Thats right, as an actor, he gets to live more than one life in the roles he plays.
Paxton was astronaut Fred Haise in Apollo 13, and Wyatt Earps brother, Morgan, in Tombstone. He was a futuristic marine in Aliens, a tornado hunter in Twister, and hes even been a vampire in his many parts. Hes in his fourth season playing a polygamist in the HBO series 'Big Love.'
Away from the cameras, his is still a charmed life.
Paxton, 54, jokes that he feels like Forrest Gump in the way fate has steered him in the paths of giants.
When he was 8 years old, Paxton accompanied his father to see President John F. Kennedy speak in the parking lot of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth. It was Nov. 22, 1963. Kennedy was assassinated hours later in Dallas.
Growing up in Fort Worth, Paxton came to know golf living near Shady Oaks Country Club, Ben Hogans club. As a boy, Paxton used to hunt for golf balls there and once gave a batch to Ray Bolger, the actor who played the scarecrow in the 'Wizard of Oz.' He met Bing Crosby in a tournament at Shady Oaks. He met Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra there, too. His most memorable brushes with a great athlete, though, came with Hogan.
While Paxton doesnt classify himself as a great golfer, he plays the game, and he appreciates the history. He showed his understanding of the games dramatic elements as director of the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played, which was released on Blu-ray during the U.S. Open last week. The movies an adaptation of Mark Frosts book of the same title, the story of Francis Ouimet, the 20-year-old American amateur who upset the great British players Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a U.S. Open playoff in 1913. Paxtons father once met Eddie Lowery, Ouimets caddie.
Senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Paxton for a short chat about Ouimet, Hogan and the movies:
Didnt you once say hitting a golf ball was like astral projecting?
Yes, you can feel like youre taking off with that bad boy, but very rarely have I experienced that. Im not a great practitioner of the sport, but I grew up around it. My dad played every day, and he still does at 88.
How did growing up around the game lead you to the directors role for The Greatest Game Ever Played?
I grew up next to Shady Oaks in Fort Worth. It was practically my backyard. Id go golf ball hunting on the course with my dog just about every day. As a kid, I was what they called a greenie there. I worked at Hogans private tournament. Id sit on the green, tend the flag and Id have this gimme stick. If the putt was close enough, it was a gimme.
So you got to see Ben Hogan play?
I shagged for Ben Hogan on a few occasions at Shady Oaks. There was this little nine in the middle of the 18-hole course, where kids and women played, and he would go out there and hit balls. I was very intimidated by him. You didnt hardly say anything to him. My dad was an original member of the club, and when Hogan was done, he would give me a dollar and tell me to say hello to my dad for him. Growing up there, looking up to Hogan, I related to Francis Ouimets story, how as a caddie, he was inspired by Harry Vardon, how he looked up to Vardon.
Why did you choose to direct a movie about golf, a sport that doesnt excite a large segment of mainstream sports fans, much less movie goers?
I was looking to direct a second film [after 'Frailty'], I knew Mark Frost, I read the script, and I said, `This is it. I knew a lot of film makers wouldnt touch it because it was about golf, but it was a great human interest story that transcended sports. Harry Vardon, I modeled him after Hogan, but I wanted him to be like a gunslinger, going up against a kid who had never been in a gun fight. Thats the way we filmed the story.
Most guys filming golf, they get sucked into the pastoral nature of the story, and it can be like watching paint dry. Frost, in his book, describes how theres enough pressure in a golfers head to crush a nuclear submarine. I wanted to get at that. Whats fun about the movies is that you can compress time and space any way you want. Youre only limited by your imagination and determination in how you tell a story.
Eddie Lowery, Ouimets boy caddie, was a large part of story.
It really came down to this cool little thing with Eddie Lowery, how Francis ends up reluctantly taking this 10-year-old to be his caddie. People saw them as this Mutt and Jeff team, and they laughed at them, but Francis, in hindsight, believed Eddies support and reassurance helped him win. Eddies saying `Forget about what everyones saying, and telling him, `Just play your game, kept the wheels from coming off. Its all true, and its the part of the story that can make you well up a little bit.