Biography

Though blessed with leading-man looks, Paxton spent much of his career relegated to playing gung-ho bullies or sleazebags (Aliens, Last Action Hero and his classic turn as a sadistic big brother in Weird Science). Initially, Paxton pursued a career behind the camera as a set dresser and aspiring director before switching to acting. A succession of small bits in the early 1980s (including a part in Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night" video) finally led to supporting parts, mainly in action flicks that showcased his imposing presence (Next of Kin, Predator 2). He finally snagged a lead role in the lauded 1992 indie One False Move as a small-town police chief on a crash course with violence. While his nuanced performance upped his profile, he promptly returned to playing second fiddle, albeit in A-list pictures (Apollo 13, Titanic, Twister). He also realized his directing dreams with the 2001 feature Frailty, in which he also starred. As the 2000s wore on, his career slowed down. But it got a nice boost when he signed on as a bigamist businessman on the edgy series Big Love, which debuted in 2006 and showcased his heretofore untapped sex appeal. His lead role In that HBO drama as seemingly sincere, though frequently duplicitous, Bill Henrickson expanded his fame and yielded an often mesmerizing performance: As Larry Hagman did as J.R. Ewing on Dallas, Paxton generally managed to rise above specious story lines and make viewing of Big Love a big joy. Paxton continued to find success on the small screen, earning an Emmy nom for the miniseries Hatfields & McCoys and taking on a recurring role on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Paxton died suddenly, of complications from surgery, in early 2017.

Fast Facts

  • Was in the crowd that greeted President Kennedy in Fort Worth, TX, on the morning on his assassination; pictures of Paxton can be seen at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
  • Caddied for legendary golfer Ben Hogan as a teenager.
  • Worked as a set director for famous indie director/producer Roger Corman when he first arrived in Hollywood.
  • Made and starred in the film short Fish Heads, which reached cult status after it aired on Saturday Night Live.
  • Frequently worked with director James Cameron, including films like The Terminator (1984).
  • Performed in the short-lived New Wave duo Martini Ranch; James Cameron directed the video for their song "Reach."

Awards

  • 1997, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Nominee
  • 2007, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Nominee
  • 1999, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television: Nominee
  • 2008, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Nominee
  • 1995, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Winner
  • 2012, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Nominee
  • 2012, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: Nominee
  • 2010, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Nominee

Relationships

  • John Lane Paxton — Father
  • Mary Lou Paxton — Mother
  • Lydia Paxton — Daughter
  • James Paxton — Son
  • Louise Paxton — Wife
  • Kelly Rowan — Ex-wife

College

  • Attended Richmond College, London, England; attended New York University, New York, New York, United States

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Details

  • Birth Name: William Paxton
  • Birth Place: Fort Worth, Texas, United States
  • Died: February 25, 2017
  • Profession: Actor, Director, Producer

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