edge of Tomorrow (2014). And, there are numerous other movies as well.
Even if you never saw a Bill Paxton movie you may have seen him on television asas patriarch Bill Henrickson in Big Love, or John Garrett in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for Hatfields & McCoys (2012), in which he played Randolph McCoy.
Why am I dedicating a post to Bill Paxton? Because being the movie nerd that I was in the mid ’80s through the following two decades, he was in a lot of the movies that I not only saw, but really enjoyed. I thought of it as the “Paxton Factor.” Whether he was playing a good guy or a bad guy, the brought a certain likeability to the character to his character. If Bill Paxton was in a scene it was going to be a scene that you remembered. It was probably Aliens — a cinema orgasm of an action sci-fi movie if there ever was one — in which he first broke out. Private Hudson’s line, “Game over, man! Game over!” quickly and undoubtedly became a phrase within the pop culture lexicon.
I remember seeing a matinee of Edge of Tomorrow on a Saturday morning that I had nothing better to do. I was more than pleasantly surprised when Bill Paxton appeared on the screen as Master Sergeant Farell. Paxton’s presence in a movie always resulted in a making me grin. Paxton had an “everyman” vibe about him that seemed resonate with film goers. This resulted in many of the films that he was in, many of which that may have not performed well at the box office, to achieve cult status. Paxton’s portrayal of Morgan Earp is just one of the nuances in Tombstone that made what could have been a mediocre western into a fan-favorite western that never got the true recognition it should have during its initial release.
“Look at all the stars. You look up and you think, “God made all this and He remembered to make a little speck like me.” It’s kind of flattering, really.” — Morgan Earp (Tombstone)
Something you might not know about Bill Baxton… In the ’80s he was in a band called Martini Ranch. He joined the band established by Andrew Todd Rosenthal in 1984 as a video conceptualist, singer and lyricist. I highly recommend that you seek out the album Holy Cow, which features the songs “Reach” and “How Can The Labouring Man Find Time For Self Culture.”