Updated: Apr 3, 2021
William Paxton May 17, 1955 – February 25, 2017
Bill Paxton who was an endearing and energetic action hero famous for roles in Aliens, Titanic & Apollo 13 has died from complications following surgery.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Mary Lou a fashion director and John Paxton a lumber salesman. He was photographed at 8 years old hoisted on his fathers shoulders prior to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
At the age of 13 he contracted rheumatic fever which was to have devastating consequences in later life.
Paxton's interest in film started with shooting super 8 shorts with friends as a teenager. He moved to to Los Angeles and found work in props and art departments. It was during this period of his life he first worked with James Cameron, then working as a second unit director and production designer. They created sets together for Galaxy of Terror (1981). After being rejected by various film schools he turned his attention to acting. Landing a walk on part in Bill Murray success Stripes (1981) and as a punk thug in Cameron's Terminator (1984) then the bully older brother in the absurd comedy Weird Science (1985).
It was teaming back up with James Cameron to play loud mouth cowardly Space Marine Hudson in the science fiction success Aliens (1986) that set his career motoring. He thought the character would prove to be unlikable and abrasive, it turned out the audiences loved him and he became a cult hero.
Starring in Predator 2 (1990) and Tombstone (1993) led to the reuniting with Cameron once again for True Lies (1994) before an impressive turn as Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995) and then taking the lead in Twister (1996) as the fearless storm chaser Bill "the Extreme" Harding.
He worked once more with Cameron on the record breaking Titanic (1997) before putting in a career best performance in A Simple Plan (1998) as a man whose life unravels after discovering a cash fortune in a crashed plane. He felt that role would see him receive recognition for his depth as an actor. He tried his hand at directing twice, Frailty in 2001 with much aplomb and Golf drama The Greatest Game Ever Played but with little recognition before returning to the sorts of roles he was so loved for. A performance as Master Sergeant Farrell in Edge of Tomorrow (2014) was a welcome return to science fiction military success and a sheer delight in gritty drama Nightcrawler, the same year.
He had found great success on the small screen with the lead role in Mormon polygamy comedy drama Big Love and was receiving great critical acclaim for his role in the lead for Training Day which he was filming up to his death.
An under rated actor with a real presence on screen, rarely given the opportunity to shine beyond the loveable, robust action rogue that came so easily to him, but a man with a loyal following of science fiction fans who provided roles in some of the late twentieth century significant films in the genre.
Paxton passed away following complications caused by heart surgery intended to replace damage caused by the rheumatic fever he had contracted as a child. He is survived by his second wife Louise Newbury and two children James and Lydia.