Bill Paxton | 1955 – 2017

Bill Paxton | 1955 – 2017

Today saw the passing of American actor Bill Paxton. A great actor who appeared in many of my favourite films.

Sadly, actor Bill Paxton died today, aged 61. Complications from heart surgery caused this tragic loss and his family have released the following 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.”

It’s only upon hearing this news and reminiscing that I realised how many of my favourite films featured Bill’s work.

I don’t think any child of the eighties, especially us sci-fi nerds, will ever forget the quote, “Game over man, game over!”

Private Hudson of the United States Colonial Marine Corps had just witnessed the aliens cause the destruction of the dropship that was due to rescue them from the terror of LV-426.

Aliens (1986)

This was of course Aliens, directed by James Cameron and released in 1986. This was the role where I first remember seeing Bill.

Bill over the years had a habit if turning up in my favourite films and was always a joy to watch. His role in Aliens was due to a friendship he had created with James Cameron when they met on the set of The Terminator.

Playing a blue haired spiky punk rocker, Bill’s part in The Terminator was small one due to this being the early part of Bill’s acting career.

The friendship with Cameron meant that Bill would also appear in future films from the director. Who can forget his brilliantly portrayed car salesman, Simon, in True Lies.

Pretending to be a top secret US spy, Simon uses this charade to attract women. When he uses this technique on Harry Tasker’s (Arnold Scwarzennger) wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) you know he’s eventually going to get his comeuppance.

His final appearance in a James Cameron film was as a Titanic researcher in the modern day sequence that bookended the main plot in the film of the same name.

Another memorable role for me would be another 1980’s classic, Weird Science, directed by John Hughes. In this sexually charged comedy about two boys who use their computer to create their fantasy woman, Bill would play the bullying older brother, Chet Donnelly.

Weird Science (1985)

With a crew haircut, a military attitude and that laugh, Chet was a guy easy to hate and made you root for his younger brother Wyatt even more.

Bill also had the achievement of being one of a few people who has been killed on-screen by three classic movie monsters, the Predator, a Terminator and an Alien.

Whilst two of these monsters have already been mentioned, the final piece of the puzzle was due to his role in Predator 2 alongside Danny Glover. Bill was Detective Jerry Lambert, an LAPD officer who requested to transfer into the worst part of the city to try and prove his worth.

The 1989 film, Slipstream, which I Retro Reviewed three years ago, features Bill as Matt Owens, one of the best characters in the film. One of the few reasons for watching that troubled sci-fi film. You can read my review here.

A film that I believe hasn’t been seen by enough people is A Simple Plan. Directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead and Spider-Man trilogies) and released in 1998, Bill was Hank Mitchell who lives in Minnesota along with his wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) and his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton).

One day whilst chasing a fox into the woods, Hank, Jacob and their friend Lou discover a crashed plane. Inside was a long-dead pilot and $4 million in one hundred dollar bills.

The three of them decide to keep the money but the trust between them starts to fall apart and soon Sarah becomes a part of the conspiracy. An excellent crime thriller that has a very dark ending.

A Simple Plan (1998)

The film is criminally underrated and just writing this makes me want to see it again, I haven’t popped the DVD into the player in years. Not only is Bill Paxton great but so is Thornton as his socially challenged brother who was Oscar-nominated for that role.

I last saw Bill in his six-episode run in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where he played agent John Garrett. As I’ve said before its always a joy to see Bill’s work and it was a delight to see him in one of my favourite shows.

This is by no means a definitive list of his work (Twister, Apollo 13, Edge of Tomorrow, the list goes on!) These are the roles that are most memorable to me upon hearing the sad news.

Bill is survived by his wife Louise Newbury and their two children.

R.I.P. Bill.

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John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves the movies and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990's. Whilst the web page idea became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. Now he's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.