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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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas