When news of Bill Paxton’s death (from complications related to surgery) circulated on Sunday (Feb. 26), most of the fond remembrances of the late actor deservedly centered around his film work, largely in action and suspense classics like Aliens, True Lies and Frailty.
But Paxton also left a diverse and fascinating MTV legacy behind, which spanned from the channel’s earliest days to the end of the TRL era. Here are five music videos the late actor graced with his presence over the years.
Barnes and Barnes, “Fish Heads” (1980)
Not only did Paxton appear in the surreal visual for this new wave-era novelty favorite, he also directed the clip — which actually was aired on multiple episodes of Saturday Night Live (in the last days of the pre-MTV era), and then earned airplay on the 24/7 music video network in its nascent years. A friend of the comedy-rock duo, Paxton would also appear in the Barnes and Barnes videos for “Love Tap” and “Soak It Up” in the years to come.
Pat Benatar, “Shadows of the Night” (1982)
A classic piece of early MTV trivia involves Paxton’s appearance in this enormously popular Pat Benatar video, in which the rocker plays a WWII factory worker who imagines herself as a fighter pilot on a mission to defeat the Nazis. Paxton has a brief cameo as one of the swastika-saluting officers, who gets accidentally elbowed in the stomach by his commandant before Benatar’s crew blows his entire base to smithereens.
New Order, “Touched By the Hand of God” (1987)
In synth-pop gods New Order‘s hair-metal-mocking visual for “Touched By the Hand of God,” Paxton appears briefly alongside Rae Dawn Chong in the video’s B-plot, a combination thriller / love story whose narrative is kind of hard to follow. The video was helmed by Katheryn Bigelow, who worked with Paxton in the 1987 horror flick Near Dark, and whose future husband James Cameron directed Paxton in several of his best-known roles (Terminator, Aliens, Titanic).
Martini Ranch, “Reach” (1988)
Martini Ranch was, of course, Paxton’s own late-’80s pop/rock outfit, and their Western-themed single “Reach” received a relatively big-budget video treatment, with James Cameron this time as the auteur. The video, single and album were all met with a lukewarm commercial and critical reception, though the visual is a fun cavalcade of Paxton co-star cameos (including Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser and Kathryn Bigelow herself), and the song’s lyrics even include what appears to be a sly “Shadows of the Night” reference.
Limp Bizkit, “Eat You Alive” (2003)
Bringing Paxton into the 21st century were Limp Bizkit, with the truly bizarre video for Results May Vary lead single “Eat You Alive” — in which Thora Birch plays frontman Fred Durst’s romantic captive, and Paxton plays the sheriff doggedly chasing after the frontman. The single and video mostly flopped, and Paxton’s MTV days were officially at a close.