Bill Paxton, a prolific US actor who had memorable roles in such blockbusters as Apollo 13, Aliens and Titanic, has died from complications from heart surgery, aged 61.
The Texas native appeared in dozens of movies and television shows and seemed to be around when history was made both on and off screen.
As a boy, Paxton was in the crowd that welcomed John F Kennedy on the morning of November 22, 1963, hours before the president was killed in Dallas.
As a young man, he worked in the art department for B-movie king Roger Corman, who helped launch the careers of numerous actors and filmmakers.
Paxton’s movie credits included some of the signature works of the past 40 years, from Titanic and Apollo 13 to The Terminator and Aliens, along with blockbusters such as Twister and cult films such as Weird Science.
He was also a director, helming Frailty and The Greatest Game Ever Played, while TV fans knew him for his role as a polygamist in the HBO series Big Love.
“Bill Paxton was a big-hearted, thoughtful and honourable person. He always had a smile on his face and could entertain any room with his wonderful stories of his many amazing years in Hollywood,” his Big Love co-star Chloe Sevigny said in a statement.
He was a frequent collaborator with James Cameron, working on Titanic, Aliens, True Lies and The Terminator.
The director said the two met 36 years ago on the set of a Roger Corman film.
“It was a friendship of laughter, adventure, love of cinema and mutual respect,” Cameron said.
“He took good care of his relationships with people, always caring and present for others. He was a good man, a great actor, and a creative dynamo.”
His death on the eve of the Academy Awards means he will likely not appear in the ceremony’s “in memoriam” segment, which is usually done weeks in advance.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred with Paxton in The Terminator and True Lies, said Paxton “was best at being Bill – a great human being with a huge heart”.
True Lies co-star Jamie Lee Curtis tweeted: “Such a funny, talented, loving human.”
Paxton brought a reliably human dimension to big-budget adventures and science fiction, and he was, fans point out, the only actor killed by a Predator, a Terminator and an Alien.
But Paxton defined his career more as a character actor.
“I feel like I’m a regionalist and a populist who’s never fit in among the intellectuals,” he said.
“I think there’s where the heart of American art is. My greatest roles have been in regional films, whether it was One False Move or Frailty or Simple Plan or Traveller.”
Paxton had been starring in the CBS drama Training Day.
He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Louise Newbury, and their two children.