Bill Paxton's Awesome World
True stardom did not arrive for Paxton until he reunited with his buddy from the Corman days, James Cameron. The up-and-coming director's Terminator film had turned out to be a huge hit, and Fox had signed Cameron up to direct a sequel to Ridley Scott's Alien. Paxton ran into Cameron at an airport while Cameron was working on the script for Aliens and Paxton jokingly asked the director to write him up a good part.
Months later, Paxton flew to England to appear as Private Hudson, one of the Colonial Marines sent along with alien rape survivor Ripley to check out a colony on LV-426. Paxton's turn as the chitin-shocked Hudson gave him the opportunity to inject a small amount of comic relief into an otherwise relentlessly grim film.
Sigourney Weaver would ultimately be nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the film, but fans of Aliens can't help but tell you that it was Paxton as Private Hudson that stuck in their head. Quotes of Paxton crying "game over, man!" have haunted popular culture for over 20 years and Hudson's distraught fatalism has cropped up regularly in good and bad videogames.
When the going got tough at a bar while filming True Lies, Bill Paxton donned a pair of brass knuckles given to him by friend and lunatic Lance Henriksen. The thugs - no doubt jealous of Bill's awesomeness - were quick to back down.
Just another day in Bill's Awesome World.
Following the acclaim of Aliens was not easy, even for a master of acting like Bill Paxton. He starred in a series of unsuccessful or small films well into the 1990s. His memorable roles during this time period include his appearance as a member of a wild west gang of vampires in Near Dark (alongside the actress who played Vasquez wearing a gigantic blond wig) and future cop Jerry Lambert in Predator 2. Working alongside Danny Glover he managed to solve the case of the Predator. It turns out he skinned Bill Paxton in the subway with the candlestick.
Paxton also appeared in the oft-quoted western Tombstone, but everyone was overshadowed by Val Kilmer in that movie, possibly because Kilmer was devouring scenery like a fat kid in Candyland. Paxton's next big role came in 1994, when he teamed with James Cameron again and introduced the world to hilarious sleazy car dealer Simon in True Lies. In the film he manages to seduce Jamie Lee Curtis with little more than a bad mustache and a trailer, joking to Schwarzenegger (her super-spy husband in the film) that she has "an ass like a ten-year-old boy."
Schwarzenegger gets his revenge on Paxton later in one of the most memorable comeuppance scenes in movie history. The scene is doubly amusing because I'm sure the real Paxton would level Schwarzenegger and Tom Arnold with haymakers before they could react.
Bill Paxton was cast as a Nazi in a 1984 Pat Benatar music video. Although he is never heard speaking in the video, he learned German for the role. Then he was blown up by Pat Benatar, making him the only person to have been killed by a Terminator, a Predator, an Alien, and Pat Benatar.
That's the sort of thing that happens every day in Bill's Awesome World.
Even though Paxton was just a supporting player in True Lies, he followed the 1994 movie with two of his most successful films and his big break as a leading man. In 1995's Apollo 13 he played one of the Apollo astronauts, but it was 1996's Twister that made him into the underrated star he is today. Personally, I think Twister is one of his worst movies, but that's because there is little to interest me in a battle between Paxton and nature. Nature loses, Paxton wins. It's mathematical.
Paxton reunited with director James Cameron in 1997's mega-blockbuster Titanic. Say what you will about the film, but Bill Paxton is the sort of guy who will rope an old lady into helping him find the world's most valuable diamond...and then let it go because he cares about shit like emotions and history.
1998's A Simple Plan introduced Paxton to [ed: correction!] Sam Raimi. The acclaimed film was not a box-office hit, but I think it was Paxton's most multi-layered performance and proved that he could do more than kick the turds out of a tornado or find a diamond at the bottom of the Atlantic. In 2001 Paxton returned to his Fish Head roots, convinced Matthew McConaughey to put on a shirt and directed him in religious horror film Frailty. It's a good movie and it's extra cool because it features Paxton and Powers Boothe and yet their matter/anti-matter acting relationship did not annihilate the universe in a burst of Old Spice and whiskey.
Yes, Bill Paxton starred in the Thunderbirds movie in 2004. Did you see it? No? Then don't try to mock him for it. Maybe it was the best movie ever, you asshole.
2006 transports us nearly to the end of our tale of Bill Paxton's Awesome World. He was offered the role of Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code. Paxton, probably exhibiting psychic powers of precognition, rightly realized that the best-selling book of all time was for morons and the movie would be horrible and force him to have a stupid haircut. The role went instead to Paxton's friend Tom Hanks, another great American actor who is still trying to wipe the sleaze of that disaster off of his shoes.
Paxton turned down the role of Langdon and the associated giant paycheck to appear in HBO's family drama Big Love. The polygamy series features Paxton as the head of a household of three reasonably hot wives and many children. He attempts to balance his secretive life as some sort of bucktoothed baby-machine with his business empire and his relationship with his sinister cult-leader stepfather. The show is much better than you think. It can't replace The Sopranos, but at least it doesn't have Rebecca De Mornay screaming about everything at her blank-faced non-actor son.
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that Bill Paxton is the most underrated actor in American cinema. He has upgraded so many movies from good to classic that it defies belief, and he can make even a terrible movie like Slipstream worth watching. Bill Paxton may not be the best actor, or the most prolific, or even the most likely to be killed again by Pat Benatar, but if we're being honest here I think we all know that he is America's leading man.
I don't know for certain, but I would even venture a guess that he could out-punch Chuck Norris and would escape from Butcher Bay in a matter of seconds. Even the Internet's fictional heroes can't match up to the real Bill Paxton.
By the way, Bill Paxton is not Bill Pullman. He was not the president in Independence Day. He was not in Zero Effect. And he was never buried alive by voodoo priests in The Serpent and the Rainbow.