Bill Paxton Passes at 61

A major player in the world of science fiction and genre films.

Bill Paxton, actor, producer, and director, passed away today at the age of 61 from complications from surgery. His family released a statement regarding his passing.

Paxton was a major player in the world of science fiction and genre films for being in Terminator, Aliens, and Predator 2. He frequently has worked with director James Cameron; in addition to Terminator and Aliens, he has appeared in True Lies and Titantic, with Cameron even directing a video for the band Martini Ranch, of which Paxton was a member.

Bill Paxton’s career in the entertainment industry began working behind the scenes on several Roger Corman productions until receiving an uncredited appearance in 1975’s Crazy Mama. He was the producer of Barnes & Barnes’s video “Fish Heads” which was aired on Saturday Night Live. In 1981 he had a small role Stripes, starring Bill Murray.

In 1981 he has the first line of dialogue spoken in The Terminator, and is also the first victim of this iconic screen villain. In 1985 he was the obnoxious Chet Donnelly in Weird Science and the following year he had the role that endeared him to science fiction fans: Private Hudson in Aliens. His role as the psychologically beaten soldier spouts some of the most memorable and quotable lines from the film — “Game over, man” and “Why don’t you put her in charge?” being only two.

1986 saw Paxton as part of the new wave band Martini Ranch.¬†¬†Wikipedia states, “Conceived in 1982 by Andrew Todd Rosenthal. The band was composed of Roseenthal (vocals and guitar) and actor Bill Paxton¬†(voices and samples), and featured a similar sound to late 1980s Devo.” I had a copy of the band’s second, and final, CD and played it until I wore it out. The video for “Reach” was directed by James Cameron and features many cameos by actors that Paxton knew.

The movie Near Dark (1987) had him playing Severen, the member of a family of vampires on the run in the present day. The film reunited him with two of his Aliens co-stars, Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein, and is consistently cited as one of the better vampire films.

Films that followed included Slipstream (1989), Brain Dead (1990), Navy Seals (1990), The Dark Backward (1991), Trespass (1992), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Frank & Jesse (1995), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), A Simple Plan (1998), Mighty Joe Young (1998), and U-571 (2000).

2001 saw the release of Frailty, a film that Paxton starred in and directed. The film also stars Matthew McConaughey and Powers Boothe. The story, told partially in flashback, deals with two boys’ relationship with their father who believes that God has told him to kill demons disguised as humans. It’s a slick thriller, like a drawn out episode of The Twilight Zone, with viewers wondering if the father, played by Paxton, is insane or truly touched by the hand of God.

HBO was Paxton’s home from 2006 to 2011, earning him three Emmy nominations, as Bill Henrickson on Big Love, which followed the lives of a family in Utah that practices polygamy.

Marvel Television productions was blessed with Paxton’s turn as John Garrett on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2014.

The cinema continued to want Paxton, who was also in Edge of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler, both released in 2014. In fact, The Circle is in post-production currently and has Paxton in the role of Mae’s father. The film also stars Emma Watson, Karen Gillan, and Tom Hanks, who was a co-producer of Big Love and co-starred with Paxton in Apollo 13.

Recently a television series based on the film Training Day had begun to air. Set fifteen years after the film, Paxton played Frank Rourke.

As a fan, I sought out films simply because Paxton was in them. He could play maniac and serious equally well, with both being mesmerizing. To this day, if I’m flipping channels and I run across one of his films, I will stop and watch it simply because he’s in the scene. He made any production he was in that much brighter and entertaining.

Bill Paxton is survived by a wife and two children.

SciFiPulse expresses their deepest condolences to his family for their loss.


Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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