Bill Paxton vs. Bill Pullman might even be trickier. They're roughly the same age. They're both primarily character actors. Just to obfuscate the situation even more, one was in Tombstone and the other was in Wyatt Earp. They were *both* in the movie Brain Dead. Come on guys.
Here are the two tricks I use remember who is who...
The "x" in "Paxton" is like the "x" in "Texas." Bill Paxton is from Texas, Bill Pullman is from... New York City!? Twenty-year-old salsa commercials aside, remembering Paxton is the more Texas-y of the two helps with the broad strokes of their careers. Paxton is far more likely to play Southern/bully/tough guy types of roles. He's the brother in Weird Science, the hotheaded astronaut in Apollo 13, the storm chasing main character in Twister, the polygamist in HBO's Big Love, a member of the military in like 17 other movies, and some guy (didn't see it, but I know it still fits the profile) in the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries.
By default, that leaves Bill Pullman for the roles with less fire and more gravitas -- he looks more grandfatherly and less like a metaphorical or literal cowboy. He's the one of the two who regularly plays the President of the United States, most famously in Independence Day.
Bill Pullman was in Spaceballs. It's really the only prominent outlier role that could go either way. So it's a fact I just drill into my head over and over.
And that's it. Drawing a parallel between "Paxton" and "Texas" and wildly extrapolating out from there. (With an extra little bit of attention for Spaceballs.) That should get you through at least 90 percent of your life-or-death Paxton-or-Pullman situations.
This post was originally published on Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Movies.