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Obituaries

Actor Bill Paxton dies after complications from surgery

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 7:41am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 February, 2017, 10:22pm

Bill Paxton, 61, who had big roles in movies like Apollo 13, Titanic, A Simple Plan, Weird Science, Twister and True Lies, and in the TV series Big Love, has unexpectedly died at 61.

Paxton died from complications from surgery, according to a statement from a representative of Paxton’s family.

Paxton’s career that began in B-movies, experimental film and music videos. He moved through bit parts in big pictures and then to leading roles. The epitome of a working actor, he described his on-screen presence as that of “a very straight-looking guy, very old-fashioned.”

“I consider myself an everyman, and there will always be an underdog quality to my stuff,” Paxton said in 1995.

Paxton often found a way to make these roles his own. For example, as Private Hudson in James Cameron’s film Aliens, Paxton’s desperate, defeated whine after a spaceship crash became a catchphrase: “Game over, man! Game over!”

Born William Paxton in Fort Worth, Texas, the actor was the son of a hardwood salesman and, he said in a 2009 interview, expected that he’d follow the same path. But after taking theatre classes in high school, Paxton decided to become an actor.

He moved to Los Angeles when he was in his late teens. One of his first jobs was at New World Pictures as a set designer for famed B-movie producer and director Roger Corman on the Angie Dickenson movie Big Bad Mama. A year later, he acted in Crazy Mama, a New World production directed by a young Jonathan Demme.

The actor continued with set-design work while making inroads in front of the camera. Early appearances included a starring role in Fish Heads (1980), a cult-classic novelty video for the music duo Barnes & Barnes, which Paxton directed and that aired on Saturday Night Live.

As the jerky brother Chet in Weird Science (1985), a young Paxton revelled in the character’s over-the-top antipathy. In one memorable scene, blowing cigar smoke into his younger brother’s face, he said, “How about a nice, greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?”

Paxton played a blue-haired punk rocker in the opening scene of The Terminator, a role that led to a friendship with director Cameron and jobs in Aliens, True Lies and Titanic. Paxton’s acclaimed turn in Apollo 13, where he was cast alongside Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon, further confirmed the actor’s abilities.

“Every day you’re taking a final exam as an actor,” Paxton said in 1998, while discussing his work in A Simple Plan.

As Hank in A Simple Plan, Paxton harnessed his average-Joe demeanour in service of a career-defining role alongside Billy Bob Thornton. After their two characters find millions of dollars in the woods, Paxton’s Hank explores the ways in which good men can do bad things.

“I don’t play my characters with any judgement,” he said. “I don’t think it’s possible to play any character with judgement.”