I’ve always found it super-annoying that so many people frequently confused Bill Pullman for Bill Paxton, and vice-versa.
It’s very simple: One (Pullman) is remembered almost exclusively for playing the president and giving the big speech in the mediocre sci-fi blockbuster “Independence Day,” and the other (Paxton) has iconic roles in several of my favorite films of all-time.
Paxton was close in age to Bruce Willis, Michael Keaton, Liam Neeson, Kevin Costner and Richard Gere, but he was never considered a huge star. He’s the kind of guy who reminds you of your older brother, or your boss, or the dude who cuts your grass.
In many ways, he was an Everyman, not a leading man.
Yet Paxton was nominated for four Golden Globes for starring roles on TV (thrice for HBO’s “Big Love,” once for HBO’s “A Bright Shining Lie”). In fact, the small screen in some ways proved to be his strong suit – he also won an Emmy for 2012’s “Hatfields & McCoys,” which aired on the History channel; Paxton shared top billing with Costner in that miniseries.
Perhaps his best and brightest moment as a leading man on film? “Twister.” The movie and its flying cows are preposterous, but somehow, he grounded the thing with his Everyman-ish-ness.
And while he never was seriously considered for an Oscar, he did appear in one Best Picture winner (“Titanic”), another Best Picture nominee (“Apollo 13”), and gave – in my opinion – a taut performance that helped land Billy Bob Thornton a Best Supporting Actor nomination for “A Simple Plan.” (If you have not seen this movie and enjoy tense thrillers, put it on your list immediately.)
Hopefully, Paxton will finally get his moment on the Oscar stage Sunday night, assuming the producers have time to make room for him in the “In Memoriam” segment. The news of his passing certainly has been shaking up Hollywood.
Here’s a peek at Paxton in some of my favorite films:
I’ll leave you with another great quote from Paxton’s Private Hudson in “Aliens,” which pretty much sums up how I’m feeling right now:
“That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the (expletive) are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?”