James Cameron Remembers Bill Paxton: 'He Was a Good Man, a Great Actor and a Creative Dynamo'

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 condition.

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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 subs.” 

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.

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“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.