Bill Paxton Movies

˜It’s very liberating to be naked in front of a hundred people, but there’s nothing sexual about lovemaking on a movie set. Bill Paxton MOST actors talk big about taking on challenging parts, but Bill Paxton knows what really separates the men from the boys. In 1994’s True Lies, he played the role of a slick, womanizing used-car salesman who has a terrifying run-in with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s super-spy, Harry Tasker. “I had to beg for my life and say I had a little penis,” he remembers. “That line would have scared off a lot of lesser men, but I relished it.” With an attitude like that, it’s no surprise that most of Paxton’s over 40 box-office and television film credits have come from quirky supporting assignments as characters who suffer death, humiliation, or both. But those days look to be long over: in 1995, he co-starred in Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon; 1996 saw him share top billing with Helen Hunt in another mega-success, Twister; and 1997 brought yet another record-pulverizing vehicle, in the form of Titanic.

Born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, Paxton discovered his acting aspirations during high school, when he and several friends made their own movies using hand-held cameras and Super 8 film. Not content to settle for small-time special effects, the young filmmakers borrowed guns to shoot holes in cars for one realistic action sequence, and Paxton went so far as to set his arm on fire for another. His parents encouraged this sort of adventurous behavior, and they supported Paxton’s decision, at the age of eighteen, to move to Los Angeles after he had been promised a few weeks of work on an educational film. Three weeks turned into three years, and when he wasn’t hanging around movie sets, he paid the bills by parking cars at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He earned his first break at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, where he worked as a set dresser and eventually won a small role in Crazy Mama (1975). Convinced that he would get more work with the benefit of a few acting lessons, Paxton relocated to the East Coast to study acting under famed drama coach Stella Adler, at New York University.

When he returned to the West Coast, Paxton’s career began to take shape, with eleven appearances on the silver screen between 1981 and 1986. Following a string of bit parts in critically lauded films (The Lords of Discipline, Streets of Fire, The Terminator), he landed major supporting roles in back-to-back movies playing soldier-types: in Weird Science, he appeared as the sadistic, paramilitary brother of the nerdy protagonist; in Aliens, he portrayed a rowdy, gun-toting space marine. You’d think he would have had plenty to do making movies, but during this same period, Paxton wrote, directed, and produced two award-winning short films, and cut an album as half of the rock group Martini Ranch. All that, and he still found time to woo and marry Louise Newbury, whom he met in London in 1982.

Although he continued to take supporting roles in mainstream action flicks, Paxton defied typecasting by simultaneously appearing in offbeat, independent productions: he played a boozy vampire with a weakness for fast cars in Near Dark; he locked lips with a corpse for The Dark Backward; and he wowed the critics with a rare starring role as One False Move’s flamboyant hick sheriff, Dale “Hurricane” Dixon. Portraying weirdos may well have solidified his reputation as a gifted actor, but it was Paxton’s ability to play straight-shooters that finally blew his career potential wide open. Offers began pouring in after his earnest turn as astronaut and family man Fred Haise in Apollo 13.

Paxton knew exactly what he wanted to do after Apollo 13 touched down, and he took pains to be uncommonly prepared for his meeting with Twister director Jan De Bont by paying a visit to the grave of Buster Keaton. Whatever Buster had to say must have been good advice Paxton landed a role in what turned out to be one of the biggest moneymakers in the history of cinema. But don’t think that fame has spoiled Paxton; heck, it hasn’t even gotten his name right. Twister was still tearing through theatres across the land when he made an appearance at the premiere of Independence Day, where a reporter asked him what it felt like to be the star of the two blockbuster hit movies of the summer. It seems Paxton is frequently mistaken for that other Bill, ID4’s alien-battling president, Bill Pullman. But Paxton has come a long way towards rectifying this case of mistaken identity with a string of romantic lead assignments: he mixed it up with Shirley MacLaine in the big-screen adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s The Evening Star; and he fell hard for Julianna Margulies in Traveller, a film that marked his feature-film-producing debut. Paxton appeared in a pivotal role in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic, and closed out 1998 with sharp turn as an Everyman undone by greed in the Sam Raimi-directed thriller A Simple Plan and a more lighthearted outing as a conservancy field agent who discovers love and a really big monkey in Africa in Disney’s Mighty Joe Young.

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