Winning meteorologist fans with Twister role

Bill Paxton
Bill Paxton

LOS ANGELES • American actor Bill Paxton, who rose to stardom in Hollywood blockbuster Titanic and inspired budding meteorologists as a tornado chaser in Twister, has died at age 61, his family said on Sunday.

A family representative said Paxton died of complications after surgery. It was not immediately known what procedure the Fort Worth, Texas native had undergone.

"Bill's passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable," the representative said in a statement.

Paxton has appeared in more than 90 films and television shows over four decades. From 2006 to 2011, he played the patriarch of a polygamist family in Utah on the HBO series Big Love, winning three Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal. He also acted alongside Tom Cruise in the 2014 film Edge Of Tomorrow. For his role in Apollo 13, Paxton won a Screen Actors Guild Award in 1996 for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture.

The son of a Texas businessman, Paxton had a brush with history on Nov 22, 1963. He was eight and saw then United States president John F. Kennedy speak outside a Fort Worth hotel hours before he was assassinated in Dallas.

A photograph of Paxton held above the crowd to catch a glimpse of the president became famous and, 50 years later, he narrated the documentary JFK: The Final Hours.

He started off in movies as a set dresser for maverick director Roger Corman and made his film debut in Crazy Mama (1975). He was also a familiar face in movies directed by James Cameron, appearing as a knife-wielding punk in Terminator (1984) and a treasure hunter in Titanic (1997). Paxton was the space marine in Cameron's Aliens (1986).

His profile soared with One False Move (1992), a critically praised film noir in which he played a sheriff with a secret past.

In 2004, critic David Thomson called One False Move Paxton's finest work. He wrote of his performances: "Bill Paxton can vary his action hero by several degrees one way or another - towards introspection or loud-mouthed enthusiasm."

The actor also gained an unlikely fan base - meteorologists - when he starred in Twister (1996) as tornado- chasing weatherman Bill The Extreme Harding. On Sunday, the National Weather Service said on Twitter: "Twister was an inspiration to many budding meteorologists over the last 20 years. Thank you, Bill Paxton."

He was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards in the Best Actor category for his work in Big Love and the 1990s miniseries A Bright Shining Lie. He leaves behind his wife and two children.

Meanwhile, website TMZ reported that Neil Fingleton, who played Mag The Mighty on HBO's Game Of Thrones, died last Saturday, aged 36.

The former basketball player, who stood at 2.3m tall, was said to be the tallest person in Britain. The cause of his death is unknown.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Winning meteorologist fans with Twister role'. Print Edition | Subscribe