You’re strong and pulsing and vigorously here, and then you’re dealt a bad card and you’re not. Bill Paxton, whom I ran into last May in Cannes at a screening of Mean Dreams, is gone. From “complications following a surgical procedure,” whatever the hell that means. The guy was only 61, and now he sleeps with the fishes. Paxton always projected an amiable, laid-back Average Joe type of vibe, and it just seems rude and cruel that his life has been stopped like a car hitting a telephone pole. “Game over, man…game over.”
Hands down, Paxton’s finest performance was as the morally conflicted Hank Mitchell in Sam Raimi‘s under-appreciated A Simple Plan, which I’m going to re-watch today in tribute. Great performance, great film (and certainly Raimi’s finest ever).
Oscar telecast producers Mike DeLuca and Jennifer Todd have to slip Paxton into tonight’s death reel segment. C’mon, guys…you’ve got a few hours.
Paxton had a five year run as Utah polygamist Bill Henrickson in HBO’s Big Love, which I was half into for the first two seasons.
Paxton’s most commercial lead role was as Bill “The Extreme” Harding in Jon De Bont‘s Twister (’96). The most famous line of his career was “game over, man…game over” in James Cameron’s Aliens (’86) — his first noticable punch-through. Paxton’s second most famous line was spoken in Cameron’s Titanic — “I never got it…I never let it in,” and his third most famous line was spoken in Cameron’s True Lies — “I’ve got a little dick.”
Paxton’s very first screen role (uncredited) was in Jonathan Demme‘s Crazy Mama (’75), when he was 19 or 20. Six years later he played a nondescript solider in Ivan Reitman’s Stripes (’81).
Paxton worked like a sonuvabitch throughout that decade and for the rest of his life, but things really turned flush in the ’90s. He became a leading guy in a couple of films in the late ’90s, and he was suddenly a player in some of that decade’s biggest headliners.
Morgan Earp in Tombstone (’93), True Lies (’94), Apollo 13 (’95), Twister, The Evening Star (’96), Brock Lovett in Titanic (’97), A Simple Plan, Mighty Joe Young (’98), Jonathan Mostow‘s U-571 (’00) and Martin Campbell‘s Vertical Limit (’00).
Paxton’s last significant gig was playing a seriously corrupt cop in Training Day, a CBS series that premiered earlier this month to negative reviews. But I prefer to regard Paxton’s performance as a corrupt small-town cop in Nathan Morlando‘s Mean Dreams (a Malickian kids-on-the-run crime piece) as his true swan song.
Solemn condolences extended to Paxton’s friends, fans, colleagues.