The 41st Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) honoured last Wednesday American actor, painter, and producer Billy Zane, who is best known for his villainous role as Caledon Hockley in the epic film Titanic (1997).
William George Zane, better known as Billy Zane, was born on 24 February 1966 in Chicago. He won his very first big screen role in Back to the Future (1985) and its sequel Back to the Future Part II (1989). He then played villain Hughie Warriner in the Australian thriller film Dead Calm (1989). He also co-starred in Memphis Belle (1990), a film version of a 1944 documentary about a World War II bomber.
In 1991, he started starring roles in several television films: Twin Peaks (1991), Tombstone (1993), Demon Knight (1995), The Phantom (1996), Cleopatra (1999), and Kingdom Hearts (2002).
He appeared as John Justice Wheeler on several episodes of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Zane also played the role of an eponymous superhero in The Phantom (1996). In 2005, he had a recurring role as the poetry-loving ex-demon Drake on the television series Charmed which debuted in 1998.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Zane to know his opinion on various topics in the film industry, his latest works, and his honouring at CIFF.
This is your first time in Cairo, how was your experience and what do you think of the CIFF honouring?
May you enter every city as an honouree. It is an honour considering the impact of Egyptian cinema on the world and the fact that the CIFF is a well-respected festival and that it is in its 41st year. It is very touching and moving. Incredible entry for a foreigner who is in the first visit. It was very interesting not only because of its history which shaped the world, but also because the cinema which Egyptians present have been very successful.
You have been honoured earlier in Greece’s Art Thessaloniki International Contemporary Art Fair and now in Egypt. Given the fact that you are Greek, do you feel like you are re-exploring your Mediterranean side?
Being honoured in these two significant countries which have great civilisations which contributed to everything, and which have been friends, enemies, and friends again, it is a huge honour. As a Greek, I was very happy to be back.
Do you often visit your hometown?
My family is from Sparta, and some of them still live in Greece. As a Greek citizen, I often go there for holidays and work. I can understand it very well. I have actually once played the role of an ancient Greek in a Greek zombie horror film called Evil: In the Time of Heroes (2009). It used methodology and history to reflect on modern-day context. As a horror film, it did ok being screened during the austerity in Greece.
you tell us about your role in The Great War (2019), and what other
projects are you currently working on?
In The Great War, I play a military officer in WW1. The film follows a unit of African American soldiers and how noble they fought in Europe even after the official end of the war. It takes place in this no man’s land in a period where brutal things were happening. Another project I am working on is a series named Curfew by Matthew Read, starring Adam Brody and Sean Bean. It is very 80s genre. I play an American psychologist who rebels against the imposing of the curfew which has been implemented to protect the populated areas from an unstoppable unknown virus. To protect the population from the virus sweeping across the United Kingdom, a totalitarian government impose a curfew in which anyone caught out between 7pm and 7am will be put into quarantine, if not worse. Curfew focuses on a few lucky groups that are offered the opportunity to compete in an illegal 1,000 km street race where the finish line ends in the ultimate prize: a sanctuary. I play a character named Joker Jones who enters the race. The series is loaded with action, comedy, and drama.
You have played roles in big Hollywood productions, independent films, and underground project, what are the criteria that you look for when reading a script of a role you’re chosen to play?
I like experimenting. What inspires me is mining empathy even for mediocre movies, just trying to ship away from the common perspective, allowing us to give things a second glance. But mainly I am grounded in comedy fundamentally, no matter how many villains I play. I also look for cause-based scripts that can make a difference, like a climate change, women’s rights, and how to fix the men so you don’t have any problem with women’s rights. I like to work on the foundation [of problems]. An example of that is the Egyptian film Cairo 678, which dealt with what I think is a universal epidemic. My feeling is that these causes should be put in delivery systems that are attractive to people, like films or gaming. Also, I like to mine uncommon territory in the same way in which we digest issues in order to create roadmaps, that is where cinema is most noble.