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Fort Worth Native, ‘Apollo 13’ Actor Bill Paxton Dies At 61

by Lauren Silverman 27 Feb 2017 10:35 AM

KERA News looks back upon the life of the North Texas native and shares the thought and opinions of both friends and colleagues.


Bill Paxton, who as a boy in Fort Worth witnessed John F. Kennedy’s final day and who grew up to be a Hollywood stalwart in such films as “Apollo 13” and “Titanic,” has died from complications after surgery. He was 61.

A representative of Paxton’s family issued a brief statement Sunday on his death. The statement says, “Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable.”

On screen, Paxton went just about everywhere — from an F5 tornado in Oklahoma (“Twister”), to the bottom of the sea (“Titanic”), to the moon (“Apollo 13”) and beyond (“Aliens”).

He was even in Fort Worth the day Kennedy was killed. There’s a black-and-white photo of him from 1963, a wide-eyed little boy whose head bobs above the crowd.


Eight-year-old Bill Paxton is lifted up to get a look at Jack and Jackie Kennedy outside Fort Worth’s Hotel Texas on Nov. 22, 1963 SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM, ROY COOPER COLLECTION / KTVT-TV

“It was rainy that morning,” he says in the narration for the documentary “JFK: The Final Hours.” “But nobody cared. You see, it wasn’t every day you got to see President Kennedy…. What we didn’t know is President Kennedy was going to die in just a few hours.”

Paxton lived in Fort Worth until age 18. Then he set out for Hollywood, to work in the art department for “B” movie king Roger Corman, who helped launch the careers of numerous actors and filmmakers.

His acting career started with minor turns in films like “Stripes” and “The Terminator,” eventually landing the supporting role of Chet in “Weird Science.” With that Texas twang, he often was cast as a sort of outlaw or cowboy — his character in “Predator 2″ was even nicknamed “The Lone Ranger.”

His colleague and friend, James Faust, artistic director of the Dallas International Film Festival, says Paxton was relentless.

“He was a workhorse, especially as a character actor,” Faust says. “He loved to get in new parts, and he loved reading scripts and he just loved making films.”

Read and hear what else friends and colleagues had to say as KERA News revisits the life and accomplishments of Bill Paxton.