Bill Paxton, the ultimate character actor, a handsome charmer who could easily be a leading man, but was most known for his hilarious film-stealing scenes in supporting roles throughout his 40-plus year career, has died. The actor who perhaps is best known for his defeated exclamation, “Game Over man, Game Over!” in James Cameron’s 1986 action sequel Aliens died yesterday from complications from surgery. He was 61. Paxton is survived by his second wife and two children.
As a horror movie fan, I noticed Paxton at an early age and quite often. He was a staple of the mid 80s with memorable performances in The Terminator (1984), Weird Science (1985), Aliens (1986), and Near Dark (1987). He is the answer to one of sci-fi/horror’s greatest trivia question: Who is the only man to be killed on screen by a Terminator, an Alien, and the Predator? He completed the trifecta in 1990’s Predator 2. Paxton amassed 93 IMDb credits in his career, including a ferocious run in the early to mid 90s where he routinely switched from supporting to lead roles to comedy relief without batting an eye. Films like Trespass (1992), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), and Twister (1996), the latter where he wooed leading lady Helen Hunt, showed the actor’s diversity and adaptability. 1996 was also the year he played a crucial role in biggest film ever made, Cameron’s Titanic.
In 2001, the Fort Worth, Texas-born Paxton took a seat behind the director’s chair for Frailty, a truly captivating and original horror film about a father (Paxton) who enlisted his sons to help him kill demons. I waited years for Paxton to direct more, but it remained his only feature film. On a personal note for my sister and me, we LOVED him as Coconut Pete in the ridiculous 2004 Broken Lizard comedy Club Dread. Check out his video for his hit song “Pina Coladaburg” below.
Paxton turned to television and proved why he was one of the most versatile actors around. He was the lead in HBO’s Big Love about a polygamist, for which he received three Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in a Drama. He received an Emmy nomination for his role in History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys and was known to fans of Marvel for his turn on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He just completed work as the lead in CBS’s new police drama Training Day, which premiered just days before his death.
Paxton was the consummate actor, a man everyone knew, an actor everyone appreciated, and a performer with such an array of roles and characters that everyone has a different favorite Bill Paxton role. As we ready to pay tribute to the stars tonight at the Oscars, we have one more for the “In Memoriam.”