Bill, Due

After 22 years and 44 movies, Fort Worth’s BILL PAXTON has finally graduated from character actor to leading man and fledgling filmmaker. It’s about time.

On a Saturday night in early March, 41-year-old Bill Paxton stood at the entrance to the Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin greeting VIP guests attending the premiere of Traveller, a film he coproduced and stars in. Playing the role of brand-new movie mogul, he looked for all the world like a wild-eyed mess, the tail of his Ralph Lauren suede shirt flapping, his eyes electric, his hair stylishly tousled.

The premiere, the feature event of the South by Southwest Film Festival ( SXSW), was itself the stuff movies are made of. Before the lights dimmed, Paxton surveyed the capacity house from a side box, soaking up the accolades and the applause. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said before plopping into his seat and propping his boots on the railing, mimicking the classic James Dean publicity still for Giant. “Roll ’em, cowboy!” he shouted to the projectionist. The cheering resumed as Paxton’s image filled the screen, his arm hanging out the window of a pickup as he pulled up to a traffic light, a not-so-subtle homage to Clint Eastwood in the opening scene of Every Which Way but Loose.

The premiere and the attendant hoopla

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