×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

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.”

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.”

“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.

Celebrities Who Died in 2017

More Film

  • Imogen Poots

    'Black Christmas' Star Imogen Poots on Why Male Horror Fans Should See Slasher Remake

    “Black Christmas” is the second remake of the 1974 slasher classic, which centers on a group of sorority sisters stalked by an unknown murderer. While the original had the female protagonists (SPOILER) offed, in this one, the women fight back. “It’s been called a re-imagining of the original, and I think, in ways that the [...]

  • Imogen Poots as Riley in "Black

    'Black Christmas': Film Review

    “Black Christmas,” a low-budget Canadian horror movie released in 1974, was a slasher thriller with a difference: It was the very first one! Okay, there were more than a few precedents, from “Psycho” (the great-granddaddy of the genre) to “The Last House on the Left” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” to Mario Bava’s “A [...]

  • David Benioff, D.B. Weiss. Creators and

    'Game of Thrones' Creators to Develop H.P. Lovecraft Movie at Warner Bros.

    Following their exit from the “Star Wars” universe, “Game of Thrones” co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have found their replacement pic, signing on to produce an untitled thriller based on the graphic novel “Lovecraft” for Warner Bros. It is unknown if they will also direct the project, but they’ve already set Phil Hay and [...]

  • Little Women Greta Gerwig BTS

    Greta Gerwig and 'Little Women' Crew Mix Modern and Classical

    Greta Gerwig wrote and directed Sony’s “Little Women,” a new look at Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved 19th-century classic. Eager to pay tribute to her artisan colleagues, Gerwig says, “It was a joy for me to work with all these people. It’s a movie that’s impossible to create without world-class artists. They killed themselves for me!” [...]

  • Honey Boy

    Shia LaBeouf's 'Honey Boy' Adds Unusual Twist to Oscar's History With Kids

    Hollywood has made many terrific films about childhood, and many about filmmaking. Amazon’s “Honey Boy,” which opened Nov. 8, combines the two: A movie with a child’s POV of the industry. That unique angle could be a real benefit during awards season, and the film’s backstory — with Shia LaBeouf as the main attraction — will [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Taiwan Opens Doors Wider to LGBTQ Content

    The door has opened wider for gay content in Taiwan since the island became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in May, and companies like CEO Jay Lin’s Portico Media are hoping to turn LGBTQ stories into good business. The firm is ramping up its development of originals on its GagaOOLala platform, Asia’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content