Paxton in 2014
May 17, 1955
|Died||February 25, 2017 (aged 61)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.|
|Children||2, including James Paxton|
William Paxton (May 17, 1955 – February 25, 2017) was an American actor, musician, director, producer and writer. He appeared in films such as Weird Science (1985), Near Dark (1987), Aliens (1986), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996) and Titanic (1997). He also starred in the HBO drama series Big Love (2006–2011), earning three Golden Globe Award nominations during the show's run. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for portraying Randall McCoy in the History channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys (2012) and as Detective Frank Roarke in the CBS television series Training Day (2017). His final film appearance was in The Circle (2017), released two months after his death.
Paxton was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Mary Lou (née Gray) and John Lane Paxton (1920-2011). His father was a businessman, lumber wholesaler, museum executive and, later, during his son's career, an occasional actor, most notably appearing in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films, as well as alongside Bill in A Simple Plan (1998). Paxton was of English, Scotch-Irish, Scottish, Austrian, German, French, Swiss and Dutch descent, and also had distant Welsh and Norwegian ancestry. His great-great-grandfather was Elisha Franklin Paxton, a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War, who was killed commanding the legendary Stonewall Brigade at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Paxton's mother was Roman Catholic and he and his siblings were raised in her faith. Paxton was in the crowd when President John F. Kennedy emerged from the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth on the morning of his assassination on November 22, 1963. Photographs of an eight-year-old Paxton being lifted above the crowd are on display at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. He later co-produced the film Parkland, about the assassination. Paxton is distantly related to actress Sara Paxton and great nephew of Mary Paxton Keeley, prominent journalist and close friend of Bess Wallace Truman.
Paxton graduated from Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth in 1973, after which he studied at Richmond College in England, alongside his old high school friend Danny Martin. Here, they met fellow Texan Tom Huckabee, with whom they made Super 8 short films for which they built their own sets. Paxton subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where he worked in props and art departments, and after being rejected by film schools in southern California, he switched his ambitions from directing to acting.
Among Paxton's earliest roles were a minor role as a punk in The Terminator (1984), a minor role as a bartender in Streets of Fire, a supporting role as the lead protagonist's bullying older brother Chet Donnelly in John Hughes's Weird Science (1985), and Private William Hudson in Aliens (1986).
He directed several short films, including the music video for Barnes & Barnes's novelty song "Fish Heads," which aired during Saturday Night Live's low-rated 1980–81 season and was in heavy rotation during the early days of Canadian music channel MuchMusic. He was cast in a music video for the 1982 Pat Benatar song "Shadows of the Night" in which he appeared as a Nazi radio officer.
In 1982, Paxton and his friend, Andrew Todd Rosenthal, formed a new wave musical band called Martini Ranch. The band released its only full-length album, Holy Cow, in 1988 on Sire Records. The album was produced by Devo member Bob Casale, and featured guest appearances by two other members of that band. The music video for the band's single "Reach" was directed by James Cameron. In 2018, his performances as Peter "Coconut Pete" Wabash in Broken Lizard's Club Dread were released posthumously on the album Take Another Hit: The Best of Coconut Pete.
He worked alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron's The Terminator (1984) and in Commando (1985). He reunited with Cameron on Aliens (1986). His performance in the latter film as Private Hudson earned him the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In 1990, Paxton appeared in Predator 2 (1990). He collaborated with James Cameron again on True Lies (1994) and Titanic (1997), the latter of which was the highest-grossing film of all time at its release. In his other roles, Paxton played Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), Bill Harding in Twister (1996), and lead roles in dark dramas such as One False Move (1992) and A Simple Plan (1998). In 1990, he co-starred with Charlie Sheen and Michael Biehn in Navy Seals.
He also appeared in Mighty Joe Young (1998).
Paxton directed the feature films Frailty (2001), in which he also starred, and The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005). Four years after appearing in Titanic, he joined Cameron on an expedition to the actual Titanic. A film about this trip, Ghosts of the Abyss was released in 2003. He also appeared in the music video for Limp Bizkit's 2003 song "Eat You Alive" as a sheriff. In addition, Paxton was also a character in both Spy Kids 2 and Spy Kids 3-D.
His highest-profile television performances received much positive attention, including his lead role in HBO's Big Love (2006–2011), for which Paxton received three Golden Globe Award nominations. Paxton also received good reviews for his performance in the History Channel's miniseries Hatfields & McCoys (2012), for which he was nominated for an Emmy Award alongside co-star, Kevin Costner.
In 2014, he played the role of the villainous John Garrett in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and a supporting role in Edge of Tomorrow (2014). He starred alongside Jon Bernthal, Rose McGowan and John Malkovich as a playable character in the 2014 video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (downloadable "Exo Zombies" mode). In February 2016, Paxton was cast as Detective Frank Rourke for Training Day, a crime-thriller television series set 15 years after the events of the eponymous 2001 movie; it premiered a year later.
