Paxton in 2014
May 17, 1955
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
|Died||February 25, 2017 (aged 61)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|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 and director. He appeared in films such as The Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), Weird Science (1985), Aliens (1986), Near Dark (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998), U-571 (2000), Vertical Limit (2000), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Nightcrawler (2014), and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2014). 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). 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. 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. Paxton's 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. Bill'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, Texas 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.
Among Paxton's earliest roles were a minor role as a punk in The Terminator (1984), a supporting role as the lead protagonist's bullying older brother Chet Donnelly in John Hughes's Weird Science (1985), and Private W. 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. 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.
Paxton worked with Cameron on The Terminator (1984) and then reunited with him on Aliens (1986). His performance in the latter film as Private Hudson earned him the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He and Cameron collaborated 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), the male lead 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.
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.
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.
In February 2017, a few weeks prior to having cardiac surgery, Paxton stated in an interview with Marc Maron that he had a damaged heart valve, which was the result of him suffering from rheumatic fever in his youth.
Paxton died of a stroke on February 25, 2017, at age 61. He had successfully undergone open heart surgery to repair a heart valve and his aorta eleven days earlier. It was revealed after his death that Paxton had suffered rheumatic fever as a child, which had caused heart damage early in his life. He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park of Hollywood Hills.
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 Swardstorm, 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 Rob Lowe,Tom Hanks,Charlize Theron, former 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.
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.")
|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|||
|Predator 2||Jerry Lambert|||
|1991||The Dark Backward||Gus|||
|1992||One False Move||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|||
|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|||
|2003||Ghosts of the Abyss||Himself / Narrator|||
|Resistance||Major Theodore 'Ted' Brice|||
|Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over||Dinky Winks|||
|2004||Club Dread||Coconut Pete|||
|2005||Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D||Edgar Mitchell||Short film|||
|The Greatest Game Ever Played||N/A||Director|||
|2007||The Good Life||Robbie|||
|Red Wing||Jim Verret|||
|2014||Million Dollar Arm||Tom House|||
|Edge of Tomorrow||Master Sergeant Farell|||
|2016||Term Life||Detective 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||Director|||
|1981||"Love Tap"||Barnes & Barnes||Main Character|
|1982||"Shadows of the Night"||Pat Benatar||Wehrmacht-Unteroffizier|||
|1987||"Touched by the Hand of God"||New Order|||
|1988||"Reach"||Martini Ranch||Main character|||
|"How Can The Laboring Man Find Time For Self Culture?"||Martini Ranch|
|2003||"Eat You Alive"||Limp Bizkit||Sheriff|||
|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|||