This week on My 2 Cents:
Today’s news on the death of actor Bill Paxton struck a chord with me, so I thought I’d write a quick note about him upon hearing of his unexpected passing. SPOILER ALERT.
As most of you know, I’m not a celebrity follower. I don’t ask for autographs, nor do I care if I meet someone famous. I always felt that if I could not meet someone as a peer, I did not want to meet them. I’ve never been into celebrity worship and I don’t look up to them as some sort of ethereal creatures, just because they are rich and famous.
However, I do appreciate good actors and actresses (come on, World, can’t we just all be actors now?). I always felt that Bill Paxton was an underrated actor. He was in many big films throughout his career, but he was never the hyper popular, decorated, fore front actor like the Brad Pitts or the Angelina Jolies of the world. He maintained his fame over a 30+ year period, starting as a young man in Terminator and other action films, and growing his acting repertoire to become a serious, talented actor in drama, comedy, thriller, sci-fi, or whatever genre was asked of him.
I would have to write for a week to include the dozens of credits Bill Paxton has to his name, so I’m just going to touch on a very few. I thoroughly enjoyed Bill in Weird Science (1985). He was such a jerk in that movie that you loved to hate him! All you youngin’s out there, you haven’t lived until you wore a bra on your head and summoned hot women in your bedroom. Find a VCR and get a copy of that movie! Now, my favourite movie of all time is Aliens (Bill Paxton movie or not), so of course I’m well versed in Paxton’s role as the cowardly marine Private Hudson. He was so whiny and irritating that you can’t help but remember his character in the movie forever (and be happy with the outcome of the character in the film). Every time I watch the movie I secretly wish Vasquez would turn around and b*tch slap Hudson into another universe. Plus, Vasquez has big muscles and is not unpleasant to look at (and if the movie was made in 2006 and not 1986, I guarantee they’d never have made her character straight)…but that’s another story.
From Aliens on, Paxton starred in bigger and bigger roles and became the central character in many films. By the mid 1990’s he was a common site in big budget films. He also gained great fame for his role in Big Love from 2006-2011. I confess that I have never watched that show, but I’ve been told it was quite good. The unique perspective that I can offer for the life of Bill Paxton is that he is someone that I know (not well, of course). I acted in a movie called The Good Life that starred Bill, Zooey Deschanel, and Chris Klein. I started as a paid extra and then got to act in a few scenes where I worked with Bill Paxton directly. I got to meet Zooey and Chris briefly, but I, and several other people of the LGBT community in Winnipeg got to spend time with Bill while waiting to film each day. He was a funny man. He was very down to earth. He would come to the bar where our scenes were shooting and buy us drinks and sit and chat with us for hours in between takes (I never realized how much of filming a movie is sitting around doing nothing). He never made us feel like we were unimportant or lower creatures than he was. I’ve met famous people that definitely acted like they were royalty surrounded by us peasants. Bill was not one of them. Sadly, the entire segment of the movie that was filmed in Winnipeg met its end on the cutting room floor and never made it into the movie. But, I got paid to hang out with someone who was genuinely kind and funny and made us all feel like we were ordinary people just like him.
Unfortunately, Bill Paxton will never win an Oscar or Emmy or a Lifetime Achievement Award now. At 61 years old, and undergoing routine surgery, his life ended just like that. The scary thing that celebrities remind us is that we are mortal and no amount of money can make you live longer than your body indicates. And while he was not my absolute favourite actor, he was an actor that you knew would be entertaining in any role he played. I rarely sat down for a Bill Paxton film and was disappointed. Like most movies of course, there were a couple films I scratched my head about, but I never could fault his acting ability. And, I enjoyed that I knew he was just a person, and that he respected that I was a person, too. He had many more years of acting in him and it is a great shame that he will not longer grace the silver screen (or the tv screen).
RIP, Pvt. Hudson (Aliens, 1986).