Well this is a kick to the scrotum – we recently lost Bill Paxton and right here, I’d like to remember the man, his career and reveal what Bill was doing the day that JFK was assassinated.
Bill was born in Texas on the 17th May 1955. His first acting job was in a movie called Crazy Mama from 1975, where he played a small uncredited role. He directed and starred in the all too strange and surreal video to the Barnes & Barnes song Fish Heads in 1980.
The above photo is on display At The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Its a photo of the gathering crowd outside the hotel that JFK was staying in on the 22nd of November, 1963 and it was taken in the morning just as JFK was setting out for his what would be a fatal tour of Dallas, Texas. See that 8 year old boy being lifted above the crowd in the back? That’s Bill Paxton.
Anyway, back to Bill’s movie career. He managed to get a few small roles through the early 80s in movies including Stripes (1981), Night Warning (1982), Streets Of Fire (1984) among others. Yet it was a small role playing a spiky, blue haired street punk in some young and unknown film director’s low budget flick called The Terminator from 1984 that most movie fans remember seeing Bill for the first time.
He may have had the first line in the movie, but he learns the hard way that you just do not pull a flick-knife on a killer cyborg sent from the future. This small role kick-started a long friendship and career with director James Cameron. Bill and James collaborated several times through the years including True Lies (1994) and Titanic (1997). The duo even teamed up for a documentary on the real Titanic called Ghosts of the Abyss released in 2003. And yes, of course James gave Bill his breakthrough role as Private Hudson in the 1986 sequel – Aliens.
Yet there is one more collaboration between Bill and James that not too many people are aware of. You see, in 1982 Bill formed a musical band called; Martini Ranch. They released a song called Reach and the video was directed by none other than James Cameron. The music video is worth watching to see how many other The Terminator and Aliens alumni you can spot. But be on the look out for Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser and Jenette Goldstein.
Bill continued to forge himself a career as an actor through the 80s and 90s in films and TV. His many, many appearances include; Commando, Back to Back, Next of Kin, Brain Dead, Trespass, Predator 2, Tombstone, Apollo 13 and Twister just to name a few.
By the mid-late 90s, Bill was getting more and more roles. With his performance in the Sam Raimi’s tense thriller A Simple Plan from 1998 being one of my personal favourites.
All through the 2000s, he was continually working in movies and TV. Frasier, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Thunderbirds, 2 Guns, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all featured Bill. He even starred in a sequel TV show to the Denzel Washington movie, Training Day. And I can’t forget the Groundhog Day-esque Edge of Tomorrow where Bill acted alongside Tom Cruise from 2014.
From the morning of the JFK assassination of 1963 and his cheeky appearance to his as yet unreleased movie; The Circle where Bill will be seen acting with Tom Hanks, John Boyega and Emma Watson. Bill had an impressive, long and varied career. But I have always found it strange how he never really become the big leading man in the movies. A handful of larger roles aside, he always seemed to be a secondary character – and I’ve saved the best until last…
Even with over 90 roles in music videos, TV shows, documentaries and of course movies. There is one character in one film that I will always remember Bill Paxton for. You can keep your Private Hudson and Aliens. This is the Bill Paxton I’ll always remember.
From the John Hughes classic Weird Science – the lovable asshole that is Chet Donnelly. I love this character so damn much even though he’s horrible, overbearing and does nothing but terrorise and bully his younger brother Wyatt throughout the film.
Chet is just so damn memorable with so many quotable lines.
But first I’d like to… butter your muffin.
That’s not a joke, that’s a severe behavioural disorder. I mean, the next thing you know, you’ll be wearing a bra on your head!
Not having a good time? Do you think they’re having a good time being catatonic in a closet?
How ’bout a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?
I’m gonna tell Mom and Dad everything. I’m even considering makin’ up some shit!
You two donkey-dicks couldn’t get laid in a morgue.
You’re stewed, buttwad!
And my all time favourite Chet Donnelly line from Weird Science…
An accident? An accident? Do you realise it’s snowing in my room goddammit!
I really need to go and re-watch Weird Science for the 157th time.
Bill Paxton died on the 25th February 2017 due to complications from surgery. He was 61.
Thanks for the movie memories Bill.
Anyone who’s worked very hard on a craft or an art to get a certain precision in terms of execution and performance wants to get past all that stuff that holds you up – your ego, all the doubts.