by Kyle K. Mann
I’m sitting here at the Aroma Cafe in NoHo (all right, North Hollywood) on Oscar Night 2017.
Feeling both stunned and pissed off.
About a week ago I had an idea for a wacky dance tune. I wanted a crazed voice yelling, and the the first voice I thought of was Paxton’s in the classic James Cameron movie, “Aliens.”
I looked up the “Game over, man” bit on YouTube and found a nice clip of the scene, rerecorded the audio, and was set. I mused, as I worked, on how perfect he was for the part, how ideal the casting was, and how lucky we all were that he had been a key component in the great Sigourney Weaver-led ensemble.
Today, driving down to L.A. from Northern California, I called a pal, and mentioned Paxton’s part in my work.
“He just died.”
I thought my ol’ bud was kidding. “Paxton?”
“Yeah, heart operation went wrong. Complications.”
I spluttered indignantly, and felt like a bucket of cold water was poured down my back.
We have lost a lot of greats in the last 14 months. Musicians seem to be leading the way. Natalie Cole, Bowie, Prince… damn. Clyde Stubblefield recently hit me hard, he was James Brown’s drummer in the mid and late 60’s.
Actors? Alan Rickman also hit me hard. Gene Wilder. And Carrie Fisher… really? Too young, too young.
And Paxton, like Fisher, was in his very early 60’s, and was someone with a lot to live for.
Not everyone has seen Aliens, of course. But nearly everyone has seen Titanic. Think of the miniature arc his character has, as a treasure hunter, skeptical of the nice old ladies story. Think of the look of fascination he evolves into as she tells her tale. That look is acting prowess, delivered without a word. It’s a key moment: it sells the bigger story. Fabulous work.
Ok, back to Aliens. James Cameron turned a thankless task, following a classic movie, into gold via the first Alien, and managed to make a movie as good or even better. As I say Paxton is a huge part of that.
If you are familiar with the directors cut of Aliens, you remember the added scene where his character Hudson reassures Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) that the Colonial Marines can handle anything, even the type of alien that wiped out her entire spaceship crew in the first movie. It’s a hilarious scene, and well worth watching again. Remember, Hudson is best known for going berserk in the previously mentioned “Game over” scene, where he is at the opposite of swaggering bravado. So here again, the transition the actor has to sell is colossal.
Which is why he was the first one I thought of to dub in some histrionics. And that means that as an actor, he absolutely rocked.
He had other great roles of course, like in Twister. Here he was a tornado chaser, and I see that meteorologists have launched tributes to Paxton, because of his role in that movie. Again, a potent fact… people were influenced by this guy.
So, on we go. The price we pay for surviving into the future is that dear ones and admired ones depart before us, and it hurts. I didn’t know Paxton, despite my modest film biz career as a crew member, but I do get a sense of the man reading his obits. Sounds like quite a dude.
Rest In Peace and thanks for being a part of so many good things, Bill Paxton.
by Kyle K. Mann