Remembering Bill Paxton
On February 25 2017, actor Bill Paxton passed away due to complications involving heart surgery. He was sixty one years old.
Paxton made me laugh, generating immediate rapport through timing and presence. In James Cameron’s Aliens, his character Private Hudson reveals two sides to a larger than life personality. Firstly, there’s the gung-ho “nothing can stop me” marine, eager to dispatch a few aliens. Yet, the initial skirmish leaves him shell-shocked and emotionally disarmed. Very quickly, he loses his cool refusing to take part in any more dangerous activities, especially with “those things running around.” For a full hour, nobody can touch Paxton as an ensemble star. In a film poem, I wrote:
More awards that Aliens could have won
Especially for cinematography and Bill Paxton.
Meanwhile, the great work continued. Quite often, Paxton would share the screen with Aliens co-star Michael Biehn. They made several pictures together, namely The Lords of Discipline, The Terminator, Navy Seals and Tombstone. Arguably, the latter features the most memorable send-off for a Paxton character in film history.
For True Lies, another classic action film, he played the slimy used car salesman Simon. He wants to seduce Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) but he doesn’t know that her husband Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) works for the government as a spy. Being the quintessential cad, Simon uses one of Harry’s “covert operations” as a means to impress his latest prospect. Overall, the film owes something to the James Bond parody Our Man Flint with gadgets and baddies at every turn. There’s humour helped along by Paxton’s brilliant support.
Films need characters that can express the hilarity or horror of a given situation. To that end, Paxton was the ideal choice, and I shall miss him.
Bill Paxton (1955-2017)