“It’s always unexpected when someone is young and not seemingly ill. It’s just so terribly sad,” the 58-year-old actress tells PEOPLE. “I’ve been in communication with [True Lies director] Jim Cameron today and Bill had – Bill had that rare ability to be a really serious kind of stupid person.”
Curtis praised Paxton’s acting talent, saying his commitment to his role in True Lies made the movie come together.
“[In True Lies] he played this guy with such commitment to his conviction to try to basically score on women, but created that entire world that he believed so strongly would land him some women and just his conviction in that is what made it so funny,” she said. “With anyone else, it would have been a joke, but it wasn’t a joke to him. That knucklehead was so committed and that’s why [my character], an intelligent woman, would fall pretty to him. If I was not a smart person, you’d go, ‘This would never work. Why would Helen ever fall for him?’ It was his gift. His commitment in whatever it was – he was someone who threw himself into whatever he was doing.”
Curtis continued, “My memory, of course, first thing went to that scene in his trailer where he’s trying to woo her and Arnold [Schwarzenegger] and everyone shows up. His commitment to that truth as an actor was really what made him so unique and special. The specificity of truth. I try and emulate that in my work but his investment in truth – be it a drama or a comedy – is what set him apart. And he was a talented filmmaker and a writer and a creative – and when you have a creator, you have an energy that is very special.”
The actor is survived by his two children, James and Lydia Paxton, and his wife of 30 years Louise Newbury.
Curtis also posted on Twitter upon learning the news of Paxton’s death, sharing a photo from True Lies.
“Nooooo. Bill Paxton is gone,” she captioned the image. “Such a funny, talented, loving human. Louise & the children & family my [heart] & support 2 u.”
A family representative confirmed news of Paxton’s passing to PEOPLE on Sunday.
“It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery,” the representative said in a statement. “A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker. Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable. We ask to please respect the family’s wish for privacy as they mourn the loss of their adored husband and father.”