WonderCon 2014: Bill Paxton talks ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ ‘Avatar’ sequels

April 19, 2014 | 5:00 p.m.
Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski and Tom Cruise as Bill Cage in the epic sci-fi thriller "Edge of Tomorrow." (David James/ Warner Bros.)

Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski and Tom Cruise as Bill Cage in the sci-fi thriller “Edge of Tomorrow.” (David James/ Warner Bros.)

“Godzilla” might have made the most waves at the Warner Bros. WonderCon panel in Anaheim on Saturday, but the audience in the arena of the Anaheim Convention Center still had lots of love to give to Bill Paxton, famed for his roles in “Weird Science” and “Aliens,” among many other genre favorites.

Paxton was on hand Saturday to discuss his role in the upcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi action film “Edge of Tomorrow,” and he told the audience that he suspected it was “Aliens” that got him the job: “They needed someone to yell ‘Game over, man,’” Paxton joked, recalling his famous line from “Aliens” as panicky space marine Hudson.

In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Paxton plays a platoon sergeant who must whip a new soldier (Tom Cruise) into shape to stage a Normandy-style retaking of Europe from a conquering alien horde. Except that in the Doug Liman movie, based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s award-winning novel “All You Need Is Kill,” when Cruise dies on the battlefield — over and over again — he restarts his war experience from the beginning, “Groundhog Day” style.

In the film, Paxton, Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt wear bulky exoskeleton-style armor. Despite the preponderance of CGI in modern science fiction films, those suits were very real, Paxton said.

The actor recalled arriving on the “Edge of Tomorrow” set in England’s Leavesden Studios and entering a soundstage to find Cruise trying on a prototype of the suit, surrounded by crew members taking notes.

“Paxton, you been working out?’” Cruise called out to him, Paxton said. “’This thing weighs 75 pounds!’”

Between takes, the actors would be suspended by chains from iron frames to take the weight of the suits off their shoulders. While Paxton and Blunt commiserated about wearing the suits, he said, Cruise was the leader. “He’d say, ‘Let’s go! Let’s put on the suits.’”

“I went through hell to get my bonus,” Paxton said.

Paxton also revealed that he’s working to mount his third film as a director, “The Bottoms,” adapted from the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, and hopes to shoot it in the fall.

And if James Cameron should happen to have a role for him in any of the upcoming “Avatar” sequels, Paxton — who appeared in “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” “True Lies” and “Titanic” — is more than ready.

“I describe Jim Cameron calling me up as being like the Batphone in my house,” Paxton said. “It’s like Commissioner Gordon. ‘Yes, Jim, what do you want me to do? Set myself on fire? I’m in! I’m in, Jim!’”

– Patrick Kevin Day @LATHeroComplex

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