Following the news of Bill Paxton’s unexpected death at 61
years old, longtime friends and co-stars are remembering the actor’s impact both on and off
screen. For director James Cameron, the loss is particularly difficult.
Paxton, who was most recently starring on CBS’ TV adaptation
of Training Day, died from
complications related to surgery. A source tells ET that the actor had a heart
Cameron and Paxton built their careers together, working
side-by-side through the late-‘80s and most of the ‘90s after first meeting on the
set of a low-budget film by director Roger Corman. “He came in to work on set,
and I slapped a paint brush in his hand and pointed to a wall, saying ‘Paint
that!’” Cameron recalled in an email to Vanity
Fair. “We quickly recognized the creative spark in each other and became
fast friends. What followed was 36 years of making films together, helping
develop each other’s projects, going on scuba diving trips together, watching
each other’s kids growing up, even diving the Titanic wreck together in Russian
Cameron eventually gave Paxton a small role in The Terminator and two years later, the
actor played Private William Hudson in Aliens.
It was the latter, which not only was a box office success but also earned
seven Academy Award nominations and 11 Saturn Award nominations, including a
win for Best Supporting Actor for Paxton, that helped launch the actor’s
career. The two eventually reunited a decade later on True Lies and Titanic, in
which he played Brock Lovett. In 2003, Paxton appeared in Cameron’s Titanic documentary
Ghosts of the Abyss, venturing
12,600 feet below sea level with the director.
“It was a friendship of laughter, adventure, love of cinema,
and mutual respect. Bill wrote beautiful heartfelt and thoughtful letters, an
anachronism in this age of digital shorthand. He took good care of his
relationships with people, always caring and present for others. He was a good
man, a great actor, and a creative dynamo. I hope that amid the gaudy din of
Oscar night, people will take a moment to remember this wonderful man, not just
for all the hours of joy he brought to us with his vivid screen presence, but for
the great human that he was,” Cameron added, reflecting on the news of Paxton’s
death less than 24 hours before the 2017 Academy Awards, which are set to air
live at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.
“The world is a lesser place for his passing, and I will
profoundly miss him,” he concluded.