Bill Paxton, Star of ‘Big Love’ and ‘Apollo 13’ , Dies at 61


Bill Paxton, the affable actor who was a co-star in a string of 1990s blockbuster movies including “Twister,” “Titanic” and “Apollo 13,” and who later played the lead in the critically acclaimed television drama “Big Love,” has died. He was 61.

His death, from complications of surgery, was announced on Sunday by a family representative. The statement did not say when or where Mr. Paxton died, but Rolling Stone magazine reported that he died on Saturday.

Early in his career, Mr. Paxton had small parts in “The Terminator” (1984) and “Aliens” (1986). Both films were directed by James Cameron, who later featured him in more high-profile roles: as a used-car salesman who cheated Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in “True Lies” (1994) and as the treasure-hunting scientist who salvaged the wreck of the ocean liner in “Titanic” (1997).

He also starred in Ron Howard’s Oscar-nominated film “Apollo 13” (1995), portraying Fred Haise, one of three astronauts on a mission to the moon that experienced serious mechanical problems, and in “Twister” (1996) as a storm-chaser.

Mr. Paxton appeared regularly on television in the last decade. On the HBO series “Big Love,” from 2006 to 2011, he played Bill Henrickson, the patriarch of a polygamist family in Utah, receiving three Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal.

In 2012, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for playing Randolph McCoy in the three-part mini-series “Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel. And in 2014 he appeared in six episodes of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” on ABC.

Mr. Paxton returned to TV this year as the star of “Training Day,” CBS’s new police drama.

A spinoff of the 2001 movie starring Denzel Washington, the series had its premiere this month, and only four episodes have been broadcast. In total, 13 episodes of “Training Day” have been filmed, and Mr. Paxton appears in all of them.

For now, the show will continue to be shown on Thursday nights, but its future is not certain. Reviews have been mixed — though Mr. Paxton’s performance as a rogue cop has been praised — and its ratings have been low, averaging little more than four million viewers.

In a statement, CBS and Warner Bros. Television offered no word on the show’s future.

William Paxton was born on May 17, 1955, in Fort Worth, the son of the former Mary Lou Gray and John Lane Paxton, a businessman and sometime actor.

When he was 8, Bill and his brother, Bob, were taken by their father to see President John F. Kennedy on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, in Fort Worth, hours before his assassination in Dallas.

“I remember just a really euphoric crowd,” he recalled in a 2013 interview. “I was a bit young to really understand later the consequences of the event.” There is a photograph of Mr. Paxton from that morning, perched on a stranger’s shoulders.

From left, Mr. Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Tom Hanks as the astronauts who tell Houston they’ve had a problem in “Apollo 13.” Credit Ron Batzdorff/Universal Pictures
From left, Mr. Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Tom Hanks as the astronauts who tell Houston they’ve had a problem in “Apollo 13.” Credit Ron Batzdorff/Universal Pictures

He graduated from Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth and moved to Los Angeles the next year to break into the film industry, finding jobs as a production assistant and set dresser.

At 21 he enrolled in New York University, where he studied with the acting teacher Stella Adler, but dropped out after two years to return to Los Angeles to pursue acting there.

“I didn’t see any point in a degree,” he told Texas Monthly. “I didn’t see where I’d be filling that in on an application for any kind of job.”

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SOURCE: The New York, by