Bill Paxton came to San Diego Comic-Con to promote a graphic novel he is presenting. Bill Paxton Presents 7 Holes For Air is the story of Bob Rourke, a hard living construction worker diagnosed with a tumor. As the cancer consumes him, he imagines many of his encounters in life as a spaghetti western,and himself as its gunslinging hero. I read a digital copy to prepare for this interview, but when I met Paxton in the lobby of the Hilton Bayfront, he presented me with a hard copy of 7 Holes For Air. We also got to talking about his plans for directing a Kung Fu movie based on the David Carradine series, and ideas for a Twister sequel that make Franchise Fred intrigued.
Bill Paxton: You’re holding the first one. I’ve still got a little more work to do on it but we’ve come down here with a couple hundred copies. It won’t really be out officially until September.
CraveOnline: Now, it’s Bill Paxton Presents 7 Holes For Air. What exactly is involved in presenting this graphic novel?
If you direct it, would you want to play Bob also?
You know, originally when I read the script five years ago, I thought, “God, what a part.” Yeah, I would have loved to have played Bob, but I don’t know if I could get the money on my name so I’d be willing to just direct it now. I’ve kind of resigned myself to directing it.
Another one of my questions was going to be when will you direct again. Could this be the next thing?
Possibly. I was hired about a year and a half ago by Legendary to develop the Kung Fu property for them. They got it from Warner Television and they wanted me to help them turn it into a new movie franchise. So John McLaughlin, I got him hired by Legendary to write the screenplay. We put it through a few drafts and now Mick Reinman has done about 500 drawings for it so far. We’re kind of in a holding pattern because they want to make it under their new company Legendary East. That’s taken a while to put together because that’s a Chinese coproduction company.
Have you gone out to casting on Kung Fu?
No, it’s the early days. I have a feeling it’ll be an unknown actor.
Kwai Chang Caine, because building a new franchise, you really can reach out to a new actor and the brand will carry an unknown whereas some films you need a star name. I think with this, the name Kung Fu is the star. There were a lot of great characters in it, but as you remember, he was an orphan, but he was of a Chinese and American descent so he didn’t belong. He was a guy in between two worlds, wasn’t accepted by either really. The Shaolins raised him as one of his own but he goes to America to try to find who his father was.
I remember you compared Greatest Game to House of Flying Golf Balls. Would this be your chance to actually do full-on Kung Fu action?
Absolutely. This has a ton of action in it, but I’d like to find, whoever the lead is, someone who has martial skills. You end up doing some wirework, but I’d like to shoot it more like a gritty western so it’s pretty head to toe what’s going on in the frame, more like True Grit did but with some martial arts, as opposed to people dancing up trees and all that. To me, I fall out of the reality of the story if it’s too much like that.
Are you also thinking of shooting a lot of master shots so we can see the martial arts without cutting, or shaking the camera?
Absolutely. I’ll definitely want to shoot head to toe as much as I can.
The artwork in 7 Holes for Air is a little bit ambiguous. Is it supposed to be your likeness as Bob?
No, no, it’s not my likeness. We had a few different people in mind when we were doing it. I had James Gandolfini in mind. I had Mickey Rourke kind of in mind. Bryan Cranston is great, but no. Mick is actually a fine artist but he’s also worked as an illustrator. A lot of stuff to me is too conformed. We found, when we were looking for a publisher, that they like it more conformed.
Again, this was kind of an altruistic project. It was a story we wanted to bring to the graphic novel world, but also my father was a great art collector and he commissioned artists to do a few things for him and said, “You never want to restrict an artist. You don’t tell him how to paint the portrait.” So I turned him loose and I like the looseness of it. You can almost look at a panel of this and it almost could look like something that was done by Roy Lichtenstein or Rauschenberg. To me there’s some fine art involved here.
Also Mick is a great figurative artist. That’s very tough. That is the hardest art as a painter to master, the figure. I love the attitude and I know they’re loose, but I just love the action of the figures. Also he has a great eye for layout. I love the way the panels are all laid out on each page.
And the women, talking about figures, the way he presents the women.
Yes, they’re buxom and beautiful.
Just the poses he has them in, he emphasizes the forms.
You’re right, absolutely. Again, he’s just a guy who really knows figurative painting and drawing. He can really draw. We’re living in an age where there are not a lot of artists who can draw. I’m more of a conceptual artist, so the Bill Paxton Presents is kind of like Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I took John’s script, I brought Mick together, I oversaw it all, I did a lot of the editing on the piece and the formatting, all of that. Went over it, have revised it over and over again.
