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As Mark Frost prepares the return of Twin Peaks with co-creator David Lynch, the author and filmmaker is grieving the loss of Apollo 13 and Big Love star Bill Paxton, who died Feb. 25 from heart surgery complications at the age of 62. “I don’t know if I’ll have a better friend than Bill Paxton,” says Frost, also 62. “He had a kind of buoyancy and vibrant nature that makes it inconceivable to think he could be gone.”
Frost and Paxton knew each other and moved in the same circles since the seventies, when they were first breaking into Hollywood. They had a common, dear friend, Miguel Ferrer, who passed away last month. In the early nineties, Paxton made a movie with Frost’s sister, the actress Linsday Frost, a sci-fi thriller entitled Monolith. They share a Lynch connection, too: among Paxton’s many film credits is 1993’s Boxing Helena, directed by Jennifer Lynch, David’s daughter.
But Frost says their rapport went next level when Paxton directed Disney’s 2005 adaptation of Frost’s book The Greatest Game Ever Played, a small gem sports pic about golfer Francis Ouimet starring Shia LaBeouf. Frost, who also wrote the script and produced the movie, had loved Paxton’s first directorial effort, Frailty, and lobbied Disney to hire him to helm Greatest Game.
“I have never worked with a director who was more committed to getting every single detail exactly right. He was brilliant with actors, he was brilliant with crew, and his energy was unflagging,” says Frost. “He had studied with — and was really a kind of protégé to — his great friend Jim Cameron.” The Aliens and Titanic director offered assistance to Paxton on Greatest Game, looking at rough cuts and providing advice. “He was a sort of godfather to us on that movie.”
Frost attributes Paxton’s screen presence to a deeply felt passion for art and innate character.
“He was a true artist in the best sense of the word. His life was dedicated to art, he was a great collector and appreciator of fine art – painting, sculpture – he had grown up in a family that had been patrons of the arts. He had that in his blood,” says Frost. “He brought to everything he did a ferocious commit to rooting out the truth of what we were trying to say — what the scene was trying to say, what the character was trying to say, what the line was trying to say, and as a director, what the shot was trying to say.”
“And as a friend, he was unfailingly loyal,” he continues. “He was a gentleman in the best sense of the word. He had this wonderful, almost 19th century, idea of what a friend should be. He wrote beautiful, handwritten letters. He cultivated friendships. He cared about them. He was a model for what a person in our business should be. … He made every set he was on a better place. And he made every picture he was in a better picture. Not just with his performance but with his presence.”
Frost says it was because of Paxton that he and his family moved to Ojai, located 83 miles north of Los Angeles and home to many notable Hollywood names. “It was his salesmanship of this wonderful place where we live that convinced us to give it the look that we did and finally make the move,” says Frost. “I loved him like a brother. This is a terrible loss not just for us and his friends, family, and our community up here in Ojai, but the entire industry. He was a force of nature.”
“I know audiences loved him. And there was a reason for that. He was a genuinely good person and an absolutely fine human being. And I’ll miss him to the end of my days.”