In the wake of the recent death of Hollywood actor Bill Paxton at age 61, Caymanian filmmaker, director and screenwriter Frank E. Flowers reflected on his association with the star of his locally made film, “Haven,” in 2004.
Mr. Flowers recruited Mr. Paxton for “Haven” long before production in Cayman began, describing how he first met the actor, and calling him “a rare and beautiful spirit.”
“He was among the first people to officially sign onto ‘Haven,’ knowing that his involvement would legitimize the project, seeing as it was not an easy movie to get made,” Mr. Flowers told the Cayman Compass.
“I went to meet him for the first time, in the lobby of a high-end hotel in Beverly Hills, ready to do my pitch and convince him to be a part of the movie. I was so nervous, being fresh out of college and having never met with a movie star before.
“Bill made it easy. As soon as I sat and got ready to start pitching what I prepared, he could see I was very nervous, so he cut me off and said ‘Listen, you wrote a beautiful script, I am going to be in your movie and help you get it made. So if you want us to talk about other stuff instead, let’s do that.’ It was a sigh of relief,” Mr. Flowers said. “If Bill believed in something, he jumped in head first. He was a mentor and a dear friend.”
Mr. Paxton played “dirty businessman” Carl Ridley in the film, which also featured Orlando Bloom, Zoe Saldana and Anthony Mackie.
Mr. Flowers spoke fondly of the star, saying: “From that meeting and throughout many years to come, [Mr. Paxton] gave me the validation and inspiration on my journey as a filmmaker.
“He always pushed me to believe in myself as an artist and always supported the original cut of the film, because he knew that it represented what we set out to make together.”
“A few years after the movie,” Mr. Flowers said on Tuesday from his Los Angeles home, “[Partner] Samantha and I spent the holidays down in Cayman with him and his family. James [Mr. Paxton’s son] was interested in marine life and because of the safety of our island, he felt it was one of the few places that he would feel comfortable letting his son pursue that passion.
“Cayman was a magical place for Bill, and his legacy will forever be a part of our islands’ story.”
The long-standing relationship between the two families blossomed over the years, Mr. Flowers said.
“Bill was family. We saw each other for birthdays or celebratory dinners or at times he would spontaneously call, saying he was ‘near the hood’ – and I would always drop anything to go grab a bite with him.
“Last August on my birthday, it was a tough day as my mother had passed only a few months before. Bill came by to pay his respects and fill the house with his laughter and light. He shared a meal with my dad and a few of our friends. He asked about some of the Caymanians that he remembered, saying that he missed the place, and after a few drinks we even tried to FaceTime some folks, despite the late hour and the fact that Cayman was three hours ahead of LA.
“He was easy to talk to, always had great stories of his experiences, but relayed them with the utmost humility and grace. A brilliant mind, well-read and versed in many forms of art and the artistic process, he understood filmmaking not just as an actor, writer and director, but also appreciated the hundreds of hours that every member of the crew took to make something happen,” Mr. Flowers said.
Mr. Flowers recalled a man of grace and compassion. “I have heard countless times from anyone that has had the honor of working with him that Bill respected every person on the set, no matter their position. I will never forget the genuine passion of his voice, his razor wit and one-of-a-kind sayings.
“My heart breaks for his absence,” Mr. Flowers said, “but at the same time one can only be filled with gratitude for the gifts he bestowed on anyone who knew him. He and his family, will remain forever in our hearts and prayers.”
Mr. Paxton, who died on Feb. 25 following complications from surgery, initially gained renown for his roles in three science fiction classics: “Predator 2” in 1990, “Aliens” in 1986 and “Terminator” in 1984, when Arnold Schwarzenegger threw Paxton’s switchblade-wielding punk character into a fence.
Mr. Paxton’s first major role was alongside Helen Hunt in the 1996 film “Twister.”