Recently deceased actor Bill Paxton leaves behind a long legacy of entertaining roles, across dozens of film and TV projects. Arguably his most famous is that of macho soldier turned sniveling coward Hudson in James Cameron’s sci-fi/horror classic Aliens, but Paxton also turned in great work in films like Tombstone, Apollo 13, and A Simple Plan. Easily one of Paxton’s biggest blockbuster success stories was the 1996 natural disaster movie Twister, directed by Speed helmer Jan de Bont, and co-written by popular author Michael Crichton.
Twister cast Paxton as a retired storm chaser named Bill Harding, who is lured back into the field by the possibility of encountering a rare F-5 category tornado up close. This reunites Bill with ex-wife and fellow storm chaser Jo (Helen Hunt), which naturally doesn’t sit well with Bill’s new fiance Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz). Cary Elwes and Philip Seymour Hoffman played supporting roles. While the film received mixed reviews from critics, audiences at large loved it, especially the then jaw-dropping special effects that brought the storms to life.
Produced on a budget of $92 million, Twister went on earn nearly $500 million at the worldwide box office, making it a huge victory for involved studios Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures. So popular was Twister that it was even turned into a theme park attraction at Universal Studios Florida in 1998, featuring original introductory clips with both Paxton and Hunt. The ride ultimately closed in 2015. With Twister’s status in recent film history in mind, Gizmodo reports that hundreds of real-life storm chasers gathered today to pay their own special tribute to Paxton. 99.5 the Wolf tweeted this image earlier.
Storm chasers are forming a tribute to Bill Paxton by using their GPS markers. Pretty cool... pic.twitter.com/lIRcgj7YLi— 99.5 The Wolf (@995thewolfdfw) February 26, 2017
Coordinating through Facebook, the storm chasers got together to line up their GPS identifier dots to form the letters BP on weather radar maps. Their fondness for Paxton is understandable, as it was Twister helped popularize the very concept of storm chasing to the masses. Twister is one of only a handful of films to tackle the subject, although multiple movies have of course featured tornadoes as solely a force of destruction and terror.
Post-Twister, Paxton would later make his personal fascination with the storms known, going on to narrate the IMAX documentary Tornado Alley in 2011. While Paxton’s sudden death remains a source of sadness, it’s at least heartening to see just how many people he managed to make an impact on over the course of his long career. He may be gone, but those he inspired will clearly never forget him.