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.
- 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.
- Performed in the short-lived New Wave duo Martini Ranch; James Cameron directed the video for their song "Reach."
- Often confused with another actor, Bill Pullman.
- His career-changing role came as that of a polygamist businessman in the quirky, addictive HBO drama Big Love, which debuted in 2006.
- In discussing Big Love with Vanity Fair in a 2010 interview, Paxton claimed that the show had many female fans and that while his character's marriage to three beautiful women might seem to be a male's fantasy, he didn't see the number going beyond three, with him as the one husband: "There are four wheels on a car. Four is enough."
- 2007, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Nominee
- 2010, 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
- 2012, Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie: 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
- 1997, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Nominee
- 2008, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama: Nominee
- Mary Lou Paxton — Mother
- Lydia Paxton — Daughter
- Louise Paxton — Wife
- James Paxton — Son
- John Lane Paxton — Father
- Attended Richmond College, London, England; attended New York University, New York, NY
- Birth Name: William Paxton
- Birth Place: Fort Worth, TX
- Birthday: May 17, 1955, Taurus
- Profession: Actor, Director, Producer