What the Hell Happened to Billy Zane?
Billy Zane got his start in one of the most beloved science fiction movies of the 80’s. He gained popularity on one of the quirkiest TV shows of the 90s. And he played the least-loved character in what was at the time the highest-grossing movie ever. His list of credits include several popular films. But when the handsome actor tried to transition into leading man roles, something didn’t click. Zane has worked steadily since 1985, but somehow he never became a household name.
What the hell happened?
Zane made his debut with a bit part in Robert Zemeckis’ sci-fi comedy, Back to the Future.
He played Match, one of bully Biff Tannen’s goons. According to Zane, he auditioned for the role of Biff which ultimately went to Thomas F. Wilson. Biff’s goon squad was cast from actors who auditioned for Biff but didn’t get the role.
According to Zane, hanging out on the Universal set was a lot of fun:
“What was amazing about that was I had a crash course in Hollywood, being on the back lot of Universal for about six months. It was the best playground on the planet. Michael J. Fox was very funny. He would play dead on a New York street, lie dead in the middle of the road, where the trams would come by, and they would have to stop and we’d come running out of the buildings and try to pilfer everyone for their Polaroid cameras and watches, like a highway robbery. Or we’d go up to the Psycho house at dusk with Maglites and shine them into the windows. We were kids and having a hoot!”
Back to the Future was a critical and commercial hit and one heck of a lucky break for a film debut. It was successful enough to spawn two sequels.
In 1986, Zane appeared in a less-beloved science fiction movie, Critters.
Critter’s was basically a Gremlins rip-off. Alien creatures who are furrier and have more teeth than the gremlin invade a rural Kansas town. A young boy and his family have to deal with the alien invasion. Dee Wallace Stone, best known for playing the mom in E.T. and Cujo, played – what else – the mom. Zane played the older daughter’s boy friend who sneaks off for some barnyard hanky panky. Probably not a good idea.
Reviews were mixed with many critics giving the movie points for having a sense of humor. It was a modest hit at the box office and three sequels followed.
Zane also appeared opposite Keanu Reeves, Kiefer Sutherland and Lori Loughlin in the TV movie, The Brotherhood of Justice.
The movie was based on a true story about a group of teens who decided to form a vigilante group to prevent violence. Reeves played the leader of the pack. Zane played a bad boy who smoked and brought guns to a knife fight.
Posted on June 28, 2014, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged Back to the Future, critters, dead calm, Memphis Belle, Tales From the Crypt, The Phantom, Titanic, Tombstone, Twin Peaks, Zoolander. Bookmark the permalink. 110 Comments.