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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Bill Paxton

03.06.2017

Bill Paxton

bill paxton nightcrawler

While the flub heard around the world dominated headlines the morning after Oscar Sunday, earlier that day the news broke that Bill Paxton, one of Hollywood’s most beloved character actors, had passed away. At only sixty-one, this was unexpected, as there hadn’t been any rumors of ill health. In fact, Paxton was particularly prolific over the last few years, with him starring in the CBS TV reboot of “Training Day” (which is still airing – as he had already wrapped the whole season), as well as a movie reuniting him with his old APOLLO 13 co-star, Tom Hanks, THE CIRCLE.

bill paxton the terminator

When I think of character actors, Paxton’s one of the guys that immediately comes to mind. Heck, I don’t even know if I was aware of what the term meant when I first noticed the same goofy guy was showing up in most of my favorite movies. From being one of the first guys encountered by THE TERMINATOR, to his unforgettable swagger as Hudson in ALIENS, to his conflicted fireman in Walter Hill’s TRESPASS, Morgan in TOMBSTONE, Simon in TRUE LIES and more, Paxton was a key figure in my development as a film buff.

bill paxton helen hunt twister

In ’96, Paxton finally broke through as a legit leading man, with TWISTER ranking as one of the biggest box-office hits of the year (only overshadowed by INDEPENDENCE DAY, starring his friendly rival, Bill Pullman, for whom he was often confused). After that, Paxton had clout, with a part in TITANIC (he was a big favorite of James Cameron’s) only bolstering his name value. Eventually, he made his way to HBO where he had a great run on “Big Love”, following it up with “The Hatfields & the McCoys’s” opposite Kevin Costner (nabbing him an Emmy nom), and the recent “Texas Rising”.

His Best Work
bill paxton aliens

While Paxton is far from being the lead in ALIENS, he makes an indelible impression as the boastful Hudson, whose macho façade crumbles completely after coming in contact with the xenomorphs. “Game over man, game over!” It’s a line my friends and I quoted to each other constantly as kids. Despite all of Hudson’s faults, there’s still something likable and inherently good about him, making his death hit hard, and Paxton was so good in the part that he seemed, for a while, trapped into playing the same kind of role over and over. I mean, his character in PREDATOR 2 is basically a Hudson clone, right? Even Morgan in TOMBSTONE (which is one of my favorite Westerns of all time) shares some DNA with Hudson.

His Most Overrated Work
bill paxton big love

A lot of folks really loved HBO’s “Big Love”, with Paxton himself receiving numerous Golden Globe nominations for his tremendous performance. However, I never quite got into it. I guess that when it hit, I was looking for a “Six Feet Under” substitute, but for me “Big Love” never quite measured up, and the premise (a polygamist and his wives) didn’t really hit home for me. That said, it’s still one of HBO’s most acclaimed shows, so what do I know?

His Most Underrated Film
bill paxton frailty

In 2001, Paxton directed and starred in the horror-thriller FRAILTY. In it, he plays a seventies-era man who believes he’s been tasked by God to punish evil. Believing that the lord is communicating to him through his trusty axe, “Otis”, he becomes a serial killer, aided by his sons, one of whom (Matthew McConaughey), tells the story in present-day bookends. It’s a nail-biter, with one of the greatest “wtf?” endings of all-time. While it barely made a peep back in 2001, nowadays it would be easy to see a company like Blumhouse turning it into a huge sleeper hit. It’s a shame that afterwards, Paxton’s directorial career was limited to just one more movie (THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED – with Shia LaBeouf).

His Best Scene

Paxton’s performance as the vampire Severen in Kathryn Bigelow’s NEAR DARK, is one of his greatest. A dangerous, unpredictable vampire with no remorse, it’s a rock n roll part, and Paxton plays it to the hilt. One of the things I loved about Dan Gilroy’s recent NIGHTCRAWLER was how Paxton, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s rival “Nightcrawler” seems to be playing a variation on Severen, being a vampire of another sort. But back to NEAR DARK, with my favorite of his scenes being the bar massacre set to John Parr’s “Naughty, Naughty”.

His Five Best Roles

5. (Tie) NIGHTCRAWLER/FRAILTY
4. NEAR DARK
3. (Tie) APOLLO 13/ A SIMPLE PLAN
2. (Tie)TOMBSTONE/ TRUE LIES
1. ALIENS

Up Next

In addition to THE CIRCLE, Paxton’s got another movie in the can, the indie thriller MEAN DREAMS. But after that, we will have seen the last of Paxton’s work – and boy, oh boy, will he be missed.

Source: JoBlo.com

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