Where in the Horror are they Now? Bill Paxton!

Last Updated on August 2, 2021


THEN: Very few mainstream character actors have as much horror cred as the great Bill Paxton. Early on in his career, he did a number of cool flicks that proved the guy would be up for pretty much anything. In 1975 he began his wild and crazy career in the Jonathan Demme directed crime flick CRAZY MAMA with Cloris Leachman. He was a soldier in the classic Bill Murray comedy STRIPES. And he appeared in the military thriller THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE in 1983. Yet this talented fella had no problem stepping into genre. With the oddly compelling NIGHT WARNING in 1982 and the gruesome graveyard horrors of MORTUARY the following year, Paxton knew how to get his horror on.

While he may have really hit it big in 1984 as a Radio-Operator in the Pat Benatar music video “Shadows of the Night,” he also did a ton of cool flicks that same year. He talked tough against with THE TERMINATOR as a punk rocker with an attitude. He proved to be more than a little creepy in the Meg Tilly and Tim Matheson starring thriller IMPULSE. He also tended bar in the bizarre – and extremely entertaining – STREETS OF FIRE. The following year he was a big bad  bully of a brother in WEIRD SCIENCE. He had another small role opposite Schwarzenegger in COMMANDO. And he appeared in the TV drama An Early Frost about the AIDS epidemic. With a small part here and there, it wasn’t until 1986 that he proved to be one hell of a badass in the sequel to one of the greatest science fiction/horror films ever made.

In ALIENS, Paxton rocked the joint as Pvt. Hudson in the rare sequel that brilliantly expanded upon the original. The actor offered fantastic on-screen shenanigans opposite Jenette Goldstein, who played Pvt. Vasquez. The James Cameron directed classic ably took on all the action movie stereotypes and managed to create some surprisingly fun characters. Of course it was Sigourney Weaver who was absolutely legendary as Ellen Ripley, yet it didn’t hurt that the actress had a ton of great talent to back her up. Paxton had the ability to be one of the most immensely likable a-holes ever, and you were rooting for the dude the entire time.

In 1987, Paxton was featured in what may very well be my favorite vampire flick. While it is far from the norm, NEAR DARK managed to be ultra violent and ultra stylish, while still leaving an amazing impact all these years later. Much of this was due to the great supporting cast including Paxton, Lance Henriksen and yes, the cool as f*ck Jenette Goldstein once again. In the midst of this strange little love story between Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright, you had a family of bloodsuckers that were funny and utterly frightening – and yes, sometimes you felt bad for these guys. Thanks to the direction of Kathryn Bigelow and a kick ass script by Bigelow and the great Eric Red, you can’t do much better than this when you talk vamps.

After NEAR DARK, Paxton continued to dabble in horror with movies like BRAIN DEAD and PREDATOR 2 in 1990. He appeared in the odd and entertaining THE DARK BACKWARD in 1991. And in 1992 he was featured in the thrillers THE VAGRANT and TRESPASS, as well as the critically acclaimed indie ONE FALSE MOVE directed by Carl Franklin. However, the actor continued to prove that he really digs working in strange feature films with his performance in the wacky Jennifer Lynch (David’s daughter) fantasy BOXING HELENA (1993). After that weirdness, Bill had a few seriously good flicks including TOMBSTONE in 1993, TRUE LIES in 1994 – the dude clearly loves working with Cameron – and APOLLO 13 in 1995.

Paxton continued to find work in some pretty impressive features. He found himself in a leading role opposite Helen Hunt in the hit disaster flick TWISTER in 1996. He had a small, but important part in the gargantuan mega blockbuster TITANIC – once again working with Cameron. He was featured in the spellbinding Sam Raimi crime thriller A SIMPLE PLAN in 1998. That same year he starred opposite a big ape not named King Kong, in MIGHTY JOE YOUNG along with Charlize Theron. With leading roles in big hit movies, and a few awesome indies, the actor continued to be a major presence in Hollywood. And in 2001, he proved he could direct a pretty fantastically scary feature with the chilling FRAILTY in which he also co-starred with Matthew McConaughey. If you haven’t seen this flick, do yourself a favor and hunt it down now.

NOW: With around 88 acting credits according to his IMDB page, Bill Paxton is one of the rare horror centric talents to break free from the genre, while still taking it on occasionally. In fact, last year he was fantastic as a creepy crime journalist – one that couldn’t quite out creep Jake Gyllenhaal – in the critically acclaimed NIGHTCRAWLER. Man I love that flick. Also in 2014, he starred in the series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for six episodes as John Garrett. He was featured in the Disney feel good sports movie MILLION DOLLAR ARM, as well as the underrated Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt sci-fi should be classic EDGE OF TOMORROW. Hell, this guy even had his own series for awhile with the strange love episodic Big Love about a Mormon with a ton of wives from 2006 to 2011.

From television to critically acclaimed features to massive hits, Bill Paxton is sort of legendary in the world of horror and then some. Yet he is still an impressive leading man when he needs to be. What’s next for this phenomenal actor? Well, in 2015 he has the crime drama TERM LIFE which also stars Hailee Seinfeld, Vince Vaughn, Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard. He is also reportedly appearing alongside Daniel Radcliffe in the TV movie Game Changer. Considering that Paxton has remained such a prolific talent, it seems that we will probably continue to see this talented man take part in a number of impressive projects. According to his Wikipedia page, the actor also stars alongside Rose McGowan and John Malkovich as a playable character in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the 2014 video game. Seriously, is there anything this guy can’t do? Badass indeed.

Source: AITH

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JimmyO is one of JoBlo.com’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.