"I've been reeling from this for the past half hour, trying to wrap my mind and heart around it," Cameron wrote


James Cameron is remembering Bill Paxton as both a filmmaking partner and close friend.

The director — who worked with the late actor on legendary movies such as Aliens, True Lies and Titanic — said in a statement to Vanity Fair that he was struggling to come to terms with news of Paxton’s unexpected death.

“I’ve been reeling from this for the past half hour, trying to wrap my mind and heart around it,” Cameron, 62, wrote. “Bill leaves such a void.”

The famed director shared that his friendship with Paxton started 36 years ago, when the duo met on the set of a low-budget Roger Corman film.

“He came in to work on set, and I slapped a paint brush in his hand and pointed to a wall, saying ‘Paint that!’ ” Cameron said. “We quickly recognized the creative spark in each other and became fast friends.”

He continued, “What followed was 36 years of making films together, helping develop each others projects, going on scuba diving trips together, watching each others kids growing up, even diving the Titanic wreck together in Russian subs. It was a friendship of laughter, adventure, love of cinema, and mutual respect. Bill wrote beautiful heartfelt and thoughtful letters, an anachronism in this age of digital shorthand. He took good care of his relationships with people, always caring and present for others. He was a good man, a great actor, and a creative dynamo.”

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Cameron implored fans to remember Paxton for both his acting work and “for the great human that he was.”

“The world is a lesser place for his passing, and I will profoundly miss him,” he wrote.

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.”

Paxton is survived by his two children, James and Lydia Paxton, and his wife of 30 years Louise Newbury.