Actor/director/writer Bill Paxton has passed away aged 61. Although best known for such films as Twister, Near Dark, Aliens, and Titanic, his talent was far-reaching. American STARBURST writer Whitney Scott Bain has provided a personal insight into the loss of the star.
Bill Paxton was my friend.
Bill and I started out working for Roger Corman back in 1981 on Galaxy of Terror. At Corman’s New World Pictures you had one title on a film, but you wore several hats to get the jobs done. It was the Corman College of Film Knowledge.
Bill was a set dresser and I was a production assistant or ‘piss ant’ as the crew would call us. Part of my job was to get the supplies that the set dressers would need for a spaceship interior we built on the main sound stage.
At times, Bill and I would go out to the Kelontville (so named because a set dresser named Roger Kelton organised it… somewhat) junkyard looking for literally, junk, to see what we could use for the set that would look busy like a Wally Wood or Jim Steranko comic book.
There were car parts, helicopter parts, aviation instruments, a bathtub, you name it, it was there. A lot of what we would find we’d use on the set interiors was called ‘Kludging’, which would make the set look busy.
Then there was the time I had to crawl into the trash cans behind the local McDonald’s gathering styrofoam containers to be taken back and used as part of the interior space ship hall ways.
Bill would say, “You find any, Big Macs in there, Whitney Bain (he’d always call me that)? “None, that I didn’t already eat!” was my reply. We’d always laugh at that.
Bill would sometimes work the night shift I’d get there in the early morning as Bill would be completing his shift we’d sit down and have breakfast together, talk about what went on that night and what he was going to do that day which was usually going out for a role in a film. We’d talk about my writing and the scripts I was working on. I told him that there would always be a part there for him.
He got to be friends with Jim Cameron who worked with us, that saw his talent and gave him a big break in as Hudson in Aliens.
Bill did a uncredited stint in Corman’s 1975, Crazy Mama, and would later have a starring role in Corman’s surreal 1990 film Brain Dead alongside with Bill Pullman.
Bill was also musically talented having worked with Bill Mumy in a Barnes and Barnes video and Bill’s own group, Martini Ranch with music partner Andrew Todd. They produced several videos that were directed by Kathryn Bigelow and Jim Cameron.
When I was producing comic book and collectible conventions, Bill drove up in his brand new, red, Mazda R-X7 and was a guest to an attendance of 300 people entertaining them with his stories and signing autographs for over two hours. His famous quote was when a fan asked him about his part in, Weird Science as the bully, big brother Chet and what he was turned into. “Chet was certainly the most memorable character that I’ve portrayed,” where he got huge laughs. He’d always joke, “My hand’s getting tired here, Whitney Bain!” I’d reply, “Quit complaining, we have some drywall we have to put up next.” We’d always share a laugh.
That last time I saw Bill, he was at a screening of the 2012 film Shanghai Calling and he sees me. The first thing he says is, with a big smile shaking my hand, “How’s your writing going, Whitney Bain?” I told him about the low budget and no budget scripts I wrote that were made into films and he’d say the same thing Ray Bradbury told me, “You’ve got talent. You can write. You’re just a late bloomer, nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you have a part for me when you make it big.”
Bill’s son was at the screening as well. He asked me what his dad was like working at Corman’s. I told him that he got along with everyone and was the only guy that got along with Jim Cameron. That he should be proud of his father and that he was a good man.
Bill’s famous foray into feature directing was the dark, detective thriller Frailty, which Bill starred in along with Powers Booth and Matthew McConaughey.
Bill’s incredible list of film and television include One False Move, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Tombstone, Titanic, Monolith, Frank and Jesse, Apollo 13, Mighty Joe Young, Boxing Helena, Near Dark, Twister, Navy Seals, Fraiser, Hatfields and McCoys, Thunderbirds, Big Love and many, many more.
His final performance in television was in the series Training Day, where he portrayed Detective Frank Rourke, who has “questionable” ethics in doing his job and his final feature film The Circle, which is to be released later this year where he portrays Emma Watson’s father.
Bill, you will be missed. The testament of your talent shines as a star looking down on all of us.
Goodbye, my friend.
STARBURST sends its best wishes to Bill’s family and friends at this very sad time.
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