Bill Paxton is the ultimate badass – or so he says.
Before answering an actual question about his new film Edge of Tomorrow, the co-star of such classics as Weird Science, Aliens and True Lies, offered this definitive proclamation about himself, or maybe his latest character, a no-nonsense general who is shocked to discover that one of his soldiers seems to know what he’s going to say before he even says it. The reason, Paxton, explains, is because that soldier, played by none other than Tom Cruise, is stuck in a “weird time loop labyrinth” that forces him to go through the same day over and over, trying to change the result – namely, dying.
Before appearing on a panel at WonderCon Anaheim, Paxton spoke with Spinoff Online about his role in the Warner Bros. sci-fi film. In addition to talking about the wild experience of reliving a single day repeatedly as an actor, he offered some insights into his collaboration with co-stars Cruise and Emily Blunt, and reflected on the experience of working with director Doug Liman in the context of his earlier partnerships with filmmakers such as James Cameron.
Spinoff Online: Given the information presented in trailers for Edge of Tomorrow, I assume that you are one of the people who is not aware that this is sort of replaying over and over. Correct?
Bill Paxton: I am the ultimate badass.
I believe that.
You’re absolutely right, which made it a very fun role for me because it’s a reactive role. But the audience are in on it, and Tom, he’s the protagonist and he’s the guy who’s taking you on this wild odyssey. And it is an odyssey of Homeric proportions.
What kind of clarity does that give you in terms of the character knowing that your reactions to a certain extent are going to be the same.
It’s kind of like the Bolero. Music keeps coming around. Ravel’s Bolero. But it’s a little faster – it’s a little different. So it was a challenge, but it was really kind of fun to kind of calibrate all these different reactions as it dawns on me, like, this guy is like, how can he know what I’m about to say? And it adds a real humor to the film. There’s a lot of gallows humor in the movie. You know we’re flying over in this Normandy-like invasion. There’s a naval armada, there’s an air armada. We’re in these giant exosuits. We’re being all of a sudden part of the ship blows up. These things know we’re coming. We get down on the beach – it’s like the Normandy invasion. Like fucking Omaha Beach. It’s like a meat grinder. And one of the guys in the platoon – I’ve got this kind of dirt – he gets up and he can’t believe it – he goes, “Man, I can’t believe we made it.” Just as a drop ship crashes on him. So it sets its tone very early on, and I think it keeps that tone. And so it becomes a fun ride. Then you’ve got Emily Blunt who’s this other soldier who’s been able to live through a lot of these encounters. She has something that they’re gonna connect and they’ve got to get through this weird time loop labyrinth where he dies a thousand times in this movie – painfully. And it’s a crazy ass movie.
Doug is known as a director for being very sort of improvisational. How does that compare like for you as an experience to the precision of some of the people – maybe James Cameron or the other people that you’ve worked for?
You know I’ve got to tell you even with Jim, I mean, some of my most famous lines in movies like True Lies and Aliens are improvised lines. You have to qualify what improvised is. I always come with other ideas and if I get an extra take, “Hey, you mind if I throw something else in there?” Or I’ll just do it. And it’s always better to not tell the director what you’re gonna do. Just show him. So Doug, he had a battle plan, but he also wanted us to kind of embellish it. He said, “All right. Let’s do a take where maybe let’s come at it from a different way. If you feel like saying something else, just see what comes of it.” It was fun. We did a lot of takes to find it, you know. I would say they work kind of similarly.
Edge of Tomorrow opens June 6 nationwide.