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James Cameron reflects on the late Bill Paxton's sci-fi legacy

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Dec 21, 2017

Director James Cameron worked with actor Bill Paxton on five projects, including one of Paxton's first on-screen roles, as "Punk Leader" in The Terminator. In a new interview in EW, Cameron reminisces about his friendship with the late actor.

Cameron first met Paxton on the set of Galaxy of Terror, where both men were working behind the scenes. Cameron found Paxton to be both gregarious and edgy, charismatic with a "manic edge." "We kind of hit it off," Cameron says.

Cameron wanted to include Paxton in Avatar but didn't have a part that "fit him well." When Cameron got started on his four Avatar sequels, he started thinking of a good role for Paxton, but the actor died before Cameron could make a "presentation" to him.

One of the things about Paxton that seems to stand out to Cameron is that the actor would always bring tons of ideas with him to set, but didn't have an ego about whether Cameron used them or not. Of Paxton "improvising" some of his lines in Aliens, Cameron had this to say:

"He always brought stuff and there’s definitely some improvisation in there. I actually think 'game over' is his. Some of that stuff in that famous manic monologue when they just lost all hope and they’re stranded on the planet was his. He always offered a smorgasbord of ideas, mannerisms, and bits of dialogue. And I always enjoyed working with him because he always made me seem like a better writer!"

Cameron wasn't thinking "sequel" when he made Aliens; he just "wanted to make one good film." That is why he doesn't regret killing off Paxton's Aliens character, Hudson. "The cowardly guy who goes down with a heroic death — it was too beautiful of a symmetry."

Bill Paxton appeared in nearly 100 film and television roles, including Twister, Edge of Tomorrow, Predator 2, Tombstone, Apollo 13, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He died unexpectedly on February 25, 2017, of a stroke following complications from heart surgery two weeks prior.