Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein stopped by New Beverly Cinema on Thursday, May 6, 2010, to introduce a screening of “Near Dark.” It was a vampire-western horror hybrid made back in 1987 by Kathryn Bigelow, and it was being shown as a double feature with her Oscar winning triumph, “The Hurt Locker.” It was not a sold out showing that evening, but that ended up making the evening more intimate for those who showed up. Paxton looked especially happy to be there as he was astonished that there was actually a print of this movie still in existence.
When Paxton and Goldstein made “Near Dark,” they were just coming off of James Cameron’s “Aliens.” Paxton played Hudson, the soldier who thought he was so bad ass, and later turned into perhaps the single most annoying coward in cinematic history. Goldstein played Private Jenette Vasquez, one of the fiercest soldiers you could ever hope to meet and who (unlike Hudson) remained just as fierce when things got even worse. Bigelow, who would later marry and divorce Cameron, called him to ask if it was okay to use some of his “Aliens” actors for “Near Dark.” Clearly he said yes, so Paxton and Goldstein, along with fellow actor Lance Henriksen, got cast in Bigelow’s movie.
Paxton said that in one scene from “Near Dark,” the man who ends up sticking his hand out the car and giving him the finger was in fact Cameron himself.
Having gone through what Paxton described as the “baptism of fire” with James Cameron on “Aliens,” he, Goldstein and Henriksen formed a strong family unit as a result which made the making of “Near Dark” feel like a homecoming. When someone asked what the difference was in directing styles between Cameron and Bigelow, Paxton said bluntly, “No one else is like Cameron.”
As for Bigelow, Paxton described her as the prettiest director he has ever worked with. According to him, she absolutely loves actors and encouraged them to come up with stuff for their characters throughout the shoot. Goldstein went on to talk about how the actors did an improvisation on how they would block out the sun while they were riding in their in broad daylight. They came up with the idea of putting aluminum foil on the windows which blocked out the rays that would have immediately seared their fragile skin and reflected them away so they could live on to do what they did best, suck blood out of clueless human beings. The way Paxton saw it, most of “Near Dark” was improvised, and he said it was great to work with a director who was so excited to work with actors.
In regards to Henriksen, Paxton described him as “a guy you could never really read.” Back then, Henriksen had these intense finger nails which he had to cut off as Paxton described it, and Paxton even went on to talk about the time when he and Henriksen were driving down the highway and got pulled over by the police. As the police officer was getting out of his patrol car, Paxton said that Henriksen looked at him and said, “Should we take this guy out?”
Actually, that led to Paxton telling a story that Henriksen just loves to tell about “Near Dark.” During the times they were shooting at night, Paxton, who was decked up in his gory vampire makeup as though half his face was chopped off, kept going up to people driving through town, telling them he had just been in a horrible car accident. This little prank always ended with Henriksen saying, “If you think he looks bad, you should see the other guy!”
Paxton said he saw “Near Dark” as being a “Bonnie & Clyde” vampire movie. Tangerine Dream composed the movie’s score which is fantastic, and the movie is filled with other memorable musical selections. There was that great cover of “Fever” by The Cramps which was used in the pivotal bar scene where everything gets turned into a bloodbath. But Paxton said his favorite piece of music used was “Naughty, Naughty” by John Parr as it really sets the scene for when the vampires end up depriving a saloon in the middle of nowhere of its customers and employees. Apparently, Bigelow ended up paying for the rights to that song out of her own pocket.
One audience member asked Paxton and Goldstein if they had any Tim Thomerson stories to tell us. Thomerson played Caleb’s father in “Near Dark,” but he is best known for playing Jack Deth in “Trancers” and its numerous sequels. They said they had many great stories about Thomerson to tell us, but they basically summed him up as a great guy to hang out with and that he did so many great impersonations, his best being of John Wayne forcing himself on Walter Brennan.
In regards to character, Paxton said he saw his character of Severen as a Billy the Kid kind of vampire, wild and reckless in how he conducted business. He also said “Near Dark” owes a great debt to Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles which included “Interview with A Vampire” and “Queen of The Damned.” To get into character, Paxton said he read Rice’s books throughout the shoot.
Goldstein said she saw her character of Diamondback as someone out of the Depression era or “The Postman Always Rings Twice;” Someone who got by and survived any which way she could. She was perfectly cast in the role as very few actresses back then were allowed to play tough female characters that couldn’t need a man to defend them any less.
Another audience member told Paxton he was a big fan of “Frailty” which was his directorial debut from a few years back, and wanted to know if he was planning to direct again. Looking back on “Frailty,” Paxton said he had a great experience making it and would love to direct again if he can ever get out of “this damn show” he’s on (you may have heard of it – “Big Love” on HBO). Currently, he is looking over a few projects that he is interested in helming, and he hopes to work behind the camera again really soon.
It was great to see Paxton and Goldstein come out and speak with the fans. Surprisingly, a large portion of the audience had never seen “Near Dark” before, so neither of them wanted to keep the audience waiting too long to see it on the big screen. “Near Dark” may not have been a big hit when first released, but it has more than earned its cult following especially in light of Bigelow’s deserved Oscar win, something that was a long time coming.
Actually, my favorite moment of the evening happened as Paxton and Goldstein were walking out of the theater and an audience member brought up the subject of another HBO show, to which Bill replied, “Fuck ‘True Blood!’ We were doing this (vampire stuff) 20 years ago!”
That left us in utter hysterics.
Copyright Ben Kenber 2016