Joe R. Lansdale, author of the 'Hap and Leonard' series, remembers his friend Bill Paxton in a touching tribute

By Isabella Biedenharn
March 10, 2017 at 04:51 PM EST
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Bill Paxton’s untimely death left behind unfinished projects and broken hearts — and Paxton’s friend, Hap and Leonard author Joe R. Lansdale, was affected by both.

The two had most recently been working together on an adaptation of Lansdale’s novel The Bottoms, which Paxton hoped to direct with a script from Frailty screenwriter Brent Hanley. As Paxton told EW in 2015, he thought The Bottoms could become “a bona fide classic” once they finally got it off the ground.

Below, Lansdale shares with EW this moving tribute to his friend, written shortly after his death.

From Joe R. Lansdale:
Bill Paxton died while I was at a hometown film festival I had hoped to rope him into attending. We thought 2018 was possible.

We talked about it in January when he told me he had to have surgery for a heart condition. Bill said he was starting to think every slight feeling he had was due to the discovery of the heart problem.

He said, “I’m an actor, Joe. I can imagine anything. Tell me I’m a dog and I start barking.”

He was a little scared about the whole business, and we joked about it to disarm his worries. I told him my brother had heart surgery more than once and was fine. We ended up laughing hard about all manner of things, most of them pretty silly, before we rang off.

We exchanged a couple of emails a few days before his surgery, and then he went in.

The days passed and he was still in the hospital. I began to have a sinking feeling. I heard he was still recovering, but having a hard time of it.

Day before he died, word was he was seriously struggling, but stable.

Sunday morning I awoke to the devastating news that we had lost him. I have spent the last few days feeling as if I have been hit with a club.

Now that he’s gone I want to say so much about him, but I find myself tongue-tied; rare for me. But it’s hard to talk about it. Talking about it makes it real.

I never knew Bill’s family, but he talked about them and loved them, and no matter what his friends feel, it is nothing compared to what his family must be suffering. My heart goes out to them.

I only knew Bill for seven or eight years, possibly a little more, but to know Bill for only an hour made it seem you had known him your whole life. He was a Ft. Worth boy, a Texan. Ft. Worth is where we met. At a film festival, of course.

He was what they used to call a boon companion. Witty, fun, considerate and kind. Nothing movie star about him.

In an IHOP in Nacogdoches, Texas, me and Bill and our mutual friend, Brent Hanley, screenwriter who wrote Frailty, a marvelous film Bill directed and starred in, were having breakfast, and Bill was recognized.

The waiter said, “You’re a movie star,” to which Bill replied with his usual modesty. “Well, I’m an actor.”

After breakfast, Brent and I went out of the restaurant, realized we had lost Bill. We soon discovered he was inside having photographs taken and signing autographs for anyone who asked, and he did it joyfully. He was thankful for his career, and for those who loved seeing him on the screen.

We spent the day tromping around in the river bottoms with my cousin, who was helping us locate possible locations for the film we hoped to make based on my novel The Bottoms.

Next day we visited with my cousin’s family. Bill seemed as if he had grown up next door. Kind and considerate as he could be. Not a movie star bone in him. He made everyone comfortable.

Damn, I miss him.

Joe Lansdale’s most recent Hap and Leonard novel, Rusty Puppy, is out now.


  • Movie
  • R
  • 100 minutes
  • Bill Paxton