Ever since I heard the announcement of Bill Paxton's death on Sunday morning, I've realized that there's a whole lot I didn't know about the talented actor. For example, I didn't realize director James Cameron and Bill Paxton had been friends for several decades until I read Cameron's touching response to Paxton's death, which he shared in an email to Vanity Fair on Sunday afternoon. According to Cameron, the two started working together on someone else's films, building sets for director Roger Corman. From there, they became not only collaborators, on films like Titanic, but also close friends.
TMZ broke the story that Paxton died of surgery complications and in a statement, Paxton's family shared, "A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker."
Paxton's above-mentioned decades of work were frequently spent alongside Cameron. Their first on-screen collaboration was Terminator, in which Paxton was given a small (but hilarious) role as a punk who is given the old one-two by Arnold Schwarzenegger's robot self at Griffith Observatory. Later, Paxton would go on to appear as a supporting actor in Cameron's most heralded films — Aliens, True Lies, and Titanic. He was also a part of Cameron's undersea documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss, in which the duo and historians travel to the final resting place of the Titanic.
Cameron's words about his late friend really pulls at the heart strings. The opening, — "I've been reeling from this for the past half hour, trying to wrap my mind and heart around it. Bill leaves such a void" — is totally a sentiment that can be shared by anyone who's experienced a loss. The full statement is as follows:
"I've been reeling from this for the past half hour, trying to wrap my mind and heart around it. Bill leaves such a void. He and I were close friends for 36 years, since we met on the set of a Roger Corman ultra-low budget movie. He came in to work on set, and I slapped a paint brush in his hand and pointed to a wall, saying "Paint that!" We quickly recognized the creative spark in each other and became fast friends. What followed was 36 years of making films together, helping develop each others projects, going on scuba diving trips together, watching each others kids growing up, even diving the Titanic wreck together in Russian subs. It was a friendship of laughter, adventure, love of cinema, and mutual respect. Bill wrote beautiful heartfelt and thoughtful letters, an anachronism in this age of digital shorthand. He took good care of his relationships with people, always caring and present for others. He was a good man, a great actor, and a creative dynamo. I hope that amid the gaudy din of Oscar night, people will take a moment to remember this wonderful man, not just for all the hours of joy he brought to us with his vivid screen presence, but for the great human that he was.
The world is a lesser place for his passing, and I will profoundly miss him."
What a beautiful tribute, shared by someone who clearly knew Paxton well and will miss him greatly.