RIP Bill Paxton

Michael Cain and Bill Paxton at the Dallas International Film Festival, 2010.

The night I met Bill Paxton was the Dallas premier of The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005), which he had directed. I was working for Michael Cain (not the actor) at the time, as an assistant editor on Michael’s documentary, TV Junkie (2006), and he wanted to reward me for the extra hours I was putting in by taking me to this special event.

If you haven’t seen it, The Greatest Game Ever Played is the story of a legendary matchup at the 1913 US Open. A 20 year old nobody, Francis Quimet (Shia LaBeouf), took on his idol, a former US Open Champion from England, Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane), and won. What I remember most about the film is the way they shot the golf swings, like we were following the club around through the air before it made contact with the ball. It brought a high speed element to a normally sedate game and worked well, though it was arguably a bit overused.

After the screening there was a small party at the bar next door. I remember talking to a producer who introduced me to Shia. He was friendly enough, shaking my hand and pretend it was, “nice to meet you,” or something like that, but he quickly turned back to the producer and asked when he could, “get out of here?” You see, there were these girls – he motioned to a couple of young women nearby – and they, “had some weed,” and wanted to, “get back to his hotel room.” I couldn’t quite hear what the producer said but it wasn’t long before Shia and the girls were gone.

Paxton was having dinner with his father and some other people. He grew up in Fort Worth, which is why he wanted to have a Texas premiere. Michael told me we should get going, he didn’t want to both Paxton with his family, but he was just going to say, “goodbye.” I hung back and thought this was as close as I’d come to meeting the man, then I heard Paxton get all excited about how nice it was to see Michael again and he insisted we come back to the hotel.

It was a big suite, with a couple of bedrooms and a large balcony. Paxton saw his father to bed and told us to grab whatever we wanted from the minibar; “Disney’s paying for it.” We went outside to not disturb his dad and hung out for quite some time. The thing I remember most was Paxton turning suddenly to me, locking in on my eyes and asking, “So, what’s your story?” It’s a line I’ve used a lot on other people since then.

The other thing I can recall about our conversation was Paxton quizzing us about how much we liked the film. This was only the second feature he had directed and his first, Frailty (2001), was much darker and very different. He made it clear that he had high hopes this time around, doing a feel-good production that had the potential to be an award winner. Seabiscuit (2003), the story of a race horse during the Great Depression, who shattered expectations and inspired many people, was the analog he came up with to express his optimism. “We are Seabiscuit,” he said with a beaming smile. “Nobody expects us to win but we can break out of the pack and do this.” I liked the film but did not share his optimism. Obviously I wasn’t going to let on to him about this and I listened enthusiastically. It struck me as charming and very human that despite all his success over many years in Hollywood, he could still sound like a kid, brand new to the business and super hopeful that great things lay ahead. In the end, I don’t think it matters that the film wasn’t the Oscar Winner he was hoping for; what matters is that he continued to be hopeful.

It was sad to wake up to the news today that he had passed away, on the morning of this year’s Oscars. I trust they will be saying nice things about him tonight. When I put on my headphones and opened up Spotify I nearly unconsciously went to David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album and started playing it. I had listened to about a hundred times last year after Bowie’s passing and I guess it’s now become my soundtrack for a celebrity death; or at least for a celebrity that actually matters to me. It’s funny the way the minds works, don’t you think?

RIP Bill Paxton. My thoughts go out to his family and to our mutual friends, Michael Cain, Jeff Scheftel, and Tom Huckabee. I know they loved him like a brother.

This is the week: #TellTheTruthNov22

Sunday, November 22 will mark fifty-two years since President Kennedy was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, while driving through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. This is the week – while that tragic event is on people’s minds and in the news – to share my new documentary, Conspiracy Theorists Lie (2015). Tweet it, Post it, Pin it, Share it – be social about it – and be sure to #TellTheTruthNov22!

You can direct people to this special #TellTheTruthNov22 page, where they can find things to watch, listen to, read and share.

The conspiracists have dominated this conversation for far too long, with their wild and ahistorical vision of history. Help me speak truth to nonsense and show people that conspiracy stories aren’t funny entertainment, they are dangerous misconceptions of reality.

Thank you for your support of me and my work!

This must be the podcast: Ep1 Ed Cage

this must be the podcast

My new podcast is now available on Spreaker, SoundCloud, YouTube, and iTunes. Playing off my, This must be the place, blog, I’m calling it, This must be the podcast, and like my blog, I don’t have a set agenda for what it will or will not cover.

My first episode is an interview with Ed Cage. Ed runs the popular and informative Facebook group, “JFK — The Truth.” He was a longtime Dallas resident, with many connections to people involved with the case and the subsequent investigations. He knows the details of the case well and why this is no good reason to believe it was a conspiracy after 52 years. Ed was a great first guest and I’m happy with the way it turned out. I’ve never done an audio-only production before but I’m looking forward to doing more.

ed cage facebook

My next episode is an interview with Political Science Professor and Kennedy Assassination Expert, John McAdams, and I have another expert on the subject, David Reitzes, lined up for show number three. We will see where it goes from there. I have a few other assassination related individuals who have expressed interest in being guests but I certainly don’t want the show to be confined to President Kennedy’s murder, or even confined to conspiracy talk in general. Nor do I want every episode will be an interview. I want to try doing some where I tell a story about history and the lessons I believe it has to offer us, and… I’m not sure. If you have ideas for the show, please share them with me here, on Facebook, on Twitter, etc. I’m not hard to find.