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RIP – Bill Paxton (Actor, Director)

RIP, Bill Paxton

Game Over, man..?” News broke mid-Sunday of the sudden passing of respected character actor and classic action movie player Paxton…

There are not many men who could claim to have been killed on-screen by a , an Alien AND a .

In fact, there’s only one and his name was an actor whose face was caught on public camera for the first time when he was seen in a crowd greeting President John F. Kennedy in Texas. Paxton was only eight years old and the date was 22nd November  1963 – just hours before the infamous assassination in Dallas.

Paxton, a respected and beloved character actor and occasional leading man and director was one of those talents that it was easy to underestimate. Though he appeared in a leading role in many projects, it was often for his key supporting roles that he’ll be remembered, making what could have been forgettable side-roles into memorable, quotable performances. In his long association with collaborator and friend director , Paxton appeared as as a ill-fated punk who loses his leather-jacket to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator,  the flippant and defiant Private Hudson in Aliens (‘Game Over, man… game over!‘), the deceitful ‘Simon’ in True Lies and treasure-seeker Brock Lovett in Titanic. In 1984 he appeared as Clyde in cult hit Streets of Fire and in 1987 he featured in Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, often cited as one of the most under-rated ‘vampire’ films of the modern era.

Some will remember his role as older brother Chet in classic sf comedy Weird Science but he was often a stalwart of action movies such as Predator, Commando, Navy SEALS, U751, Tombstone, Twister, Vertical Limit, Apollo 13,Haywire and Edge of Tomorrow.  Even in relative duds like Boxing Helena and Thunderbirds he was often the best actor on show.

In recent years he’d also carved a niche for himself on television. He played the lead role of Bill Henrickson in the award-winning Big Love, about a polygamist and his relationship with his three wives which ran for five seasons between 2006-20111 and appeared as Randall McCoy in the western feud mini-series Hatfields & McCoys. In 2014 he had a recurring role on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD as duplicitous tough-guy John Garrett.

News of Paxton’s passing broke on Sunday morning, Los Angeles time, via gossip site TMZ and it is now believed that he died as a result of complications after scheduled heart surgery. He was only 61.

His family confirmed his death in a statement: “It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery. A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker. Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable. We ask to please respect the family’s wish for privacy as they mourn the loss of their adored husband and father.

Training Day

There were pragmatic questions asked about the status of Paxton’s most recent project Training Day, the tv spin-off/reworking of the classic / Denzil Washington film of the same name that details the partnership of an idealistic young cop and the more grizzled, compromised veteran. In a race-reversal, Paxton played the senior role in the premise with Justin Cornwell as the newer recruit. It has been confirmed that Paxton completed the contracted thirteen episodes of the series by the end of last year, so with only four screened so far there are still over half the episodes in the mid-season show left to be seen. However it is unclear on the future thereafter – the series has not been getting massive ratings and the loss of Paxton’s central role likely ends any possible chance of renewal.

CBS/WBTV, who produce the show, issued a joint statement as news of Paxton’s death began to circulate:

We are shocked and deeply saddened this morning by the news of Bill Paxton’s passing. Bill was, of course, a gifted and popular actor with so many memorable roles on film and television. His colleagues at CBS and Warner Bros. Television will also remember a guy who lit up every room with infectious charm, energy and warmth, and as a great storyteller who loved to share entertaining anecdotes and stories about his work. All of us here offer our deepest sympathy to his wife, Louise, and his two children.

Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted: “Bill Paxton could play any role, but he was best at being Bill – a great human being with a huge heart. My thoughts are with his family.”

In an e-mail to Vanity Fair, James Cameron spoke at length about Paxton…

Bill wrote beautiful, heartfelt, and thoughtful letters, an anachronism in this age of digital shorthand… 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. The world is a lesser place for his passing, and I will profoundly miss him.”

Paxton was preparing to possibly reprise his Edge of Tomorrow role in a planned sequel and had told director Doug Liman he hoped to be fit and well again after this month’s surgery. Paxton’s last feature film role is now the Tom Hanks-led sf drama The Circle, which hits cinemas in April. Hanks described Paxton as ‘simply, a wonderful man.’

He is survived by his two children, James and Lydia Paxton and his wife Louise Newbury.

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