Remembering 2017 No 2
A Titanic Role and a Big Brother Bully for Bill Paxton
The late Bill Paxton steals the movie in which two teens create their virtual dream girl, with romantic and comic results.
Weird Science Official Trailer #1 – Robert Downey Jr. Movie (1985) HD, Movieclips Trailer Vault, http://www.youtube.com
I was surprised to hear of the passing of Bill Paxton, yet another actor gone far to soon, who sadly passed away recently. Paxton was synonymous for some with tough, man’s man roles but acted in much, much more, having worked at least twice yearly since 1980 with only one year off in that time. Darlin’ Husband of course recalled him from his sci-fi and action movies. I, however remembered him from two of the more famous disaster movies, Twister (1996) and Titanic (1997). In Twister, he starred with another former Brat Pack member, Jami Gertz from The Lost Boys (1987) and Less than Zero (1997).
In Titanic, he played a character in the present day Brock Lovett, a treasure hunter whose team are exploring the Titanic wreck at the bottom of the sea. They find a drawing of a nude woman wearing the much sought after Heart of the Ocean necklace dated 1912 on the fateful date the boat hit an iceberg and sank. Lovett ends up meeting and
talking to listening to the woman in the drawing after she contacts him, the now much, much older Rose – then a girl from a well to do background – recalling her love with penniless Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack as they met and fell in love on the doomed boat. Which was a major gitter if there ever was one, but methinks Paxton’s character had the hots for her daughter or was just waiting to hear more about the location of necklace. Or both. So he listened and listened. And listened. Without an ice cream break (as we cinema viewers did – before part 2 – as she recounted her story in vivid detail). And silently wept as we all did, when Rose told us how she callously sadly had to let him drown literally seconds before she was rescued after the boat hit the iceberg.
But this review isn’t about his role in Titanic, as to be honest I’d probably just end up gittering about DiCaprio. As this review is all about Paxton, I’m reviewing an early role of his in the John Hughes Brat Pack movie, Weird Science (1985) which I feel he stole the movie in much, much more than his co-stars despite being a supporting character. Admittedly he’s not the first surprising actor to turn up in a Brat Pack movie, as so did Alec Baldwin. Baldwin starring in John Hughes’ She’s Having a Baby (1988) getting a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon rating of 1. But then Baldwin stars in just about everything be it a Richard Curtis comedy, see Notting Hill (1999) – or don’t, just believe me, it’s a yawn otherwise – or the Dallas (1978-91) soap spin-off, Knots Landing (1979-93) – only worth it with a Larry Hagman cameo. Or even as a pretty cool marionette cameo in Team America (2004).
So lets remember Paxton’s all too brief role as Chet from the 80s Weird Science. Paxton’s Weird Science co-stars include Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Kelly Le Brock. Hall and Mitchell Smith playing the unpopular, nerdy and geeky, Gary and Wyatt respectively. Here Hall’s almost continuing his role from The Breakfast Club (1985) – for example both have an alleged Canadian girlfriend – and Mitchell-Smith, then a relatively unknown who shows geeks can be cute too. The pair are seen watching girls in the gym class with Hall wistfully saying how he wants them both to have girlfriends.. They eye up two class members Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Jodie Aronson), however the pair are interrupted in their reverie with the shout of “Yo, Check us out!”, and feeling a sudden cold draft as their shorts are round their ankles thanks to the girls’ boyfriends – and bullies – Max (Robert Rusler) and Ian (Robert Downey Jnr). We then cut to the cool, literally electrifying 1980s credits, and then find Gary staying with Wyatt as his parents are away. And we first hear of Paxton’s character Chet before we meet him, that he’s coming home from military school to take charge…and that he bullies Wyatt.
So while the boys watch the film Frankenstein (1931), Hall decides that they should create their own virtual girl and they can ask her everything they wanted to know about girls but were afraid to ask girls. This leading to the coolest, funkiest, 1980s computer graphic type montage you will ever see in an 1980s movie. Wyatt inputs in the physical and mental details they’d like in their ideal lady, adding her vital statistics and using magazines including Playboy and pictures of their co-star Kelly Le Brock to create their dream woman. And therefore providing the blueprint for the dating internet sites of the future. The Frankenstein film is intercut with the groovy computer stuff and the boys during this montage creating a fun, awesome commentary to the proceedings. With a sudden surge of electricity as the boys – now wearing bras on their heads (did your husband do this before he met you on a dating website?) – chant and connect a doll to the computer and.. there’s an explosion and smoke everywhere! And as the smoke clears the boys hear footsteps followed by the entrance of the girl of their dreams, and as the camera pans up from her superlong legs and model like figure, we find the boys have created a lovely beautiful lady. Their creation later to be named Lisa – played by Kelly Le Brock – who’s leads to one of the most remembered lines from 1980s movies as she practically purrs “What would you little maniacs want to do first?”
I’ll let you discover what the boys and Lisa get up to for yourselves and now tell you more about Bill Paxton in this movie. He makes his initial presence – about a third of the way into the movie – as he confronts the boys after a night drinking on the town with Lisa. He’s a frightening character with a crew cut and the total opposite in build and character than his timid, sensitive wee brother. Paxton’s towering presence dominates the scenes where he bullies his brother and Gary.Camera angles are used – similar to with Mr Gilbert and Will in The Inbetweeners (2008-10) – making Paxton appear supertall, and superscary making the boys seem supersmall in his presence. He barks at the boys, rather than speaking to them. He’s very much a mans man. This in combination with the crew cut and Paxton’s rather buff physique makes him quite threatening. Later on meeting Lisa he leers at her, and sneers and is throughly despicable.. (but because he’s Paxton he’s kinda cute scary) . He continues to harass his wee brother, getting money to keep quiet about the boys’ drunken night out and dubious underwear habits when Chet catches Wyatt wearing Lisa’s undies. This scene played by Paxton with fabulous comic timing.
Paxton was as always fantastic in this role, and gave a lasting impression as this evil character. His portrayal as Chet is certainly often recalled as one of the 1980s more famous villains or bullies from the movies. Despite this, Paxton showed a great flair from comedy as Imdb states be it adding the line “”How about a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?” as based on from something his father would say to Paxton if the actor had a hangover. Imdb also stating that in one scene where he terrorises the boys, Hall and Snyder were unable to stop laughing with Hughes using this scene in the final movie. Yet, after being introduced to more of his movies by my Darlin’ Husband I will always remember him as Darlin’ Husband said so eloquently as “the only actor to be killed by a Terminator, a Predator and an Alien”.