Bill Paxton

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Bill Paxton
Bill Paxton 2014.jpg
Paxton in 2014
Born William Paxton
(1955-05-17)May 17, 1955
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
Died February 25, 2017(2017-02-25) (aged 61)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, California, U.S.
  • Actor
  • film director
Years active 1975–2017
  • Kelly Rowan
    (m. 1979; div. 1980)
  • Louise Newbury
    (m. 1987; d. 2017)
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), Weird Science (1985), Aliens (1986), Predator 2 (1990), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), U-571 ‘’ Mighty Joe Young’’ (2000), Vertical Limit (2000), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and Nightcrawler (2014). He also starred in the HBO drama series Big Love (2006–2011), earning three Golden Globe Award nominations during the show's run.[1] 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).[2][3] Paxton's final film appearance was in The Circle (2017), released two months after his death.[4]

Early life[edit]

Paxton (the child seen raised above the crowd) before JFK emerges from the Hotel Texas on November 22, 1963

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 occasional actor, most notably appearing in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7][8] He later co-produced the film Parkland, about the assassination. Paxton is distantly related to actress Sara Paxton.

On the Marc Maron podcast, Paxton revealed that at the age of 13 he contracted rheumatic fever, which had damaged his heart. During his teens, Paxton worked as a paper delivery boy with Mike Muir.[9]


Among Paxton's earliest roles were a minor role as a punk thug in The Terminator (1984), a supporting role as the lead protagonist's bullying older brother Chet Donnelly in John Hughes' Weird Science (1985) and Private Hudson in Aliens (1986).

He directed several short films, including the music video for Barnes & Barnes' 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.

Music career[edit]

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.[10] The album was produced by Devo member Bob Casale, and featured guest appearances by two other members of that band.[11] The music video for the band's single "Reach" was directed by James Cameron.[12]


Paxton worked with Cameron on The Terminator (1984) and then reunited with him on Aliens (1986). His performance in the latter as Private Hudson earned him the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.[13]


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 starred and The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005).[14] 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.[14] 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).[14] 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).[15] 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.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Paxton was married to Kelly Rowan from 1979 to 1980. In 1987 he married Louise Newbury and they had two children: James and Lydia.[17]

In February 2017, a few weeks prior to having cardiac surgery, and ultimately until his death, Paxton stated in an interview with Marc Maron that he had a damaged heart valve, the result of suffering from rheumatic fever in his youth.[18]


On February 25, 2017, Paxton died at the age of 61.[19][20] A representative for the family released the following statement to the press on February 26:

Paxton's official cause of death was a stroke, precipitated by complications after a heart valve and aorta surgery he underwent on February 14, 2017.[22][23] It was later revealed that Paxton had suffered rheumatic fever as a child, which had caused heart damage early in his life.[24] He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park.[25]

Upon learning of his death, a number of storm chasers paid tribute to his Twister role by spelling out his initials via the Spotter Network.[26]

The film Call Me by Your Name, released in November 2017, was 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."[27]

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.[28]

Numerous other filmmakers and actors also paid tribute, including Tom Hanks,[29] Charlize Theron,[30] former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,[31] Michael Biehn,[32] Jordan Peele,[30] William Shatner,[30] Jamie Lee Curtis,[30] as well as his years-long Big Love co-stars Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin.[30] Sevigny remembered Paxton as:



Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1975 Crazy Mama John Uncredited [34]
1981 Stripes Soldier [14]
1982 Night Warning Eddie [35]
1983 Taking Tiger Mountain Billy Hampton [36]
1983 The Lords of Discipline Gilbreath [14]
1983 Mortuary Paul Andrews [14]
1984 Streets of Fire Clyde the Bartender [14]
1984 Impulse Eddie [14]
1984 The Terminator Punk Leader [14]
1985 Weird Science Chet Donnelly [14]
1985 Commando Intercept Officer [14]
1986 Aliens Private William Hudson [14]
1987 Near Dark Severen [14]
1988 Pass the Ammo Jesse Wilkes [14]
1989 Slipstream Matt Owens [14]
1989 Next of Kin Gerald Gates [14]
1989 Back to Back Bo Brand [14]
1990 Brain Dead Jim Reston [14]
1990 The Last of the Finest Howard 'Hojo' Jones [14]
1990 Navy SEALs Dane [14]
1990 Predator 2 Jerry Lambert [14]
1991 The Dark Backward Gus [14]
1992 The Vagrant Graham Krakowski [14]
1992 One False Move Dale 'Hurricane' Dixon [14]
1992 Trespass Vince [14]
1993 Monolith Tucker [14]
1993 Indian Summer Jack Belston [14]
1993 Boxing Helena Ray O'Malley [14]
1993 Tombstone Morgan Earp [14]
1994 True Lies Simon [14]
1994 Frank and Jesse Frank James [14]
1994 Future Shock Vince [14]
1995 The Last Supper Zachary Cody [14]
1995 Apollo 13 Fred Haise [14]
1996 Twister Bill "The Extreme" Harding [14]
1996 The Evening Star Jerry Bruckner [14]
1997 Traveller Bokky [14]
1997 Titanic Brock Lovett [14]
1998 A Simple Plan Hank [14]
1998 A Bright Shining Lie John Paul Vann [14]
1998 Mighty Joe Young Professor Gregory O'Hara [14]
2000 U-571 Lieutenant Commander Mike Dahlgren [14]
2000 Vertical Limit Elliot Vaughn [14]
2001 Frailty Dad Meiks Also director [14]
2002 Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams Dinky Winks [14]
2003 Ghosts of the Abyss Himself/Narrator [14]
2003 Resistance Major Theodore 'Ted' Brice [37]
2003 Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over Dinky Winks [14]
2004 Club Dread Coconut Pete [14]
2004 Thunderbirds Jeff Tracy [14]
2004 Haven Carl Ridley [38]
2005 Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D Edgar Mitchell Short film [39]
2005 The Greatest Game Ever Played Director [14]
2007 The Good Life Robbie [14]
2011 Haywire John Kane
2011 Tornado Alley Narrator
2012 Shanghai Calling Donald [40]
2013 The Colony Mason [14]
2013 2 Guns Earl [14]
2013 Red Wing Jim Verret [14]
2014 Million Dollar Arm Tom House [14]
2014 Edge of Tomorrow Master Sergeant Farell [14]
2014 Nightcrawler Joe Loder [14]
2015 Pixies Eddie Beck Voice role
2016 Term Life Detective Keenan [14]
2016 Mean Dreams Wayne Caraway [14]
2017 The Circle Vinnie Holland Posthumous release [14]


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
1983 Deadly Lessons Eddie Fox Movie [14]
1985 An Early Frost Bob Maracek Movie [14]
1985 The Atlanta Child Murders Campbell Miniseries [14]
1986 Fresno Billy Joe Bobb Miniseries (4 episodes) [14]
1986 Miami Vice Detective Vic Romano Episode: "Streetwise" [41]
1987 The Hitchhiker Trout Episode: "Made for Each Other" [42]
1993 Tales from the Crypt Billy DeLuca Episode: "People Who Live in Brass Hearses" [41]
1998 A Bright Shining Lie John Paul Vann Movie [14]
2003 Frasier Ernie Episode: "Analyzed Kiss" [41]
2006–11 Big Love Bill Henrickson Lead role (53 episodes) [43]
2012 Hatfields & McCoys Randolph McCoy Miniseries (3 episodes) [43]
2013 JFK: The Day That Changed Everything Narrator Documentary [44]
2014 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. John Garrett 6 episodes [41]
2015 Texas Rising Sam Houston Miniseries [45][46]
2015 The Gamechangers Jack Thompson Movie [47]
2017 Training Day Detective Frank Roarke Lead role (13 episodes) [41]

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Artist Role Notes Ref.
1980 "Fish Heads" Barnes & Barnes Main character Director [48]
1982 "Shadows of the Night" Pat Benatar Wehrmacht-Unteroffizier [42]
1987 "Touched by the Hand of God" New Order [49]
1988 "Reach" Martini Ranch Main character [42]
2003 "Eat You Alive" Limp Bizkit Sheriff [42]

Video game[edit]

Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Kahn Exo Zombies [15]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Title Result Ref.
1987 Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actor Aliens Won [50]
1995 CableACE Awards Best Actor in a Dramatic Series Tales from the Crypt Nominated [51]
1996 Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Apollo 13 Won [52]
1997 Saturn Awards Best Actor Twister Nominated
1998 Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Titanic Nominated [53]
1999 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film A Bright Shining Lie Nominated [54]
2003 Saturn Awards Best Director Frailty Nominated [55]
2006 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Big Love Nominated [56]
2007 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Big Love Nominated [57]
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Big Love Nominated [54]
2008 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Big Love Nominated [54]
2009 Satellite Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Big Love Nominated [58]
2010 Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Television Series Drama Big Love Nominated [54]
2012 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie Hatfields & McCoys Nominated [59]
2013 Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Hatfields & McCoys Nominated [60]


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  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "John Paxton Profile". Retrieved August 2, 2018.
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  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm "Filmography for Bill Paxton".
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  22. ^ Bill Paxton Died Of Stroke Following Surgery – Update March 6, 2017.
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  26. ^ Meteorologist, Brandon Miller, CNN. "Storm chasers pay tribute to Bill Paxton". CNN.
  27. ^ 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 (website).
  28. ^ Cameron, James. "James Cameron Remembers Bill Paxton: "The World Is a Lesser Place For His Passing". Vanity Fair. VF. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  29. ^ Evans, Greg. "Hollywood Mourns Bill Paxton: "A Wonderful Man", Says Tom Hanks". Deadline. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
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External links[edit]