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Actor Bill Paxton has made a name for himself with such films as Apollo 13 and Twister and the television series Big Love.
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Born in 1955, Bill Paxton got his first break in the film industry in the mid-1970s, working as a set dresser. Paxton then studied with Stella Adler at New York University for two years. In 1992, Paxton had his first leading role in One False Move and went on to star in such hits as Apollo 13 and Twister. From 2006 to 2011, Paxton appeared on television in the popular drama Big Love.
With his rich, distinctively Texan voice and everyman looks, actor Bill Paxton has played a variety of roles, from offbeat characters to leading men. He grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where his father worked in the family's lumber business. Paxton's father was also a supporter of the arts, and he frequently took his children to the movies and other cultural events.
Paxton had an interest in moviemaking from early on. After graduating from Arlington Heights High School in 1973, he spent time studying at Richmond College in England with his friend Danny Martin. There Paxton met fellow Texan Tom Huckabee. The three made Super 8 movies together when they returned to Texas.
In January 1974, Paxton decided to move to Los Angeles to break into the film industry. His first job was as a production assistant on an industrial film for Encyclopedia Britannica, a gig he landed through a friend of his father. Paxton then worked as a set dresser for the king of B-movies, Roger Corman, for a time. Before long he landed his first role—a small part in the Jonathan Demme–directed Crazy Mama (1975).
At the age of 21, Paxton headed east for college. He went to New York University, where he studied with famed acting instructor Stella Adler. While he was amazed by Adler, Paxton dropped out after two years. "I didn't see any point in a degree, I didn't see where I'd be filling that in on an application for any kind of job," he later told Texas Monthly. He then returned to Los Angeles.
In 1980, Paxton had some success with a short film he made called "Fish Heads," which was shown on Saturday Night Live. He landed a series of small roles, appearing such films as the 1983 military school drama The Lords of Discipline and the science fiction hit The Terminator (1984). One of his most memorable early roles was in 1985's Weird Science starring Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Kelly LeBrock. In the film, he played the evil older brother of one of the lead characters. This villainous turn by Paxton left a lasting impression on many moviegoers.
After years in character roles, Paxton showed his abilities as a lead actor in One False Move (1992), co-starring Billy Bob Thornton. He earned raves for his portrayal of a small-town lawman involved in the pursuit of two dangerous criminals. His work on this small independent thriller helped open the door to much bigger films, including the hit true-life space drama Apollo 13 (1995) and the natural-disaster blockbuster Twister (1996).
Paxton has also explored opportunities behind the scenes as well.
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