Bill Paxton is one of the most respected actors working today. Following a long string of successful performances, Bill has stepped behind the camera and proven his skill as a director. His directorial debut, Frailty (2001), showed a keen sense of style and a powerful grasp of storytelling which puts him in the ranks of top directors working today. We feel compelled to acknowledge this masterful work.--Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA (2003)I can tell Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman apart. I'm not bragging, just getting that trite joke out of the way (they're not Black for fuck's sake... or name Corey).
Both Bills are talented and handsome, but Pullman hasn't knocked it out of the park since Ruthless People and Spaceballs, while Paxton has some really amazing performances through his 40+ years acting.
He's fantastic in a thankless role in The Lords of Discipline (I've decided not to embed a clip, but it's here if you're up for some in-your-face racism) and he's memorable in Weird Science.
His collaborations with James Cameron put him in some of the biggest blockbusters of the last 30+ years: The Terminator; Aliens; True Lies; Titanic. He's wasted in everything but Aliens (okay, not wasted, but compare him with Tom Arnold and tell me he didn't deserve a bigger role in True Lies).
He was awesome in 1992's One False Move and 1998's A Simple Plan, movies that have no real connection aside from roles for both Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton. Paxton got to chew the scenery a bit in Carl Franklin's One False Move, but it's his work in Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan (a movie I think is criminally neglected, written off as a Fargo knock-off) that is his best acting, period. He's the conscience of A Simple Plan, with none of the "for your consideration" scenes provided to Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda; as the story's urgency becomes tragedy, it's as though, scene after scene, Paxton is experiencing all of it, at that magnitude. If you don't believe me, ask Roger Ebert.
In the interest of full disclosure, he was in Boxing Helena and Mighty Joe Young. You never expected to think about Boxing Helena again, did you?
I'm sure others will enthuse about his work in Tombstone or Big Love or Hatfields & McCoys. His directorial debut, Frailty, was a gripping Southern Gothic thriller, but his follow-up was tepid and he didn't helm anything after that.
I feel like Paxton deserved a better career than he got, but he did have a really solid career. He's one of those actors doing solid, inspired work, over and over, but who never quite is "the guy" (meant in a non-gendered manner). Scott Glenn, David Morse, Veronica Cartright and Alfre Woodard are like this (although Woodard at least has 5 Emmy wins out of her 19 Emmy nominations [seriously, Alfre Woodard has more Emmys than Donald Trump has wives, so far]).
Oh, and he was in the movie Twister with Helen Hunt or Holly Hunter, but we don't speak of that.
Rest in peace dude.