It’s with great sadness that I write this. Bill Paxton has died due to surgery complications at the age of 61. He was one of those actors that I grew up watching, rarely in the lead, it didn’t stop him from stealing the show whenever he was on-screen. With a versatile back catalogue, Paxton was better known for his wise-cracking and zany performances, starring in classic movies while helping to create iconic characters. A difficult actor to pigeonhole, I’d like to share what I believe to be his most memorable roles.
Weird Science (1985)
Playing an obnoxious older brother Chet, Paxton had the best lines of the 80’s comedy and delivered each piece of dialogue superbly. Rude, crude and hilarious, Chet is one of the first things you talk about when Weird Science comes up in conversation. No mean feat from a film that features Kelly Le Brock in her underwear.
Arguably his most infamous role, Colonial Space Marine Pvt Hudson is more than cannon fodder for James Cameron’s xenomorphs. An arrogant gung-ho walking stereotype who turns out to be a bit of a coward when it all goes south, Hudson remains the most quotable character in the film, if not the entire franchise. A truly iconic role that has Paxton conveying a range of emotions in a wonderfully over the top manner.
Near Dark (1987)
Paxton’s portrayal of the sadistic vampire Severen is glorious in his scene chewing brilliance. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Near Dark is a reminder of a time when Hollywood vampires were murderous monsters that did more than sparkle when hit with sunlight. The film may not get the same praise as The Lost Boys but Severen felt like a spiritual big brother of that tribe. Brutal and brilliant, Severen may have been an evil bloodthirsty psychopath who took delight in killing people but by God was he cool.
Predator 2 (1990)
While the Predator targeted Danny Glover as his prime prey, he had to get through Jerry Lambert first. A borderline super cop with an impressive record, Lambert would tell jokes one minute only to flick a switch that turned him into a hard-ass. The image of him picking up a huge blade and charging at the Predator while saying “Let’s dance,” is insane and awesome.
True Lies (1994)
It’s a testament to Paxton’s talent that he’s the best thing in True Lies when his character Simon features in no more than a glorified sub-plot. Playing a used car salesman who tells fantastical lies to bed lonely housewives, Simon is sleazy, detestable and unashamedly hysterical.
A Simple Plan (1998)
Sam Raimi’s neo-noir film showcased a more restrained performance from Paxton. Although Billy Bob Thornton is the standout this time around, Paxton’s dialled down portrayal of Hank Mitchell is perfect in creating the tension and subdued thrills that the film presents. A serious role that proved the versatility of the actor.