In Near Dark, lead actor Adrian Pasdar may win our sympathy as the & farm boy reluctantly recruited by a gang of vampires, but costar Bill Paxton gets all the best lines as Severen, a rowdy young bloodsucker whom Paxton based loosely on Billy the Kid. When he uses his gap-tooth grin and good-ol'-boy Texas accent to flirt his way into a gal's pickup truck, menace never looked so sexy. As always, Paxton turns his supporting role into an excuse for scene-stealing. In Aliens (1986), he was the macho Marine-turned-chicken, Private Hudson; but Paxton made him less a crybaby than a panicky voice of reason. In John Hughes' Weird Science (1985), he captured the nightmarish, bully essence of a big brother.
It's probably Paxton's over-the-top technique that has kept Hollywood from making him a leading man, though he says he came ''really close'' to getting the lead in The Rocketeer. ''I've been one of these actors in the trenches,'' notes Paxton, 36, who grew up in Fort Worth, Tex. ''I try to pick kind of neat movies.'' He began his show-biz career by making short films, such as Death Wish in Venice (which he describes as ''Charles Bronson meets Thomas Mann''). This fall he plays a necrophilic garbage collector opposite Judd Nelson in The Dark Backward. As Paxton says, ''Exiled to cultism once more.''