Character actor Bill Paxton, who starred in such films as Weird Science (1985), Apollo 13 (1995), and Twister (1995), as well as such TV shows as Big Love and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, died yesterday at the age of 61. The cause was complications from heart surgery.
Bill Paxton was born on May 17 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas. When he was eight years old his father took him and his brother to see President John F. Kennedy at the Hotel Texas in Dallas on the morning of November 22 1963, the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. A photograph of young Bill Paxon, perched one someone's shoulders was taken on that day.
Bill Paxton's first work in film was as a set dresser on the cult classic Big Bad Mama in 1974. He also worked as a set dresser on Eat My Dust (1976) and Galaxy of Terror (1981). His first role was an uncredited part in Crazy Mama (1975). Mr. Paxton studied acting at New York University for two years with legendary instructor Stella Adler. He appeared in the film The Egyptian Princess, an Unfolding Fantasy (1977). He directed and starred in the video for the song "Fish Heads" by Barnes & Barnes. He made his television debut in episodes of the show The Six O' Clock Follies.
In the early Eighties, Bill Paxton appeared in small roles in such films as Stripes (1981), Night Warning (1982), The Lords of Discipline (1983), Mortuary (1983), Streets of Fire (1984), and The Terminator (1984). As the Eighties progressed he received larger roles in such films as Weird Science (1985), Aliens (1986), Near Dark (1987), Pass the Ammo (1988), The Roommate (1989), Next of Kin (1989), Navy Seals (1990), and Predator 2 (1990). He guest starred on such shows as Fresno, Miami Vice, and The Hitchhiker.
In 1992 Mr. Paxton played his first lead role in One False Move. He also had lead roles in Trespass (1992), Monolith (1993), Frank & Jesse (1995), Twister (1996), Traveller (1997), A Simple Plan (1998), Mighty Joe Young (1998), and U-571 (2000). He had major roles in such films as The Dark Backward (1991), Boxing Helena (1993), Tombstone (1993), Apollo 13 (1995), The Evening Star (1996), Titanic (1997), and Vertical Limit (2000). He appeared on the TV show Tales From the Crypt.
For much of the Naughts he starred on the HBO TV series Big Love. He also guest starred on the sitcom Fraiser. He appeared in such films as Frailty (2001), Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Resistance (2003), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003), Thunderbirds (2004), and The Good Life (2007).
In the Teens he appeared in such films as Haywire (2011), The Colony (2013), Red Wing (2013), Million Dollar Arm (2014), Nightcrawler (2014), Term Life (2016), and Mean Dreams (2016). On television he appeared on the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as the mini-series Hatfields & McCoys and Texas Rising. He is currently appearing in the TV show Training Day and is set to appear in the movie The Circle later this year.
Bill Paxton played a wide variety of roles throughout his career, from heroes to villains and everything in between. He had an everyman quality that allowed him to play nearly any part he pleased. He was a crooked used car salesman in True Lies (1994), an employee of a feed mill who stumbled upon a plane filled with money in A Simple Plan, and an Irish Traveller in Traveller. He played historical figures from time to time, including Morgan Earp in Tombstone, Frank James in Frank & Jesse, Fred Haise in Apollo 13, and Randall McCoy in The Hatfields & the McCoys. Even when the material was not particularly good, Bill Paxton always was.
Bill Paxton was also a classic movie fan, and he was particularly a fan of the great Buster Keaton. He loved Turner Classic Movies. In many respects this should perhaps not be surprising, as Mr. Paxton never behaved like a movie star even though he was one. It was not simply his fellow actors and the directors with whom he worked who said that he was one of the nicest guys one could hope to meet. Fans have said the very same thing. He may have been a talented actor, but he always behaved like an average guy.