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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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

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“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton