Billy Zane & BloodRayne
From Wig to WigBy: Tim Nasson, Wild About Movies' publisher
December 27, 2005
Chateau Marmont Hotel, Hollywood – First. Let’s get one thing correct. For all you women – and gay boys and men – in love with Billy Zane, and especially those of you who were smitten with his handsome, yet evil character Cal, with that perfectly slick-backed and greased hair in the highest grossing movie of all time – Titanic – here’s some news for you. "It was a wig." That’s straight from the horse’s mouth, Billy Zane, himself. That beautifully coifed head of hair was not his. In fact, for years, as you have noticed during any of Zane’s myriad late night television talk show appearances, his head has been shaved.
Receding hairline? Balding? Not quite. Zane, one of the most charismatic, intelligent and wittiest people you could meet, and who turns forty in February, you see, swims like a fish and the shaved head, which he has been doing since before "Titanic," makes for a much quicker time in the swimming races he is constantly entering – and winning.
While "Titanic’ is the most popular movie in which Zane – and each of his "Titanic" co-stars – has appeared, and the one that made his face and name one of the most recognizable in the world, there was another movie, released in the 80s – and 1985’a highest grossing film – and that spawned two sequels, which is where Zane got his first taste of the big screen. "I guess making my big screen debut in ‘Back to the Future’ wasn’t such a bad thing," laughs Zane, sitting at the metal kitchen table in the kitchen of his suite at The Chateau Marmont. "But, what? Was I in the movie for all of 5 minutes?" In "Back to the Future," (and "Back to the Future 2"), Zane played Match, one of Biff’s hangers-on, and fellow thugs.
On a recent smoggy Tuesday, at the notorious Hollywood hideaway for the rich and famous, Chateau Marmont, I spent an uninterrupted afternoon and evening with the cast and producers, (Zane being one), of the upcoming vampire film, "BloodRayne." The film is set in 18th century Romania – and filmed, in its entirety, in Romania. The unfettered access to the cast, throughout the day and evening, was thanks to the most remarkable and unbelievably astounding publicity machine working in Hollywood today, Rock Star PR.*
"BloodRayne" is the first major title to be released by Romar Entertainment, founded by Jim Schramm, whose major claim to fame are those television style commercials you see at the movie theater, and which now make up more than a half a billion dollars a year in theater owners’ revenue. Zane is CFO of Romar Entertainment.
In addition to Zane, "BloodRayne," a prequel (story) to the popular video game, boasts an all-star cast, including: Michelle Rodriguez, Sir Ben Kingsley, (and, yes, you better call him Sir, or else), Michael Madsen, Matt Davis, Geraldine Chaplin and the "Terminatrix" herself, the stunning, rising superstar, Kristanna Loken.
(Look for my exclusive interview with Loken, where she talks about her sexual encounters with those of the same sex – and a lot more – wherever you are reading this feature.)
You might wonder why Zane, whose resume includes "Titanic," isn’t in more movies or on the covers of any tabloids.
If I were to guess, the reason is due to Zane’s atypical Hollywood persona. Many actors can’t live without seeing their name on the cover of the "Enquirer" or their personal life as the lead on "Access Hollywood." And Zane seems as if he couldn’t care less – even while recently engaged to supermodel Kelly Brook.
"Yes. We’re getting married," answers Zane, matter-of-factly, when I bring up the delicate question. "But what does that have to do with ‘BloodRayne?’" His tone is not smarmy, rather sincere.
When I press on, it is quite clear that Zane is madly in love with Brook.
But being in the spotlight, the Hollywood spotlight, is not, nor has ever been, something that Zane solicits.
In fact, Zane seems very happy behind the camera, in producer’s shoes, and is even at work directing a film, a French-farce, no less, about a diamond heist gone awry, a master of disguise and a prison escape – loosely based and inspired by a Neil Simon play/movie, and one of Zane’s favorite films, "After the Fox."
"Titanic," though nearly a decade old, is still one of the most rented, bought and watched movies. In fact, the "Titanic: Special Collector’s Edition," was recently released and though Zane contributed to the film’s commentary, true to his silly form, most of what was filmed of him is not in the Special Edition. "That was an experience," recalls Zane, about sitting and doing the voiceovers and commentary. "I couldn’t help but turn [the experience] into something like ‘Mystery Science Theater-3000.’ All I could do, while I was sitting there watching my scenes, was kid around and make as much fun of myself and the scenes that were on the screen, as possible. I haven’t watched the Special Edition, but I am sure 99% of what I taped is not on there." And that’s a shame, because those improvised scenes most likely would have enhanced the boring three-disc Special Edition in its current form – and showed the world just what a gifted comedian Zane is.
Zane, who is one-hundred-percent Greek – "my last name was Zanikopolous, before my grandparents changed it," says Zane – has always had a love of theater and film. "I was a theater brat, growing up. I have loved theater, performing, as far back as I can remember."
While Zane has appeared in two of the highest grossing movies of all time, he also appeared in one of the biggest bombs of the 90s, a movie that many thought was destined for "Batman-esque" type of business at the box office: "The Phantom."
You will remember that Simon Wincer, director of "The Phantom," was one of Hollywood's A-list directors when "The Phantom" was being filmed. He had just released "Free Willy," one of the most popular family films of the 90s. "I think if 'The Phantom' had come out now," reflects Zane, when I bring up one of the films that could have made him a leading man - yes, there was another, "Dirty Dancing" - "it may have done better at the box office. I think 'The Phantom' was ahead of its time."
When I ask Zane to speculate as to why and/or how he became a gay icon, without missing a beat, he explains, succinctly, "Perhaps it’s a combination of my slightly exotic, Greek looks and the fact that I am on the record praising the likes of Vincent and Liza Minnelli, (the latter, one of the biggest gay icons of all time), and the fact that I have been involved in theater my whole life. Who knows, really? Gay men love movies, and are loyal fans. Also," and then Zane starts to fumble for words. He is perplexed. "I want to say I have a tolerance (he means that in the ‘sympathetic’ definition) but, that is not the right word. Tolerance is not the right word, at all. Because no one should have to be tolerated in any sense of the word or definition. I have always judged people, anyone I have met, on their own merits, not based on their looks, sexual orientation, or class. I hope that is evident on its own, without me having to explain it."
As for his role of Elrich in "BloodRayne," it’s a smaller one, but as Elrich, Zane dons another wig, albeit not as sexy a wig as the one in "Titanic." But, as Zane, who plays the part flawlessly, laughs, early Tuesday night at a cocktail reception that I attend with him, "A wig is a wig is a wig."
*Incidentally, "BloodRayne" is the first movie junket produced by Rock Star PR, yet, undoubtedly, "BloodRayne will be the catalyst for a plethora of upcoming movie junket projects for Rock Star PR, since their work on the "BloodRayne junket, (what with securing set pieces from "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" television show for the one-on-one television interview backdrops – look for your local TV entertainment reporter’s piece on "BloodRayne, especially Comcast Digital Cable’s Sara Edwards and Telemundo’s Maria Salas), made for the most seamless and stress-free of junket days – something unheard of in the junket world.