One of the joys of watching James Cameron’s thrill-ride movie Aliens is Bill Paxton’s full-throated portrayal of Colonial Marine soldier Pvt. William Hudson. Always one to volunteer others for a dangerous mission instead of doing it himself or whining constantly about hardships faced, Hudson lends even more realism to an already heavily grounded science fiction/horror movie: on every team you always have that dick you wish would fall on their ass, or in this case get fragged as soon as the corporal’s back is turned.
In our Nerdstalking episode covering the Alien franchise, I mentioned that Paxton had also done work behind the camera, doing FX work alongside James Cameron for Roger Corman’s el cheapo studio New World Pictures. I also mention that he directed the music video for the Barnes and Barnes novelty song Fish Heads. So I’m in the process this morning of posting the video to our website for the edification of our readers, when I learn that Bill Paxton has died due to complications from surgery, at the age of 61! Talk about shitty news!
So, along with the video, let me say a farewell to one of the great character actors of our time. Not only do we have his eternally memorable role as Hudson, we have the spot-on bullying big-brother Chet in Weird Science, the psychotic vampire Severin in Near Dark (with his Aliens co-stars Lance Henrikson and Jenette Goldstein), and Hank Mitchell in the criminally underrated Sam Raimi character study A Simple Plan, among many, many others.
If I were to pick out my favourite dramatic role for Paxton, it would have to be Frailty. Here he plays the widowed father of two boys, who one night gets a revelation from God. Or does he? It is really an amazing performance by Paxton, who keeps the character grounded and strangely sympathetic in the face of possible madness. All the more amazing is that the film was also Paxton’s feature directorial debut. It’s a movie, and an acting job that really shouldn’t be missed.
He also did great TV work, most notably as the outnumbered patriarch in Big Love. But can any of his accomplishments live up to his epic visual interpretation, along with co-director Rocky Schenck, of a song called Fish Heads? Eat them up. Yum.