Billy Zane, Actor, b. William George Zane, Jr., February 24, 1966, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Billy Zane somehow managed to defy the odds when it came to a Hollywood acting career. After graduating high school, he decided to move to Hollywood, and according to legend, it took only three weeks before he was cast in his first motion picture. As luck would have it, that film would be Back to the Future, only one of the highest grossing movies of all times. There his screen presence would first be felt in the role of "Match," one of "butt-head" name-calling villain Biff's rogues' gallery.
From there Billy would make a special and fairly memorable appearance in Critters before landing his first starring role. Hughie Warriner, the sociopathic killer with no soul, in Dead Calm would be the role that brought Billy Zane into the spotlight. Perhaps no one ever made Nicole Kidman feel quite so uncomfortable. His performance would play a big part in landing his next role, as serial killer Kenneth Bianchi in a made for television movie about the Hillside Stranglers that has about twelve different titles depending on where and when it was aired, so let's just leave it at that.
He would reprise his bully cohort role from the original film in Back to the Future: Part Two. He would then star alongside his sister, Lisa Zane in 1990's Femme Fatale (released in the U.S. as "Fatal Woman," eh hem, to avoid moviegoers standing in the lobby for too long scratching their chins and staring into space). Then it was time for a change of pace, stepping away from the creepy roles for a moment to take on the role of medical officer Val Kozlowski in the sentimental World War II movie Memphis Belle (where Zane doesn't completely escape creepiness when we learn Kozlowski lied about his medical qualifications).
It would then be a trip into the confusing world of the Hollywood straight to video world, with films such as Millions and its sequel Billions where Zane acting alongside noted thespians Carol Alt and Lauren Hutton and a film called Blood and Concrete which managed to have a lead character called Hank Dick. No, Zane wasn't lucky enough to get that role.
"Tell the hardest truth first."
In 1991, Billy Zane would be brought in during the waning days of Twin Peaks for the role of John Justice Wheeler, aka "Jack." As an old friend of the Horne family, he is for some inexplicable reason seen as being the saviour of the Hornes during their most desperate hour. Perhaps it is to help teach Benjamin Horne "how to be a good person," even though it seems John Justice Wheeler isn't all that sure himself. Billy Zane manages to play with a food processor, dress up like a cowboy, and own his own plane (where Sherilyn Fenn's Audrey Horne loses her virginity).
Billy's next major role was in Sally Potter's film adapatation of Virginia Woolf's time and gender warping Orlando as Shelmerdine, the man who eventually impregnates the at one time male and later female Orlando, played by Tilda Swinton (yes, Orlando is indeed female at the time of the impregnation).
Then it would be another new turn for Billy, as he would make appearances in such fare as 1992's Sniper and 1993's Posse, climaxing into an appearance in the "you either love it or you hate it" throwback Western, Tombstone as Mr. Fabian.
Let us just jump ahead here, past appearances in Poetic Justice and Demon Knight. Let us look at this Italian film that Mr. Zane was involved in. The name of the film was...
Il Silenzio dei Prosciutti
Which, was translated for our non-Italian speaking friends into The Silence of the Hams. This film starred Dom DeLuise as Dr. Animal Cannibal Pizza and featured cameos from numerous big name actors.
Man, I don't feel right
after reading about that.
Zane would appear in a number of other less than stellar films over the next few years, and then got back into the slightly creepy with his role in Only You with Marisa Tomei and the always straight as an arrow Robert Downey, Jr. Now a solid working actor getting roles left and right, but not finding himself headlining the way he would like to, Billy Zane would accept the lead role in 1996's The Phantom. There he would fall into the trap of being a second tier superhero in overly flashy purple tights. It did, however, give Billy Zane a chance to show people he worked out.
Well, yes, then there was that business with Titanic. There Billy was back on a boat being creepy again, albeit less so than in Dead Calm, but nonetheless managing to get on the payroll of another of the top grossing films of all times.
Now, the following year Billy Zane made a starring appearance in a film I watched completely by accident one day. As per much of his resume, it was a film with two titles (which is a good idea if you are looking to duck and cover). This film, known either as Susan's Plan or Dying to Get RIch features a noble and varied ensemble cast with Dan Aykroyd, Nastassja Kinski, Rob Schneider, Adrian Paul, Michael Biehn and Lara Flynn Boyle. It is an over the top madhouse of a movie with a character almost any more or less ordinary person can somehow identify with. If you are looking for light, twisted and darkly humorous fare, this movie has it all and is highly underrated for what it is.
Zane would then appear in a strange adaptation of Ed Wood's previously unfilmed screenplay, I Woke Up Early the Day I Died followed by a made for television two part miniseries version of Cleopatra in which he played Marc Antony. In 2001, Billy would return to full scale creepiness as the intellectual leader of a fascist cult in The Believer.
Still in his 30s and sporting the kind of tall, dark and handsome looks that will keep him working for decades, Billy Zane's resume is certainly far from complete.
Timeline and filmography researched at
And other random tidbits that floated across the collective consciousness
Rumors that Billy Zane will play dem bones in E2: The Movie are completely unfounded.