Bill Paxton (“Big Love”) wants to talk about the man he most admired, his dad. He had recently returned from burying his father, John Lane Paxton, best known as Bernard the Butler in the “Spider-Man” movies.
Paxton, under a bushy beard for his role as Randall McCoy in History Channel’s upcoming “Hatfields & McCoys” pours himself some of his home made wine, settles into his trailer on the outskirts of Bucharest, Romania, and talks for a long time exclusively to Zap2it about his dad.
“My dad got me into movie making inadvertently,” Paxton says, recalling how they would go to the movies on Fridays. After, “he would talk about the artifice of what we had just seen.”
Though John Lane Paxton, 91, became known as an actor, he spent 50 years in the hardwood lumber business in Fort Worth. When he was taking off for a business trip, he’d tell his son, “I’m flying out to the coast to make a picture.”
It was a line Bill Paxton was happy to use on him later.
Paxton’s dad made such an impression on people that director James Cameron sent a floral display to the funeral. Long before his dad debuted as a board member in “Brain Dead” (1990) he was becoming friends with people in the industry.
His dad played golf with John Ford, Bing Crosby and Stephen Boyd. He knew Jimmy Stewart and Randolph Scott. Paxton’s folks built their dream house off the Shady Oaks Golf Course in Fort Worth, and as a kid, Paxton sold golf balls to Ray Bolger and met Peter Lorre.
“In a weird way, I was born to be in this business,” he says. “I was groomed.”
The dad was grooming himself for it as well. He retired from the hardwood lumber business at 70, took acting classes and put himself out there.
“He thought if he called on enough casting directors it was like calling on enough cabinet shops — he would make the sell,” Paxton says.
Over the years he did six films with Sam Raimi, including the three Spider-Man movies. He was also on “Boomtown” and “Medium.”
“It gave him a whole new lease on life,” Paxton says of his dad’s second career. He smiles as he recalls his dad, asking about his jobs, but now with a more personal request.
When Paxton told him that he had a gig, his dad asked, ” ‘Hey, do they need any old actors?’ I like to think of it as reverse nepotism.”
“My dad was one of those guys you couldn’t help but love him,” Paxton says.
John Lane Paxton was a success in his 70s and 80s. He would have been married 61 years. He was also an art collector and a natty dresser — inadvertently courtesy of Sean Connery.
He liked Connery’s style, so he tracked down who his tailor was in the Bond films and convinced him to come to Fort Worth and make his suits.
“I described him as a Peter Pan,” Paxton says. “He was never morbid. He had kind of a gothic sense of humor. He was my best friend.”