“GAME OVER, MAN” — ‘Hudson’, Aliens

One thing I know for sure — Bill Paxton’s life was a life lived with passion.

I didn’t have any expectations attending Bill’s memorial yesterday. Other than that I would be sad. I went purely to pay my respects to someone who had been very kind to me, and shown me intense loyalty in a town not known for it. I didn’t expect to laugh, but I did — a lot — as luminaries in the film and TV industry shared their own personal memories of time spent with Bill.

Rob Lowe’s memories of his 30+ year friendship with Bill was surprising and set the tone for a memorial that truly paid homage to Bill’s essence. He made sure we were here to celebrate Bill, in fact at this point it wasn’t sad at all, but joyful!

We laughed at his anecdotes and imagined Bill and Rob, two young actors starting out in Hollywood and confiding in each other over roles and choices all the way through, and past, middle age! And so it went on from friend after friend who took to the stage, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Sigourney Weaver, Mark Frost, all opened up a side of Bill to us that many didn’t know and then the part we all knew — that he was a live wire who loved his craft! Although each of their memories Bill were unique, their memories revealed a single common thread — how passionate Bill was about his family.

Surprisingly, it was James Cameron who gave the most touching eulogy to me. Like Rob, he also recounted a 36-year friendship with Bill. Starting out with a chance meeting on Bill’s first day on the set of a Roger Corman film. That initial connection lead to many roles in his blockbuster films — up to and including, Titanic. After Titanic their relationship progressed to scientific work outside of film, exploring the deepest oceans in hi-tech mini-subs, opening up an entirely new direction for their friendship. Deep diving uncharted waters clearly created an even stronger bond for the two men.

Up to James’ speech, the focus had been extremely good-natured and everyone referenced Bill’s “Texan good ol’ boy” isms (he was a proud Texan!). Tom Hanks yucked it up regaling us with stories from the set of Apollo 13, trapped in a space suit with only Bill and Ron Howard for company for hours on end — which was fine by us because it took our minds off the actual reason we were all gathered there — mostly strangers, united in sorrow.

Listening to these stories, we could all be less sad at his untimely passing. James stated early in his eulogy, “I don’t do funny” but he did. And it was real. His affection for Bill, was obvious. Coming to the end, he looked up at the huge image of Bill on screen above him. Very handsome, smiling down on us all, and recounted their last conversation.

It was the day before Bill’s final surgery where Bill shared his fears about the procedure. This is where James’ whole being turned reflective, as though he was having the thought in front of us. Bill, assuming the character of “Hudson,” from “Aliens” — something he did often with James — and presciently said, “I don’t know Jim, might be “Game Over, man” — a Hudson quote. As James looked up in reverence at the larger than life sized image of Bill, his voice broke and he said, “I wish I had said I love you more” — it was the end of the joyful memorial and the permission we needed to release the feelings we had held in check, the truth of the sad day — it washed over us in a tidal wave. Bill was gone. He was gone too soon, and everyone in this room was devastated.

The most emotional and heartbreaking moment was to follow Cameron’s eulogy. His daughter and son took the stage, stoic, physically mustering up the strength to share with us what we all knew; that he had been an outstanding father and husband who lived for his family. Their love for their dad was palpable and raw and what had only ten minutes before been a light hearted sharing of many different perspectives of Bill by his variety of friends, became an agonizing reality that these kids had lost the most important man in the world to them.

Fred Durst ended the 2-hour memorial with his band playing Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” — it was difficult for even them to get into it — there was so much emotion in the room. But half way through, it’s almost as if Bill’s spirit joined us and we slowly started to clap along with the band, trying very hard to end on a positive note — for Bill– but it was as difficult for Durst to sing, as it was for us to get there with him — he encouraged us with, “It’s what Bill would want” and so we tried.

I have my own memories of Bill, which are precious now. But yesterday I learned a side of him I hadn’t known, from his rich and diverse group of friends who loved him intensely, and was reminded how he loved to laugh, loved music, devoured art and was a film aficionado. But above all else, Bill was a family man. All of his passions slotted into second place behind the love he had for his family — even the career he was born to inhabit, however committed, paled in comparison. My heart goes out to them as they grieve.

Wherever Bill’s spirit is right now, I know it’s embracing this final adventure that we are all going to face — and I hope I meet him there when it’s “Game Over, Man” for me. God Bless, Bill.