Actor and director Bill Paxton visited the CBR Tiki Room during his first New York Comic Con to discuss his first comic book project, a digital-first original graphic novel entitled “Seven Holes For Air” by writer John J. McLaughlin (“Youngblood,” “Black Swan”) and fine artist Mick Reinman. The project began life as a screenplay that Paxton hopes to direct, but he fell so in love with the story that he wanted to present in a form that others could enjoy it as well even if the movie never materializes. McLaughlin spoke to CBR TV at length about the graphic novel, its “man’s man” protagonist Bob, his history with both comic books and fine art, as well as his upcoming role in director Doug Liman’s “All You Need is Kill” opposite Tom Cruise and how the project has its DNA in another famous genre movie Paxton starred in, “Aliens.”
On his reason for visiting New York Comic Con: I’m promoting a graphic novel that I produced. It’s based on a screenplay by John McLaughlin and the artwork’s done by a guy named Mick Reinman. I just loved the screenplay and I eventually I hope to turn it into a movie but, if that doesn’t happen, I love the story so much I wanted it to exist in some level so people could buy it and enjoy it like I enjoyed it.
On “Seven Holes For Air’s” different kind of story: It’s a little bit of a horse of a different color; it’s two stories in one novel. The protagonist is a guy named Bob, he’s a working class hero. He’s a welder, he’s been married for several years, he has a daughter at college and he’s gonna have to deal with a mortality issue in the course of the narrative. And that’s one story that takes off — the thing about Bob is, he kinda lives by an old western code. He’s so macho he’s detestable, but that becomes one of his endearing traits. … A few pages into the graphic novel another story starts and Bob is in a hardcore Spaghetti Western where the rich landowner and the bank and the railroad are coming through, and he’s the last guy who hasn’t sold so they’re sending killers to take him off his land. But Bob’s like Alan Ladd in “Shane.”
On the appeal of Bob as a character: When I read this screenplay, Bob became such an archetypal hero to me that for the next two weeks anything that would come across me that was perturbing or some kind of pettiness I would think, “Well how would Bob handle this?” and it got me through it. … He’s a total man’s man. And he makes no apology, and there’s something, I guess, in society now where these guys are becoming few and far between. He stands for a simple code of ethics and it’s kind of take it or leave it. He’s a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-living kind of guy but through the course [of the book] and how he deals with the issues in his life you grow to have a great respect for him.
On what he gets from directing as opposed to acting: As an actor you get to bring a color to the canvas. As the director you get to have your finger in the paint box — all your fingers. You orchestrate all the departments. What’s great about the director, as far as directing the actors goes, the director gets to play every part and help modulate the actors. Because I have been an actor most of my professional life, I can speak the language of actors and so that gives me an advantage when it comes to helping an actor get the best possible acting out of a scene.
On how his latest acting role has its roots in “Aliens,” which he starred in 27 years ago: It’s funny, I’m shooting “All You Need is Kill” right now with Tom Cruise in London, it’s a big sci-fi movie that definitely has some DNA in “Aliens.” And 27 years ago I was with Lance Henriksen and Jenette [Goldstein] and all of the guys. … All of us over in London doing “Aliens,” so it’s kind of cool. And I’ve got a platoon — we’re not Colonial Marines, but it’s kind of a similar vibe. There’s an alien infestation and we’ve gotta take Normandy Beach and take Europe again. I’ve enjoyed all these actors, they remind me of all of us when we were doing “Aliens.”