|photo by Gage Skidmore|
Bill Paxton was one of those actors that you always thought would be around.
I know very little about his personal life, but his presence on the screen created such an emotional connection to me throughout my childhood.
The first movie I saw him in was as one of the street punks killed at the beginning of Terminator.
"I think this guy's a couple cans short of a six-pack"
He then had another small part in Commando.
But for me, he will forever be remembered as Private William Hudson in Aliens. When I first saw the movie as a kid, I loved Hudson. He was funny and cowardly and macho and wimpy and smart and stupid all at the same time. You couldn't help but find one of your own virtues or vices reflected in him. And through it all, Paxton made him so incredibly likable, even at his worst.
I remember when I first discovered the internet, I found that I could download sound clips from my favorite movies. I can't tell you how many Husdson quotes I searched for. Paxton's delivery was perfect.
(hat tip: imdb.com)
Private Hudson: Yeah right, man, Bishop should go. Good idea!
Private Hudson: You're dog-meat, pal!
Private Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
Private Hudson: Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?
Private Hudson: We're on an express elevator to hell, going down!
Private Frost: Hot as hell in here.
Private Hudson: Yeah man, but it's a dry heat!
Private Hudson: Hey, maybe you haven't been keeping up on current events, but we just got our a**** kicked, pal!
Bishop: I'm afraid I have some bad news.
Private Hudson: Well, that's a switch.
Private Hudson: Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen!
Private Hudson: Man, this floor is freezing.
Sergeant Apone: What do you want me to do, fetch your slippers for you?
Private Hudson: Gee, would you, sir? I'd like that.
Private Hudson: Maybe we got 'em demoralized.
Private Hudson: That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over!
Private Hudson: [after Bishop performs the knife trick on his hand, hysterically] That wasn't funny, man!
He could definitely play more unlikable characters, as he did in True Lies and Weird Science. He could also pull of the tough, leading man as he did Twister. His work as a supporting actor helped shape some truly great film including not only Aliens but also Titanic, Apollo 13, and Tombstone.
And his time on Marvel's Agents of SHIELD was one of my favorite parts of the series.
But Paxton's best performance, hands down, is as Hank in A Simple Plan.
Most of Paxton's performances had a charismatic showiness to them. But A Simple Plan stripped all that away. Here was where we saw his full range as an actor as he plumbed the depths of the human soul. Not only do you see the slow erosion of his conscience, but the final scene with him and Billy Bob Thorton is so powerful that it overcomes any of the film's deficits. The movie is dark and not for everyone, but I was mesmerized by how Paxton held my mind in those moments. Only a great actor could have made that scene work.
And Paxton was a great actor.
I will miss him. Please pray for him and his wife and two children and the rest of his loved ones.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.