What a shocking headline, right? When Bill Paxton briefly mentioned Predator 2 during our discussion at Comic-Con yesterday, I could see him cringe with a self-knowing smile about it. He didn’t discuss that 90s classic in detail, sadly, but Paxton clearly lit up when discussing his directorial work. It’s unfortunate Paxton has only made two films behind the camera. Frailty is a terrific family-oriented horror movie, while his Disney “golf picture,” The Greatest Game Ever Played, was overlooked by both critics and audiences.
The box-office performance of The Greatest Game Ever Played is probably a reason why Paxton hasn’t directed a feature-length film in eight years, but he’s been keeping busy, both acting and developing projects. When Paxton isn’t working, taking pictures with fans, gladly receiving hugs, or hanging with his daughter — who I mistook as his publicist, surely her dream job — Paxton took a few minutes discuss Seven Holes for Air with me at Comic-Con, a digital comic he’s presenting. Seven Holes for Air is drama about a sick man’s man often represented through the prism of a stylized spaghetti Western, written by John McLaughlin.
It’s a story Paxton is hoping to adapt one day, but in the meantime, it’s out there for people to discover.
What made you get involved?
[writer] John McLaughlin is an old colleague of mine. He actually just wrote Kung Fu for me, but this one was based on a spec script he wrote seven years ago. I fell in love with the script. I thought, “God, I’d love to make it as a film.” I was doing Big Love at the time and I didn’t know when I’d be available, so I thought we could turn it into a graphic novel. It’s such a long way from turning a script into a movie. I thought if it never existed as a film, I’d like it to exist in some form. [artist] Mick Reinman is an old buddy who did all my artwork and pre-viz for The Greatest Game Ever Played. The graphic novel is a very male story. The character is almost detestable, but has a fun tone. John wrote this thing so detailed; it’s a great piece.
Releasing comics and movies digitally is a great distribution model that keeps on picking up traction. As a filmmaker, and even for this, would you ever consider shooting something on a micro-low budget and putting out on iTunes or VOD?
You know, this one needs the full compliment. The action, sets, and acting need to be hardcore, so I probably wouldn’t. If I’m going to make a film, it needs to look like Warner Bros.. I’m old school that way. I’ve made a lot of short films, but even in my earlier days there was constant detail put into the art direction and lighting. To try to do a simple digital version I wouldn’t be interested in. This way, it has a cinematic quality to it. Even the size of the graphic novel we went bigger. Nick’s drawing is loose but strong with the attitude and the figures.
As a filmmaker, what are you working on right now?
John, Mick, and I have all been working on Kung Fu for Legendary. They got the rights from Warner Bros. television. They want to try to turn it into a franchise, but do it with this new company that’s not quite up yet, a co-Chinese company called “Legendary East”. It’s still being funded, but they want this as one of their flagship movies. It’s about an Eastern Hero in a Western. Most of the Kung-Fu takes place in the American West in the 1880s. This would all be shot in China. Shooting in the Gobi desert, as a filmmaker, would be really cool.
Oh my God! I’m excited for that one, but I’m not sure when it’ll go. Nick has probably storyboarded about 2/3rds of the script. I’ve got that going on, but I just finished acting in the Doug Liman movie. That one is called Edge of Tomorrow Now, but was originally called All You Need is Kill. I also got a great part in 2 Guns. It’s the most sadistic part I’ve ever had. You’re going to get a kick out of it. There’s certain parts where you really get to…
Chew the scenery?
Oh buddy, I chewed it out. There was dancing with Denzel.
[Laughs] So you try not to restrain yourself during those moments?
Well, it’s not really a question of restraining, but I like having a theatrical character who is a little different. You gotta be careful, you know? I mean, I started out doing a lot of overacting. I’ve seen movies that I’ve done, like Predator 2, that I just can’t watch.
[Laughs] I completely forgot you were in that until I looked on IMDB.
Good Lord…I’m just saying, I wish I could burn that negative. Aliens is one of those movies people loved, but I personally thought, at the time, I was over-the-top. You gotta go for it, though. You can’t be watching yourself, you know? You have to let the director be monitoring, calibrating, and helping your performance.
Is it tough juggling both jobs?
The director gets to play every part. For me, it’s just an expansion. One character is just a part of the canvas, while, as a director, you get to play with the whole paintbox. In a way, you’re playing those characters, because when you’re guiding an actor for a part, you have to know the part. To me, it’s just an expansion on being an actor.
Seven Holes for Air is now available.