“Well, it was luck. I was at NASA with Tom Hanks towards the end of the long shoot of Apollo 13, and he’d just passed on the script, so he suggested I look into it. Of course, I said, ‘Yeah right, Tom, as if they’re going to let me do a script you’ve rejected. Dream on pal!’ But I did go along to talk to director Jan De Bont, just after he’d finished up on Speed, and I was the first actor he’d spoken to. And he wanted me, and we were up and rocking.”
– Bill Paxton

You’d have to have been living under a rock through most of the late 90’s not to know about the scene with the flying cow. Twister is a special effects movie in a big way, and it does its job spectacularly. There are some astonishing sequences of buildings, vehicles, and machinery, plus the aforementioned cow, being flung about by monster winds. The actual plot, about a storm chaser being drawn back into the business by his almost-ex-wife, provides clever banter and some nice emotional resonance, but what you’re really here for is to watch nature run rampant and go “Whoa! How’d they do that?”

Bill plays Bill Harding, tornado chaser extraordinaire. He’s a good guy and a gentleman, trying to do the right thing by his soon-to-be-ex and his current fianc√© and his former team and his own need for the thrill of the chase. Sweet and earnest and a bit bemused, he faces his romantic entanglements as squarely as he faces the forces of nature, and manages to come out on top.

Oh yeah. Tight jeans and cowboy boots and strategically placed scrapes and smudges. Bill’s a hottie in this one, and a nice guy to boot. Some might say that he tends to get roles in special effects movies (twisters, giant apes, avalanches) because a top-tier actor isn’t needed when the FX are the draw. Those of us who know better prefer to think it’s really because Bill’s one of the few who can hold his own against an F-5 tornado.

 Three and a half stars. Lots of Bill, lots of things whirling and crashing, and, you know, the flying cow.

Dead or Alive?