Bill Paxton passed away over the weekend at the age of 61. He was undergoing heart surgery and suffered a stroke during the procedure — an injury from which he would not wake from. The man was pure joy to be around if you were ever fortunate enough to see him in person (I was lucky enough to get right up close at the Aliens Reunion panel at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo a couple years ago — Paxton stole the show).
Apollo 13, Titanic, Tombstone, Twister, Near Dark, Weird Science, True Lies, A Simple Plan, Frailty, Hatfields & McCoys and of course – Aliens. The iconic line, which made the film, and was improvised by Paxton – resonates now more than ever in sad but fitting fashion, “Game over man, game over.”
I grew up on ‘Aliens’ – the greatest sequel in the history of film (just barely edging out Terminator 2). Paxton’s cowardly colonial marine William Hudson was my favorite character aside from Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). He was a smart-ass, he was likeable and even in the moments where he just couldn’t hide the fact that he wanted to get the hell out of that xenomorph infested hell-hole, he went out like a boss. There was just something likeable about the guy – he was honest, he was the audience personified in this action-horror-sci-fi flick – “They’re comin out of the walls!’ – He was scared as hell and he let everyone know it. I loved Hudson. I’ve probably watched Aliens more than any other science fiction film – ever. Bill Paxton is one of the main reasons why I adore James Cameron’s sequel so much.
Paxton was always the scene thief – he hijacked every single film he was a part of. He was also making some damn fine work right up until he passed, having a main part on the TV series adaptation of ‘Training Day’, as well as remarkable roles in Edge of Tomorrow and most importantly the mini-series Hatfields & McCoys (which is one of the finest western epics of all time). His work in genre flicks is legendary – Near Dark was a riot and Paxton was in FULL BLOWN CRAZY Paxton mode the entire runtime playing a psychopathic vampiric drifter (that bar scene is bonkers). His directorial debut with Frailty was stunning and if you haven’t seen that dark horror drama about a father teaching his children to punish evil (by killing demons disguised as humans), then you really should get to that immediately. It holds up.
Everyone has a Bill Paxton movie they love – his extensive filmography speaks for itself and his absence hurts me more than most of the major celebrity deaths we suffered over the course of last year. I’m honestly just as saddened by Paxton’s shocking death, as I was when I learned Robin Williams had passed a couple years ago now. So throw on a classic Paxton flick, and cheers the legacy of the man who managed to steal the damn show in every project he was a part of. What’s your top 5 Paxton movies?
4. Near Dark