One Giant Read read with great sadness the news that Bill Paxton had died, aged only 61.
For Sci-Fi fans, Paxton is a legend. His turn as Private Hudson in Aliens arguably steals the movie (“Game over, man!”), and it’s one of the legendary characterisations of screen SciFi. Paxton plays Hudson as a volatile scatter of gung-ho bravado, nervous meltdown and ultimately bravery and sacrifice. His performance is quite incredible.
Of course, Bill Paxton’s career is no more just about his Hudson in Aliens than the late Sir John Hurt’s was the poor face-hugged Kane in Alien. Paxton played a wide range of roles, and in a very similar way to Hurt was so likeable he improved any film he was in; there is a humanity and spark to both actors on screen that is deeply endearing. This very human quality is very much to the fore in Paxton’s performances as Fred Haise in Apollo 13 or even as Morgan Earp in Tombstone.
A long time collaborator with James Cameron, Bill Paxton also starred in the enormous success Titanic, and of course, was one of the now quite slightly quaint “punk rockers” in Terminator.
One Paxton performance that has been talked about a lot since his passing is his incendiary turn as Severen the vampire in Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 western bloodsucker classic, Near Dark. In some ways this was quite a different role for the likeable Paxton; Severen is volatile, scary and even more so than Hudson in Aliens, the film’s wild dark star.
Although some aspects of the movie may have dated a bit, Near Dark is still an influential and unique film. As he stomps the bar-top with his razor silver spurs, Paxton is the cowboy vampire biker you never ever want to meet. When you think back over his career, roles like this remind you that his range was wide – another example of this is his turn in the dark Nightcrawler in 2014, or his eerie directorial debut, Frailty.
Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron later married, and Near Dark also stars Paxton’s fellow Aliens stars Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein. In one scene a movie theatre is even showing Aliens. One Giant Read was lucky enough to see Near Dark in its own days, on the big screen. Bill Paxton was just dynamite back then.
Bill Paxton is one of our favourite movie stars and his manic Space Marine Hudson – the SciFi squaddie who launched a thousand pulse rifle bug hunters on screen, in comics and games – is quite simply iconic. It is heartbreaking to think that there will be no more movies from this lovable, charismatic actor.
Bill Paxton speaking at the 2014 WonderCon, for "Edge of Tomorrow", at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Photo by Gage Skidmore, taken on April 19, 2014