Actor Bill Paxton, known for roles in 'Big Love,' 'Titanic,' dies at 61

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[February 27, 2017]   (Reuters) - American actor Bill Paxton, who rose to stardom in such Hollywood blockbusters as "Titanic" and inspired budding meteorologists as a tornado chaser in "Twister," has died at age 61, his family said on Sunday.

A family representative said Paxton died of complications after surgery. It was not immediately known what procedure the Fort Worth, Texas, native had undergone.

"Billís passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable," the representative said in a statement.

Paxton, who appeared in more than 90 films or television shows over four decades, had recently starred in the HBO television series "Big Love" about a polygamous Mormon family, and acted alongside Tom Cruise in the 2014 film "Edge of Tomorrow."

For his role in "Apollo 13," Paxton won a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture in 1996.

The son of a Texas businessman, Paxton had a brush with history on Nov. 22, 1963, when as an 8-year-old he saw President John F. Kennedy speak outside a Fort Worth hotel hours before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

A photo of Paxton held above the crowd to catch a glimpse of the president became famous, and 50 years later, Paxton narrated the documentary "JFK: The Final Hours."

Paxton started in movies as a set dresser for maverick director Roger Corman and made his film debut in "Crazy Mama" (1975).

He was a familiar face in movies directed by James Cameron, appearing as a knife-wielding punk in "Terminator" (1984) and a treasure hunter in "Titanic" (1997). Paxton also was a space marine in Cameron's "Aliens" (1986) who memorably yelps, "Game over, man!" when threatened by the title creatures.

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His profile soared with "One False Move" (1992), a critically praised film noir in which he played a sheriff with a secret past.

In 2004, critic David Thomson called "One False Move" Paxton's finest work. He wrote of his performances, "Bill Paxton can vary his action hero by several degrees one way or another - towards introspection or loud-mouthed enthusiasm."

Paxton also gained an unlikely fan base - meteorologists - when he starred in "Twister" (1996) as tornado-chasing weatherman Bill "The Extreme" Harding.

On Sunday the National Weather Service said on Twitter, "'Twister' was an inspiration to many budding meteorologists over the last 20 years. Thank you, Bill Paxton."

He was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards in the best actor category for his work in "Big Love" and the 1990s miniseries "A Bright Shining Lie."

Paxton leaves behind his wife, Louise Newberry, and two children, James and Lydia.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman)

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