Bill Paxton – best known for his films with James Cameron and TV shows such as Big Love – has died of complications following heart surgery. He was 61.
The Texan actor was often cast as well-meaning but flawed good ol’ boys, but he was also a memorable villain in films such as the vampire cult classic Near Dark (1987) and a likeable leading man in blockbusters like Twister (1996). His directorial debut, the chilling thriller Frailty (2001), suggested that he would also have fared equally well behind the camera, although he only got the chance to make one other movie, the golfing drama The Greatest Game Every Played (2005)
Born in Fort Worth in 1955, Paxton moved to Los Angeles in the early ‘70s and began in the film industry as a set dresser for Roger Corman films such as Crazy Mama (1974) and Eat My Dust (1976). Deciding to make the switch to acting, he landed small roles in films like Stripes (1981), Lords Of Discipline (1983) and The Terminator (1984), the first of a number films he would go on to make with his life-long friend James Cameron.
After his turn as a sadistic older brother in the John Hughes’ hit Weird Science (1985), Paxton began landing more substantial parts, including the gung-ho Private Hudson in Cameron’s Aliens (1987), the aforementioned redneck vampire Severin in Near Dark and Detective Jerry Lambert in Predator 2 (1990).
However, it was his performance as the small town sheriff in Carl Franklin’s superb noir thriller One False Move – co-written and co-starring Billy Bob Thornton – that took Paxton’s career to a new level. As well as supporting roles in hits such as Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995) and Titanic (1997), he was a heroic tornado chaser in Twister and gave one of the best performances of his career in Sam Raimi’s melancholic thriller A Simple Plan (1998).
The films Paxton made in the first decade of 2000s are best forgotten – the disastrous live action reboot of Thunderbirds, Spy Kids 2-3 – but he fared much better on the small screen, landing the lead role in HBO’s Mormon drama Big Love, which ran for five seasons between 2006 and 2011. He followed that with roles in mini-series such as Hatfield & McCoys (2012) and Texas Rising (2015), plus a recurring role in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; more recently, he plays Detective Frank Rourke in the small screen reboot of Training Day.
Back on the big screen, recent successes include Edge Of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler (both 2014), while his swan song movie is set to be the social media thriller The Circle, opposite Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, which is due in cinemas in May.