Is it scene for scene what the screenplay was?
No, it’s an adaptation. It’s a little more compressed. The screenplay is 115 pages. It’s very textured, very detailed so with Mick, we had to carve out what we thought was the real meat and potatoes of the story. In the screenplay, you get to know Bob’s relationship with James, the brother-in-law, who he seems to have a detestable contempt for but in the screenplay it actually becomes kind of a bromance as these two men come to really have a fondness and a respect for each other. It’s a great piece of business.
It also has its own rules and it’s rare that you find a screenplay. So many times they play fast and loose with the rules. As an audience member for me, it really pisses me off where suddenly in the third act there’s some kind of deus ex machina thing and you’re like, what? You’ve seen shows, they go off the rails and suddenly anything goes. This thing sets the rules up for the audience that you’re going to go back and forth to these two stories and there’s something inherently entertaining in that.
Have you had to deal with that as an actor where you’re in one of the big movies and they say, “Now we’re doing this” and you have to go along with it because you’re just the actor?
It’s very frustrating. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve got two great parts in the can. I’ve got this one coming out with Denzel and Mark Wahlberg called 2 Guns. That was based on a graphic novel but it was also based on a famous Don Siegel movie from the ‘70s that Walter Matheau starred in called Charley Varrick. There was a character who was hired by the mafia, like a human bloodhound character played by Joe Don Baker, great character actor. That’s the part I play in this and I didn’t re-watch the film. I’m a film geek. I don’t know a lot about the name of the “Doctor Who” characters but if you want to talk about films, I can talk about films.
I heard you were trying to get a Twister sequel made. Is there any heat on that?
I was. Well, I got Kathy Kennedy interested. I did a lot of research. The biggest Tornado to ever hit this country was called the Tri-State Tornado of 1925. It still holds all the records. It was a tornado that was up to two miles wide traveling 70 miles an hour and it stayed on the ground almost three hours. It’s called the Tri-State because it started out in Missouri, crossed the Mississippi river, cut a swath of death and destruction across southern Illinois before going across the Wabash and killing a bunch of people in Indiana.
I went on a trip with a guy named Scott Thompson. He played preacher in Twister. He’s an old friend of mine. We did a road trip where we tracked the trail of the Tri-State and we went to all the old historical societies. The one which we went to was Murphysboro. The headline, it’s an aerial shot, it just looks like WWI bombed out city. It said, “In the blink of an eye, Murphysboro is gone” and we saw it because some of the old timers there, you know what they say? They say if it happened once…
Now, can you imagine, we’ve seen some very deadly tornadoes in the last few years. These ones that hit Oklahoma this year, the one that hit Joplin a couple years ago. They’re just death and destruction because these are now very populated areas. The midwest is populated now. Can you imagine something on the magnitude of a Tri-State coming through there? That would be the third act of the sequel.
Right, because it never hit a big city in the movie.
It’s going to hit St. Louis and it’s going to take the famous Arch and just twist it like one of those ribbons.
Would Warner Brothers be interested in bringing back this franchise?
No, you know what, really right now, I think it’s really in Steven Spielberg’s camp. I’ve never had a chance to have an audience with him. I grew up with him. I used Bill Butler to shoot Frailty. He shot Jaws. I’ve kind of been a student from afar, met him a few times, he knows me but I’ve never really had a chance to sit him in a room and and go, “I’ve got some ideas for this you wouldn’t believe.”
He and Kathy control it, and does Michael Crichton’s estate have a stake?
Michael Crichton’s estate, I saw Michael years ago about it, a couple years after the first one and he seemed to me a little bit negative about it because he kept thinking, “What’s the gizmo?” We had the Dorothy in the first one. “What’s it going to be?” I felt like there’s a lot of ideas you can explore. To me, the first one was kind of the Pepsi Light version of what we could really do with that subject. There’s something so incredibly about the anthropomorphic nature of tornados. They’ll kill everybody on that side of the hotel and leave us not even harmed. It almost has an evil mind of its own. There are so many things to explore in that, and there were so many weather phenomena I wanted to explore like ball lightning, which is very creepy and very obscure.
What’s it called?
Ball lightning, look it up. It’s very cool.
And All You Need Is Kill is called Edge of Tomorrow now. What do you play in that?
I play a guy named Sgt. Bobby Farrell from Science Hill, Kentucky and I’m his platoon sergeant. It’s kick-ass. I’ve seen some of it. What’s cool about it is he keeps having to live through this day like Groundhog Day. It has its own rules again and as you get into the rules, it’s pretty gnarly. It’s very dark and it’s very humorous.