Paxton was married to Kelly Rowan from 1979 to 1980. In 1987 he married Louise Newbury, whom he first met on the Number 13 bus in London when she was a student. With Louise, Paxton fathered two children: James, also an actor, and Lydia.
Illness and death
In early 2017, Paxton stated in an interview with Marc Maron on WTF with Marc Maron that he had a damaged heart valve, which resulted from rheumatic fever which he contracted at the age of 13. Paxton underwent open-heart surgery to repair the damaged heart valve and his aorta on February 14, 2017. Eleven days later, on February 25, 2017, at age 61, Paxton died of a stroke.
On February 26, 2017, while introducing the annual In Memoriam segment at the 89th Academy Awards, which took place the day after Paxton's death, a visibly emotional Jennifer Aniston paid verbal tribute to Paxton.
Book authors also paid tribute, such as Dennis E. Taylor (Bobiverse Series; Book 3 - "For Bill Paxton, who brought a little more humanity to some great SF movies.")
The television show Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. paid tribute at the end of the Season 4 Episode 16 titled "What if..."
The film Call Me by Your Name, released in November 2017, is dedicated to Paxton's memory. Peter Spears, producer of the film, explained that this was because his husband, Brian Swardstrom, who was also Paxton's best friend and agent, visited the set with Paxton during filming and befriended the film's director, Luca Guadagnino, who ultimately decided to dedicate the movie "in loving memory of Bill Paxton." Close friend and frequent collaborator James Cameron wrote a tribute to Paxton in an article for Vanity Fair detailing their 36-year friendship and expressing remorse over the projects they wouldn't be able to make together. Numerous other filmmakers and actors also paid tribute, including Cary Elwes, Rob Lowe, Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Jordan Peele, William Shatner, Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as his years-long Big Love co-stars Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin. Sevigny remembered Paxton as:
One of the less cynical, jaded people I've ever met in the business.... He believed in entertainment being transportive and transformative. He believed in the magic of what we can bring to people. That was really a gift that he gave to me.
|1981||Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker/Night Warning||Eddie||as William Paxton|
|The Lords of Discipline||Gilbreath|||
|Taking Tiger Mountain||Billy Hampton|||
|1984||Streets of Fire||Clyde The Bartender|||
|The Terminator||Punk Leader|||
|1985||Weird Science||Chet Donnelly|||
|Commando||Intercept Officer #1|||
|1986||Aliens||Private William Hudson|||
|1988||Pass the Ammo||Jesse Wilkes|||
|Next of Kin||Gerald Gates|||
|Back to Back||Bo Brand|||
|1990||Brain Dead||Jim Reston|||
|The Last of the Finest||Howard 'Hojo' Jones|||
|Navy SEALs||Floyd "God" Dane|||
|Predator 2||Detective Jerry Lambert|||
|1991||The Dark Backward||Gus|||
|1992||One False Move||Sheriff Dale 'Hurricane' Dixon|||
|The Vagrant||Graham Krakowski|||
|1993||Boxing Helena||Ray O'Malley|||
|Indian Summer||Jack Belston|||
|1995||Apollo 13||Fred Haise|||
|The Last Supper||Zachary Cody|||
|Frank and Jesse||Frank James|||
|1996||Twister||Bill 'The Extreme' Harding|||
|The Evening Star||Jerry Bruckner|||
|1998||A Simple Plan||Hank Mitchell|||
|Mighty Joe Young||Professor Gregory O'Hara|||
|2000||U-571||Lieutenant Commander Mike Dahlgren|||
|Vertical Limit||Elliot Vaughn|||
|2001||Frailty||Dad Meiks||Also director|||
|2002||Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams||'Dinky' Winks||Cameo|||
|2003||Ghosts of the Abyss||Himself / Narrator|||
|Resistance||Major Ted Brice|||
|Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over||'Dinky' Winks||Cameo|||
|2004||Broken Lizard's Club Dread||Pete 'Coconut Pete' Wabash|||
|2005||Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D||Edgar Mitchell||Short film|||
|2007||The Good Life||Robbie|||
|2 Guns||CIA Agent Earl|||
|Red Wing||Jim Verret|||
|2014||Million Dollar Arm||Tom House|||
|Edge of Tomorrow||Master Sergeant Farell|||
|2016||Term Life||Detective Joe Keenan|||
|Mean Dreams||Wayne Caraway|||
|2017||The Circle||Vinnie Holland||Posthumous release|||
|1983||Deadly Lessons||Eddie Fox||Movie|||
|1985||An Early Frost||Bob Maracek||Movie|||
|The Atlanta Child Murders||Campbell||Miniseries|||
|1986||Fresno||Billy Joe Bobb||Miniseries (4 episodes)|||
|Miami Vice||Detective Vic Romano||Episode: "Streetwise"|||
|1987||The Hitchhiker||Trout||Episode: "Made for Each Other"|||
|1993||Tales from the Crypt||Billy DeLuca||Episode: "People Who Live in Brass Hearses"|||
|1998||A Bright Shining Lie||John Paul Vann||Movie|||
|2003||Frasier||Ernie||Episode: "Analyzed Kiss"|||
|2006–11||Big Love||Bill Henrickson||Lead role (53 episodes)|||
|2012||Hatfields & McCoys||Randolph McCoy||Miniseries (3 episodes)|||
|2013||JFK: The Day That Changed Everything||Narrator||Documentary|||
|2014||Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||John Garrett||6 episodes|||
|2015||Texas Rising||Sam Houston||Miniseries|||
|The Gamechangers||Jack Thompson||Movie|||
