Bill Paxton, ‘Titanic’ and ‘Big Love’ Star, Dies at 61

Bill Paxton Dead at 61
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Bill Paxton, the versatile actor who appeared in films including “Aliens” and “Titanic” and played a polygamist on HBO’s “Big Love,” died Saturday from complications following heart surgery. He was 61.

A representative for his family released a statement saying, “Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable.”

With a Texas twang and grizzled visage, Paxton often found himself playing military men and cowboys. He was closely associated with James Cameron, playing a punk leader in “The Terminator,” as well as an ill-fated soldier in “Aliens,” a venal car dealer in “True Lies” and a treasure hunter in “Titanic.”

Paxton earned an Emmy nomination for the 2012 miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” and was starring as a morally ambiguous detective in the CBS series “Training Day” at the time of his death. Production on the show wrapped back in December, and all 13 episodes of the midseason show’s order have been filmed.

In a statement, CBS said, “We are shocked and deeply saddened this morning by the news of Bill Paxton’s passing. Bill was, of course, a gifted and popular actor with so many memorable roles on film and television. His colleagues at CBS and Warner Bros. Television will also remember a guy who lit up every room with infectious charm, energy and warmth, and as a great storyteller who loved to share entertaining anecdotes and stories about his work. All of us here offer our deepest sympathy to his wife, Louise, and his two children.”

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Bill Paxton’s Career in Photos

Paxton anchored a few films, portraying a tornado-chasing scientist in the box office smash “Twister” (1996), and a wildlife refuge director in the flop, “Mighty Joe Young” (1998).  In most movies, Paxton cut a morally upright figure, the character actor equivalent of a Kevin Costner or Gary Cooper. But he earned the best reviews of his career for roles that upended his persona. He was gripping as a family man trying to hide stolen money in Sam Raimi’s “A Simple Plan” (1998), and similarly effective playing against type as an ethically compromised lawman in his first major role, Carl Franklin’s “One False Move” (1992).

He’s also remembered for his roles in “Apollo 13,” “Tombstone” and as older brother Chet in “Weird Science.”

On the small screen, Paxton played a wife-juggling entrepreneur on “Big Love,” who is haunted by his upbringing in a polygamist Mormon family.

HBO released a statement, saying “We are extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Paxton.’Big Love’ was a seminal series for HBO for many years due to Bill’s extraordinary talent and grace. Offscreen, he was as warm, smart and fun as one could be. A true friend to so many at HBO. He will be greatly missed.”

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“Big Love” lasted five seasons, earning three Golden Globe nominations for Paxton. In blunt fashion, Paxton publicly disagreed with the violent way the show ended, decrying its lack of ambiguity.

“It was a great show, it was a landmark show, and it ran its course,” he said in a 2012 interview with Screen Anarchy.  “Five years was a great run, and it had to end somehow, and it ended with a bang, instead of a whimper.”

Paxton earned critical acclaim for “Frailty,” a horror film he made his directorial debut with and starred in as a father beset by demonic visions. In a four-star review, Roger Ebert wrote, “Perhaps only a first-time director, an actor who does not depend on directing for his next job, would have had the nerve to make this movie. It is uncompromised.”

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Paxton went to Hollywood when he was 18, and found work as a set dresser for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, working on films like “Big Bad Mama” and “Eat My Dust.” His first acting role was a small part in Jonathan Demme’s “Crazy Mama” for Corman. Paxton then studied acting in New York under Stella Adler, and made films for “Saturday Night Live” like “Fish Heads,” based on the popular novelty song.

Paxton was known as “wild Bill” for his on-set pranks. He is survived by his two children, James and Lydia Paxton, and his wife Louise Newbury.

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  1. Maor says:

    Bill paxton was a good actor. We will always remember you when we see the movies you participated

  2. Jennie Mattero says:

    Bill was an extraordinary actor and I just wish I could have met him until we meet again Brock

  3. smartalek says:

    WAY too young.
    So very sad.
    Deepest condolences to all who were close to him.
    Looks as if 2017 is shaping up to be another 2016 — best strap ourselves in snugly.

