Billy Zane

Active - 1953 - 2021  |   Born - Feb 24, 1966 in Chicago, Illinois, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Comedy, Mystery, Science Fiction

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Actor Billy Zane kicked off his stage career in his hometown of Chicago. Able to harness his spoiled-brat countenance and quirky gestures to invoke either sympathy or repulsion, Zane has been seen principally in secondary roles in such films as Back to the Future (1985), Memphis Belle (1990), Orlando (1992), and Posse (1993). His most flamboyant role was as the young drifter who -- obvious to everyone but the hero and heroine -- is not what he seems in the Australian thriller Dead Calm (1989). Zane had a rare starring role in the filmization of the once popular comic strip The Phantom (1996), in which he showed off his lithe, muscular physique in a form-fitting purple body suit and performed many of the stylish film's daring stunts himself. The following year he had a lead role in the most successful film of his career, playing Kate Winslet's vile fiancé in Titanic. Zane is the younger brother of film and TV actress Lisa Zane.

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  • Of Greek descent; his grandparents changed their last name from Zanikopoulos to Zane.
  • Attended Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts in Kenosha, Wis.
  • Film debut was in Back to the Future (1985) as Match, one of Biff's thugs.
  • International attention came in 1989 for his villainous turn in the thriller Dead Calm, costarring Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill.
  • Television performances include the role of John Justice Wheeler in the cult classic Twin Peaks.
  • Appears as a partying record executive in the Marilyn Manson video "The Dope Show" and was featured in the Staind video "Epiphany."
  • Best-known character is Cal Hockley, the nemesis of Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack in the blockbuster Titanic (1997).
  • Made West End theater debut in 2006 opposite Claire Bloom in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.