It was a shock to many of us when actor Bill Paxton passed away in February due to complications from surgery. He was 61, and had a new film coming out. That movie, The Circle, starring Paxton alongside Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, opens April 28 and tells the story of a young woman (Watson) who gets a job at a tech behemoth run by a visionary played by Hanks. Paxton plays Watson's father Vinnie, and you can catch glimpses of him in the trailers for the film. Vinnie is sure to be another of Bill Paxton's memorable roles, and The Circle is a great opportunity to remember the late actor's amazing body of work.
Paxton, who was mourned by The Circle costar Tom Hanks in a tweet calling Paxton "simply, a wonderful man," had an incredible, prolific acting career, with 93 credits to his name on IMDB. Many of his roles have been iconic starring parts: Bill Harden in Twister, Fred Haise in Apollo 13, Private Hudson in Aliens, and his outstanding work as Bill Henrickson on Big Love. But Paxton's career was dynamic and unique, and he's played a number of really interesting roles in films that can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of his biggest hits. Below are some of the star's best, under-appreciated performances.
Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's little-known vampire western drama features one of Paxton's most delightfully twisted roles as Severen, a psychotic grunge punk vampire leader. He emanates an amazing, unhinged energy in Near Dark, and it remains a highly under-appreciated performance.
To me, Titanic is one of Paxton's most memorable roles, but I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he said "Bill Paxton's not in that." So, it seems that Paxton's role as the world's most passionate historian-slash-scientist-slash-story-framing-device needs some more love. Every fact I still remember about the Titanic, I remember in Paxton's voice.
It may seem hard to picture Paxton as a bully, since he's played so many beloved good guys over the years. But in Weird Science, he was indeed a mean older brother named Chet. Yeah, Chet. Rewatch Weird Science and you'll find that a young, brash, rude, crude Bill Paxton is kind of a glory to behold.
Sure, sure, everyone remembers Arnold Schwarzenegger. But did you know that Paxton was in Terminator, too? He's credited as playing "Punk Leader." But you'd be forgiven for forgetting, since he's kind of hard to recognize, all decked out in some truly amazing cyberpunk gear with bright blue liberty spikes, some geometric face tattoos, and a bad attitude. It's truly awesome.
Paxton masters the sleaze ball character in True Lies, with a yucky mustache and a much yuckier M.O. of pretending to be a secret agent so he can seduce Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. He's perfect as a "love to hate him" creep.
In all that dim lighting and chaos, you might not have realized that the guy who dominates the local news footage scene before Jake Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler character gets involved is Paxton, but it's hard to mistake his voice. His role as Joe Loder is quietly critical in the film, as he delivers the enlightening truth about the gritty news sphere of Miami: "If it bleeds, it leads."
Kurt Russell plays Wyatt Earp in this Western and Paxton shines as Earp's contemplative brother Morgan, with a full, luscious mustache to match those of his characters' brothers.
2002's psychological horror film Frailty ought to be remembered better. Not only does it star Paxton as a murderous, religiously fanatical patriarch and Matthew McConaughey as his offspring, but it's also the late star's directorial debut. The film is creepy and twisted, and reveals the experimental creativity that Paxton had as a director.
9'A Simple Plan'
This neo-noir crime thriller has Paxton in over his head as Hank, who, along with his brother and their friend, discovers millions of dollars at a plane crash site. Billy Bob Thornton was nominated for an Oscar for this film, but Paxton's outstanding dramatic performance as the pained, conflicted Hank deserves notice.
We'll always miss Paxton, and these fantastic, under-appreciated performances are a great reminder of why.