  4. Henry Bemis says:

    “If a man dies….will he live again?” Job 14:14

    • Kathleen Martin says:

      Bill Paxton made every role memorable. Example: Aliens II…Sigourney says Nuke (maybe 9 years old) survived among the aliens all by herself, without any help or weapons…Response from Bill Paxton, tagline, “Why don’t you put her in charge”…Priceless…I laughed my as# off…Luv to Bill Paxton….Thanks….RIP…

  5. E says:

    …and with his cousin, George, in the audience, they forgot to honor MIGUEL FERRAR?…FOR SHAME…

  6. desdicato says:

    A great actor and decent man by all accounts. I loved his turn as a drill sgt. with a boot up Tom Cruise’s character’s ass in The Edge of Tomorrow.

  7. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    Best film was Walter Hill’s TRESPASS. RIP

  8. Patricia Elena Castrellon says:

    Una

  9. Jerry J Calvert says:

    Bill Paxton is one of my most favorite actors of all time , i Truly loved watching him regardless the role he played he made my life in watching moves from my younger days and even still to this day i injoy watching the movies he was in ! I will really mis him , my thoughts and prayers go out to his Family ! God Bless them all always .

  10. Victor Cirino says:

    The Man! He was very talented and funny as hell. Will sorely be missed.

  11. William Melvin says:

    I enjoyed and looked forward to movies staring Bill Paxton because his humor and uncanning characters that he played in each one we’ll miss you brother you’re only a couple years older than me but I loved every movie you were in rest in peace and my condolences to your family and friends

  12. Jacen says:

    A great moment in my youth happened thanks to Mr. Paxton. In summer ’86, as we watched Aliens, my and I realized that the guy playing Hudson was the man who had played Chet in ’85’s Weird Science. So when Hudson bellowed “now what the @#$% are we supposed to do?” my friend yelled “Do you realize it’s snowing in my room?!” A funny line made funnier in the context of the Aliens scene, and all due to Mr. Paxton inimitable style.

    Thank you, Mr. Paxton. You put together a solid body of work and will be missed.

    • jedi77 says:

      That is a funny story! Me and my friends could have had the exact same conversation back in ’86. Paxton was so great at memorable lines, because of his unique delivery.

  13. Randy Turrow, Ex. Prod. says:

    Lovely man and terrific actor who lit up The Dark Backward!

  14. There are but a few actors that I might see when flipping TV channels and – not recognizing the movie – have to stop and watch. Bill Paxton was one such actor and I had to always give him the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, he’s gone way too soon. Condolences to all who will miss him.

  15. Felix Chamberlain says:

    I worked with Bill on his hugely unique WB/Sire Records project, Martini Ranch. One of the very few stand up guys – hugely hilarious and a thoughtful, loyal friend. His energy and presence will be dearly missed. My heart goes out to Louise and their family.

  16. Felix Chamberlain says:

    I worked closely with Bill on his hugely unique WB/Sire record project, Martini Ranch. One of the very few stand up guys – hilarious prankster, loyal friend. His presence will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to Louise and their family.

  17. Tammy anderson says:

    Just watched tombstone last night., rip!

  18. Derrick roddey says:

    He willt truly be missed My condolences to his entire family and his friends This is sad to here especially on Oscar night RIP BILL🙏🙏🙏😇😇

  19. Mindy J. Cole says:

    I loved him in “Near Dark”, the psycho Vampire Cowboy, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

  20. JoMama says:

    He was the consummate example of actors who felt like our buddies over the years. You know how many people quoted Chet and threw eggs on the ceiling to catch them in the pan without looking after Weird Science? Everyone. He chewed the scenery well, but brought it back with the knack that can’t be taught, where you’re laughing at him then hanging on his every word all in the same scene.

  21. Garth Dial says:

    You just couldn’t wait to stick it to the “Mormons”, could you. What a sad sack you are.

  22. Garth Dial says:

    Not a word about “Tombstone”. Sadness, truly sadness!

