Zane's first screen role was in Back to the Future (1985, Robert Zemeckis) playing Biff Tannen's friend Match. He landed the role as a fluke by appearing nonchalant, dressed in a T-shirt. Zane later reprised the role for the sequel, Back to the Future Part II (1989, Robert Zemeckis).
He is perhaps best recognized for his role as Caledon Hockley in the blockbuster film Titanic (1997, James Cameron) and as The Phantom in The Phantom (1996, Simon Wincer) based upon the comic book superhero. Up to and including 2006, Zane has appeared in over 50 films and numerous TV series.
Zane was born in Chicago, Illinois to Thalia and William George Zane, Sr., both of whom were professional actors and founders of a school for medical technicians. His family's original surname, "Zanikopolous", was anglicized to "Zane" by his grandparents. Both of his parents are Greek American and Zane was raised in the Greek Orthodox religion. He has an older sister, Lisa Zane, who is also an actress. After completing a year abroad at TASIS (The American School in Switzerland), Zane graduated from the Francis W. Parker School and attended Harand Camp of the Theater Arts, located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
In 1995, Zane played the role of "The Collector" alongside Charles Fleischman in the role of "Wally Enfield" in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight.
In 1996, Zane played the eponymous classic comic book hero in the big budget action film The Phantom (based on his favorite comic). Zane pumped iron for over a year and a half to fill the Phantom's tight spandex costume properly, and studied samples of the comic carefully in his attempt to copy the character's body language. Casey Siemaszko played the role of "Morgan" in the same film.
Although The Phantom was no box office success, Zane achieved success shortly after by playing Caledon Hockley in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic, which to this date remains his best known characterization. The role of Kate Winslet's fiance went on to getting him nominated to an MTV Movie Award for "Best Villain" in Titanic, and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award. He was also nominated for a SAG-award. Elsa Raven performed a minor role in the same film as "Ida Strauss", wife of Isidor Strauss.
Zane's debut as a director came in 2004 with the film Big Kiss, a light-hearted romantic comedy about two journalists involved in a diamond caper in which he also starred. Zane directed himself in the role of "Billy", and Charles Fleischer in the role of "Berezovich".
Behind the scenes
According to Bob Gale's DVD commentary, Zane was reportedly unavailable on the day of shooting for the lunchroom scene where Biff is harassing Lorraine until Marty intervenes. This would explain why only the other two members of Biff's gang, Skinhead and 3-D, are seen.
Zane married actress Lisa Collins in 1989. The couple divorced in 1995. He was also engaged for a time to Chilean actress Leonor Varela, his co-star in the TV movie Cleopatra (1999, Frank Rodamm), where he played Marcus Antonius. As of 2006, Zane is engaged to marry British model turned actress Kelly Brook whom he met on the set of Survival Island. His leisure interests include riding, painting, swimming, photography, frisbees, taking nature walks, riding a bicycle, and collecting cars. He has described his movie heroes to be Sean Connery, Gene Kelly, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
- Billy Zane on Wikipedia
- Official Billy Zane website (Under Construction)
- Billy Zane at the Internet Movie Database
- The Billy Zane Museum (archived)
- Exclusive Billy Zane Interview at TrulyHollywood.com
- - Billy Zane filmography
- Billy Zane at Fan History Wiki
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