Firstly, I have to start by saying: 2017, you’re becoming just as bad as 2016. We’ve prematurely lost a fair few popular names and faces over the last 18 months, and Bill Paxton is no exception. I fell in love with him in 1996 film Twister, which I saw on TV aged just six years old late one night when my mum had gone out. I distinctly remember my babysitter entering the room as she saw me completely and utterly ensconced by scenes of tornadoes tearing through North America, with huge, tough 4x4s ripping through dirt roads and blasting out loud classic rock.
“I think this film might be a bit old for you, Amy”, she said. Mesmerised, I sat there in rapture, watching Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt screech in fear and ecstasy as they ploughed through a house that rolled into their path and gazed at the almost hypnotic display of cows whirling around their vehicle mid-tornado.
“No, it’s fine!” I insisted, and ever since I’ve simply adored that film (I ended up being allowed to stay up to watch it). The late and beloved Philip Seymour Hoffman cast as lax but loveable Dusty was brilliant, and Carey Elwes is more than memorable in his role as Jonas, the arrogant, naïve, heavily financed competitor of the group. Twister is clichéd in places, heart-wrenching in others, and I genuinely adore Bill Paxton throughout. As the narrative progresses we find that Bill(y) was once a wild, ambitious, passionate man with hopes and dreams, who after the breakup of his volatile relationship with Jo ended up a staid, career-minded and very typical everyday American. Watching him fall back into the clutches of the twisters and his ex-wife is genuinely pleasurable: it’s like watching a trapped bird break out of its cage.
As much as I love his character in Twister, I can’t help but warm to him in Aliens too. Paxton’s vaguely dense and easily panicked character Private Hudson could never match up to the Ripley’s logical and somewhat slick demeanour, but his onscreen relationship with Sigourney Weaver when the mission starts to go down the tubes is arguably one of his best performances. Then there’s Titanic where he plays the initially greedy but eventually remorseful Brock Lovett, chasing ‘the heart of the ocean’ just as fervently as Bill Harding chases tornadoes in Twister.
Wherever you’ve seen Bill Paxton, and whether you loved him or not, it would be foolish to deny the obvious loss to cinema that the world has experienced upon his passing. Whilst we can (and should) mourn his premature death, what we can be grateful for is that like many of his counterparts who we’ve also lost in recent months, his image and memory will be forever immortalised on our screens. It’s cruel that such a bold and brilliant actor should be taken from us so soon, and for me, watching ‘Twister’ will never be quite the same again, but I grew up with that film and I intend to continue to revisit it and the euphoria it gives me for as long as I’m on this earth.
Thank you Mr. Paxton, and may you rest in peace.