LOS ANGELES – Bill Paxton, the prolific and charismatic actor whose many memorable roles included an astronaut in “Apollo 13” and a treasure hunter in “Titanic,” has died from complications due to surgery. He was 61.
A family representative issued a statement Sunday on the death but provided no further details.
Paxton, a Fort Worth, Texas, native, appeared in dozens of movies and television shows and seemed to be around when history was made both on and off screen. As a boy, he was in the crowd that welcomed President John F. Kennedy in Texas on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, hours before Kennedy was killed in Dallas. As a young man, he worked in the art department for “B” movie king Roger Corman, who helped launch the careers of numerous actors and filmmakers.
Paxton’s movie credits included some of the signature works of the past 40 years, from “Titanic” and “Apollo 13” to “The Terminator and “Aliens.” Television fans knew him for his role as the polygamist, with three wives who expected the best from him, in the HBO series “Big Love,” for which he received three Golden Globe nominations.
“Bill Paxton was a big-hearted, thoughtful and honorable person,” his “Big Love” co-star Chloe Sevigny said in a statement. “He always had a smile on his face and could entertain any room with his wonderful stories of his many amazing years in Hollywood.“
Paxton was currently starring in the CBS drama “Training Day,” which premiered Feb. 2. The network has not yet announced whether it will continue to air the completed episodes.
Paxton brought a reliably human dimension to big-budget action adventures and science fiction. He was, sci-fi fans like to point out, the only actor killed by a Predator, a Terminator and an Alien.
But Paxton, famously genial and well-liked throughout Hollywood, defined his career less by his marquee status than as a character actor whose regular Joes appeared across the likes of “One False Move,” “A Simple Plan” and “Nightcrawler.”
“I’m a frustrated romantic actor,” he told the Associated Press in 2006. “I wanted to play the Bud part in ‘Splendor in the Grass,’ I wanted to play Romeo – the great, unrequited, tragic love stories. I’ve gotten to mix it up a bit with the ladies but the romance has been a subplot, running from the tornado or whatever.”
“I feel like I’m a regionalist and a populist who’s never fit in among the intellectuals,” he added. “I think there’s where the heart of American art is. My greatest roles have been in regional films, whether it was ‘One False Move’ or ‘Frailty’ or ‘Simple Plan’ or ‘Traveller.’”
Paxton often spoke warmly of his upbringing, and how his father exposed him early to movies and the stage. His father, John Paxton, also shared his son’s knack for being around famous people. A childhood neighbor was the artist Thomas Hart Benton. John Paxton later belonged to the same golfing club as the great Ben Hogan, whom Bill Paxton got to know growing up.
One of the industry’s busiest actors, Paxton once said the hardest part of his career wasn’t the work itself, but the time in between.
“You know all the time I’ve been in this business which is a long, long time now, I go from having incredible days like shooting the part of Sam Houston and then all of a sudden I’m home and I’m out of work and it’s two o’clock in the afternoon, I’m in my boxer shorts watching Turner Classic Movies,” he told the AP in 2015. “And all I can tell you is, thank God for Turner Classic Movies and Robert Osborn. “
As news of the actor’s death became known Sunday morning, fans and fellow actors took to social media to express their shock and sadness.
Tom Hanks, Paxton’s fellow astronaut aboard “Apollo 13,” Tweeted Sunday morning, “Bill Paxton was, simply, a wonderful man. A wonderful man.”
Paul Reiser, who co-starred with Paxton in “Aliens,” tweeted: “So talented, special and the sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet. RIP my friend.”
Jason Priestley, who appeared in “Tombstone” with Paxton, wrote on Twitter, “He was one of the good guys. RIP Bill.”
And Cary Elwes, who played Paxton’s nemesis in “Twister,” tweeted: “Very sad to hear about Bill Paxton. His talent, enthusiasm and energy were unique. Our thoughts are with his family.”
AP Film Writer Jake Coyle, AP National Writer Hillel Italie and AP Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report.
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