By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

Remembering Bill Paxton

The phone rang. I picked it up. The voice on the other end said, “My name’s Bill Paxton and I’d like to show you something.”

It was almost thirty years ago. I was writing a column called CineFile at the Los Angeles Times. While Paxton offered a pleasing balance of modesty and persistence, he needn’t have been concerned. I was already a fan from his supporting turns in Aliens and Near Dark.

He wanted to show me a music video that he had made for his band Martini Ranch. A few days later, he introduced me to his musical partner Andew Rosenthal and fellow actor-musician Rick Rossovich. Though details have blurred over the decades, I remember both the music and video being unconventional, ironic and engaging. It wasn’t what I expected. It was a lot better.

I ran into Bill Paxton often, although it’s was about five years since our last encounter. He was honestly one of my favorite people for his warmth, humor and energy.

At the Chicago International Film Festival in 1991, I saw him just before to the premiere of The Dark Backward. He was gleeful. Writer-director Adam Rifkin had given him the best role yet – an unrepentantly amoral womanizer, drug-addled larger-than-life character. He reveled in playing against type. After the screenings we talked for hours about the film, acting, music and the future.

Bill was movie-star handsome and largely served as the anchor to whatever chaos was on the rest of the screen. He was the rock in Apollo 13, Tombstone, Titanic and many, many other pictures. He was the leading man that wanted to be the comic foil, nemesis or colorful counter-puncher.

In 2001, we met up after his directorial debut Frailty about a serial killing. Bill cast himself as the killer’s abusive father in flashbacks and I wasn’t wholly merciless (in jest) with cracks about going behind the camera to get a good part and whether the experience was cathartic enough to let him move on to “more pleasant” stuff.

He directed only one other feature and then found a career as the lead in the series “Big Love.”

Bill Paxton was good at whatever he did and he did a lot of things. He should have done a lot more and it seems inconceivable that’s all come to an end. I’ll miss him.

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“It would be difficult to find something made by a human being that isn’t pregnant with a vision of the world. Likely impossible. It’s inherent to existence. It turns out that world visions can coincide with a certain hegemonic idea of what the world is —or not. It’s like when they say that “indie cinema” is intellectual, simply because it does not coincide with a narrative system the industry legitimates. But the industry is as intellectual as ‘indie’ movies. The difference is that one affirms reality, doesn’t call it into question. And not all ‘art movies’ are after that. You’ve got to call reality into doubt. Or better yet, I’d say you’ve got to be suspicious of reality. Because if you’re not, there’s no possible transformation. Every one of us who has done cinema —to speak just of moviemaking— has contributed our perspectives to a vision of the world. A community needs that —lots of perspectives. There will be times when some are valued more than others. But the really important thing is that a lot of different visions coexist. The big task is to facilitate that variety.”
~ Lucrecia Martel

“It’s a film festival’s job—and increasingly so—to create moments of recognition, of enjoyment, of shock, of learning. Not of consumerism. Not of implementing cultural policy. But moments without pretence, unclouded by vested interests, by intervention, by cynicism, by everyday business. Committed to nothing but the thing itself. Under obligation to nothing, to no one, not even to the filmmakers themselves. To basically seek access to a form that does not yet exist, a place no one has been to, a time that has not yet come. ’A form that thinks, and a thought that forms,’ as Jean-Luc Godard has it.”
~ Hans Hurch, late director of the Viennale