“He called me back and said ‘I’d like you to play the role of Fred Haise,’ and my wife and I danced all over the house.”
– Bill Paxton
This isn’t just a movie, it’s a piece of history. True story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 moon flight, and filmed with loving attention to detail by Ron Howard, Apollo 13 packs more thrills and chills and nail-biting edge-of-your-seat action into its 140 minutes than any half-dozen of your usual action or horror movies put together. The year was 1970: two successful moon landings had been made, and a third was already beginning to seem routine when, two days away from Earth, an oxygen tank exploded, taking out several vital systems and seriously jeopardizing the mission’s chances of returning safely home. Skillfully interweaving the stories of the dedicated crew at Mission Control and the terrified families waiting at home along with the trials of the three astronauts fighting to survive in their crippled ship, the movie careens headlong from crisis to crisis from the moment the fateful words are spoken: “Houston, we have a problem.”
Apollo 13 is one of my very favorite movies; it gets my blood stirring every time. Having Bill Paxton in it is just icing on the cake. Bill gives a stand-out performance as lunar module pilot Fred Haise, adding his own touches of trademark humor to the part. This is one of his sweetie-pie roles; he’s charming, playful, dedicated, and definitely has the Right Stuff.
No skin, no sex, but this time around you won’t miss it. As one of the three stranded astronauts, he gets plenty of high-voltage screen time. He gets to push his accent in this one, as Southerner Fred Haise (although Haise is from Mississipi, and his Southern drawl is not really the same as Bill’s Texas twang), and poor baby gets space sick at the beginning of the flight, then comes down with a fever after the accident, getting sicker and sicker and leading to some nice moments with Tom Hanks as mission commander Jim Lovell. Get the DVD version if you can and watch the documentary on the making of Apollo 13, which includes interviews with Bill and the other actors, crew and advisors, and also some really cute footage of him flying through the KC-135 training aircraft (used to simulate weightlessness) with a big old silly grin on his face.
… I give this one about a million stars.