  23. Sully says:

    He was also the little boy in the photo of President Kennedy’s last morning in Fort Worth… He was atop his father’s shoulders, a six year old to see President Kennedy not knowing of course JFK would be fatally shot within hours.

  24. Michelle Armstrong says:

    Wow that is a great loss he was a wonderful actor I liked all of the films I’ve seen him in he will be greatly missed

  25. “Ill fated technician” in Aliens??? Who writes these things? He was a navy soldier in Aliens.

    • Jacen says:

      Actually, Pvt. Bill Hudson is a member of the Colonial Marines, most likely a corporate-owned subdivision of Weyland-Yutani, and he is indeed the tech guy in the group.

    • Al Williams says:

      I thought he was a Marine (I know, I know. That would be what you’d call a navy “soldier.”

  26. Scott Sweeney says:

    I have read several articles about his passing. But no mention of 2 of my favorites – Tombstone and Apollo 13. He was solid in all of his roles. And I was enjoying the TV version of Training Day. RIP.

  27. although best known for Aliens and Titanic he did his career best work in A Simple Plan

  28. I feel in love with Bill Paxton when i first saw him in the horror cult classic “Near Dark”. He was a brilliant actor and he will be missed big time. oxoxox

  29. Ralph Foster says:

    Bill was a wonderful actor ! A Stella career that sadly finished too soon !

  30. Michi says:

    His work will truly be missed.
    One thing I could pretty much guarantee, He would entertain. That’s all I ever want from Actors!

    RIP

  31. Chris Lucia says:

    Game over man, game over!!

  32. Betty Basche says:

    HOW SAD. WHAT A GREAT FOR AMERICA.LOVED THIS MAN.

  33. Steven Warthen says:

    I am so sorry to hear this, I am a big fan of his work, especially the New Series Training Day, I am sad. Condolences and Prayers of Love to his Family ! I am very saddened by his passing ! Gone way too soon ! Thank You Mr.Bill Paxton for your work , may you Rest in Heaven Sir !

  34. Bill B. says:

    He’s in so many films that I’ve liked or loved. What a sad stunner this is.

  35. Tom Dobbs says:

    What a sad day for the industry. I always looked at Mr. Paxton as a great character actor more than the leading man like. He was never afraid to over act scenes or roles when it was called for and always seemed at his best when he did. I mean that as a compliment. He could always leave me with a laugh, even in the most dramatic or even in a horror film.
    Hollywood is a little dimmer today because of the loss of Mr. Paxton

  36. Glenda Bach says:

    Way too young. I enjoyed his movies and TV serials.

  37. Pamela says:

    RIP…SWEET GIANT I!

  38. Pamela DeBow says:

    Great actor, fantastic works, always a legacy!!!!

  39. Lane says:

    It has been 30 years since ‘Aliens’ opened in theaters. Every line of Bill’s incredible comic relief is as memorable and resonating as though it was playing today. Sincere condolences to his friends and family. One of the all time greats. RIP Bill.

  40. John Cobb says:

    He also played the Pres. In MEN in blac

  41. John Gaunt says:

    My thoughts go out to family & friends, Sad loss. Regards-John & Wendy. xx

  42. Sofonda Cox says:

    “You get their pilot lit and they can suck start a leafblower.” “A pair a titties that’ll make ya stand up and beg for buttermilk.” The best of the best from True Lies.

    Also, don’t forget Weird Science.

  43. Alex Meyer says:

    So sad. RIP.

  44. Yeah, but it’s a dry heat……….

  45. bobinbusan says:

    Was good in the Alamo

  46. Michelle Stalker says:

    *Mighty Joe Young.. Smh.

  47. Wonderful Actor and Family man!

  48. MB says:

    He played a COLONIAL MARINE, a soldier in Aliens, a SOLDIER, not a technician, and it was a famous part that is quoted today. ” Game over, man! Game over!”

    Game over, Bill. RIP. You were an awesome actor and an even better human being.

  49. gball1945 says:

    Totally enjoyed his acting both on the big and small screen. His new TV show became a favourite half way through the first episode. Twister, True Lies, were favourites on the big screen. RIP Bill and prayers to your family and friends.

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