|2017||Training Day||Detective Frank Roarke||Lead role (13 episodes)|||
|1980||"Fish Heads"||Barnes & Barnes||Main character||Also director|||
|1982||"Love Tap"||Barnes & Barnes||Main character|
|"Shadows of the Night"||Pat Benatar||Wehrmacht-Unteroffizier|||
|1983||"Soak It Up"||Barnes & Barnes||Main character|
|1984||"Ah Ā"||Barnes & Barnes|
|1986||"How Can the Labouring Man Find Time for Self-Culture?"||Martini Ranch|
|1987||"Touched by the Hand of God"||New Order|||
|1988||"Reach"||Martini Ranch||Main character|||
|2003||"Eat You Alive"||Limp Bizkit||Sheriff|||
|2015||Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare||Kahn||Exo Zombies|||
|2005||The Greatest Game Ever Played|||
|1977||The Egyptian Princess, an Unfolding Fantasy||Short|
|2007||The Good Life||Executive producer|
Awards and nominations
|1983||USA Film Festival||Honorable Mention||Scoop||Won|||
|1987||Saturn Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Aliens||Won|||
|1995||CableACE Awards||Best Actor in a Dramatic Series||Tales from the Crypt||Nominated|||
|1996||Screen Actors Guild||Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture||Apollo 13||Won|||
|1997||Saturn Awards||Best Actor||Twister||Nominated|
|1998||Screen Actors Guild||Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture||Titanic||Nominated|||
|1999||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film||A Bright Shining Lie||Nominated|||
|2003||Saturn Awards||Best Director||Frailty||Nominated|||
|2006||Satellite Awards||Best Actor – Television Series Drama||Big Love||Nominated|||
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Television Series Drama||Nominated|||
|2009||Satellite Awards||Best Actor – Television Series Drama||Nominated|||
|2010||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Television Series Drama||Nominated|||
|2012||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie||Hatfields & McCoys||Nominated|||
|2013||Screen Actors Guild||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie||Nominated|||
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- "The 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". SAGAwards.com. Screen Actors Guild. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
- Lewis, Hilary (April 27, 2017). "Tribeca: 'The Circle' Team on Bill Paxton, Real-Life Inspirations for Tech Thriller". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
- "John Paxton Profile". imdb.com. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
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- Take Another Hit: The Best of Coconut Pete - Bill Paxton | Releases | AllMusic, retrieved August 13, 2020
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- Stripes (1981) Trailer #1 - Movieclips Classic Trailers. MovieClips and Classic Trailers (Trailer). July 4, 2019. Event occurs at 1:37. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
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- "Zadzooks: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Havoc – Exo Zombies review". The Washington Times. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
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- "Bill Paxton's Secret Health Battle — What Was Wrong with His Heart?".
- Bill Paxton Died Of Stroke Following Surgery – Update March 6, 2017.
- Strickland, Ashley (March 7, 2017). "Bill Paxton's death caused by stroke after surgery". CNN. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- "Actor Bill Paxton Dead at 61 Due to Complications from Surgery". Retrieved February 26, 2017.
- Gilbey, Ryan (February 27, 2017). "Bill Paxton obituary". The Guardian.
- Ross, Martha (March 7, 2017). "Bill Paxton's death related to heart defect and possibly to childhood illness". The Mercury News. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
- "Cause of death revealed for Bill Paxton". WBAL. March 6, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
- Meteorologist, Brandon Miller, CNN. "Storm chasers pay tribute to Bill Paxton". CNN.
- Kelly, Emma. "Call Me By Your Name is one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, with critics hailing it as a modern gay classic". Metro.
- Cameron, James. "James Cameron Remembers Bill Paxton: "The World Is a Lesser Place For His Passing". Vanity Fair. VF. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
- "Rob Lowe Pays Tribute to Bill Paxton in Emotional Essay". E! Online. February 28, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
- Evans, Greg (February 26, 2017). "Hollywood Mourns Bill Paxton: "A Wonderful Man", Says Tom Hanks". Deadline. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
- Nolfi, Joey (February 14, 2017). "Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron, more stars pay tribute to Bill Paxton". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- Bacle, Ariana. "True Lies stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis remember Bill Paxton". Entertainment Weekly. EW. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
- Leon, Melissa (April 26, 2017). "Game Over, Man: 'Aliens' Cast Remembers the 'Irreplaceable' Bill Paxton on Alien Day". Daily Beast. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
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