Bill Paxton, known for roles in 'Titanic' and 'Apollo 13,' dies at 61

The day before the 2017 Oscars, Bill Paxton passed away due to complications from heart surgery. He was a Fort Worth native, who went on to star in blockbusters and TV dramas.
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The day before the 2017 Oscars, Bill Paxton passed away due to complications from heart surgery. He was a Fort Worth native, who went on to star in blockbusters and TV dramas.
By

Theoden Janes

So long, Bill Paxton, and thanks for being in some of my favorite films

By Théoden Janes

tjanes@charlotteobserver.com

February 26, 2017 12:48 PM

I’ve always found it super-annoying that so many people frequently confused Bill Pullman for Bill Paxton, and vice-versa.

It’s very simple: One (Pullman) is remembered almost exclusively for playing the president and giving the big speech in the mediocre sci-fi blockbuster “Independence Day,” and the other (Paxton) has iconic roles in several of my favorite films of all-time.

So it was very sad to hear the news that Paxton has died due to complications from surgery over the weekend – the same weekend Hollywood is gathering for the 89th Academy Awards. He was 61.

Paxton was close in age to Bruce Willis, Michael Keaton, Liam Neeson, Kevin Costner and Richard Gere, but he was never considered a huge star. He’s the kind of guy who reminds you of your older brother, or your boss, or the dude who cuts your grass.

In many ways, he was an Everyman, not a leading man.

Yet Paxton was nominated for four Golden Globes for starring roles on TV (thrice for HBO’s “Big Love,” once for HBO’s “A Bright Shining Lie”). In fact, the small screen in some ways proved to be his strong suit – he also won an Emmy for 2012’s “Hatfields & McCoys,” which aired on the History channel; Paxton shared top billing with Costner in that miniseries.

Perhaps his best and brightest moment as a leading man on film? “Twister.” The movie and its flying cows are preposterous, but somehow, he grounded the thing with his Everyman-ish-ness.

And while he never was seriously considered for an Oscar, he did appear in one Best Picture winner (“Titanic”), another Best Picture nominee (“Apollo 13”), and gave – in my opinion – a taut performance that helped land Billy Bob Thornton a Best Supporting Actor nomination for “A Simple Plan.” (If you have not seen this movie and enjoy tense thrillers, put it on your list immediately.)

Hopefully, Paxton will finally get his moment on the Oscar stage Sunday night, assuming the producers have time to make room for him in the “In Memoriam” segment. The news of his passing certainly has been shaking up Hollywood.

Sad news about Bill Paxton - too young. Always humanity, decency and touches of humor shining through his work. RIP.

— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) February 26, 2017

He made this movie great--he acted his heart out. What a talented man. My thoughts are with his family. pic.twitter.com/rUcmmYME3h

— Helen Hunt (@HelenHunt) February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton is 1of my favorite actors.I was able 2tell him so when we met yrs ago.Paxton was wonderful in everything he did. He inspired us. pic.twitter.com/hAXR9unvb6

— Vincent D'Onofrio (@vincentdonofrio) February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton was notoriously one of the nicest people in the industry. He also gave us some of the all-time most iconic movie moments.

— Jordan Peele (@JordanPeele) February 26, 2017

Devastated by the sudden loss of my close friend and one of the finest actors in the business, Bill Paxton. Renaissance man, raconteur and

— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton was, simply, a wonderful man. A wonderful man... Hanx.

— Tom Hanks (@tomhanks) February 26, 2017

Some of my favorite memories are of floating around in a tiny vessel with big hearted,hilarious,brilliant Bill Paxton. Sad day.

— Kevin Bacon (@kevinbacon) February 26, 2017

Rest In Peace my sweet friend. pic.twitter.com/1QC7pzDZPz

— Julie Benz (@juliebenz) February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton was hands down one of the greatest guys that I have ever met. I feel lucky to have called him my friend. Bill, I love you. RIP.

— Aaron Paul (@aaronpaul_8) February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton could play any role, but he was best at being Bill - a great human being with a huge heart. My thoughts are with his family.

— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) February 26, 2017

Nooooo. Bill Paxton is gone. Such a funny, talented, loving human. Louise & the children & family my ❤& support 2 u. #truelies pic.twitter.com/d4zleWdOrR

— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) February 26, 2017

Here’s a peek at Paxton in some of my favorite films:

I’ll leave you with another great quote from Paxton’s Private Hudson in “Aliens,” which pretty much sums up how I’m feeling right now:

“That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the (expletive) are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?”