Billy Zane did not receive a razzi..I mean Oscar nomination for portraying Caledon Nathan "Cal" Hockley in Titanic.
Do you hear that sound....sounds like a train whistle... a whistle that spells the same doom the Mystery Man from Lost Highway personified...yes my friends can you handle the horrors of the Zane train. Well the Zane train has cometh and only horrors await. Or do they after all Billy Zane was great in Zoolander as Billy Zane, and how about that time he wore purple pajamas in The Phantom I don't have anything to say about his performance in that I just wanted to remind everyone that it existed. No today I'm here to discuss Billy Zane in Titanic. He plays the rich fiancee of Rose (Kate Winslet) and you know he's no good from the start since Rose decides to freely compare herself to African slaves as she embarks on her trip to America. She goes even further than that and contemplates suicide which unfortunately can be a side effect from long term Zane exposure after all in the opening reveal of Titanic it is hard to tell if Zane is cgi generated or not since he's just as if not more artificial in nature.
After Rose is saved by Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) Zane is on the scene as he maneuvers through the scene with Cal caring for Rose and dealing with Jack. Zane is obviously quite genius as he does not bother to show anything one would refer to as a HU-MAN emotion in the scene. No he instead seems to try to find some sort of truth in the void of nothingness as his creation of Cal is that of a man who has never existed. No Zane won't settle with being a man no he must be film from a Saturday morning cartoon, and it better not be a very good cartoon either. Zane has a very interesting manner in the scene as he is suppose to be intense toward Jack as he first accuses him of wrongdoing then eventual thanks him as Zane decides to look in any place that is not the right place. Obviously Zane is perhaps trying for the same sort of idea James Dean was going for in his own performances, although maybe not maybe Zane just was doing that because he's a bad actor, it's certainly a daring approach to the character either way.
Now one of Zane's greatest moments is when he gives the heart of the ocean gem to Rose. It's a magnificent scene as Zane looks in the mirror where Rose is trying on the necklace. Zane chooses not to look longingly at Rose since you'd think he'd be at least lusting after her even if he does not really love her, nor is he lusty after the gem as if all he he cares about is possessions, no Zane instead chooses to stare longingly at himself as if he could simply not resist his own good looks in the mirror. An interesting approach I think... no that's not the right word for it, a subtle approach? no that's not the case here... hmm oh right poorly that's what Zane's doing here he's acting very poorly. Zane's performance is still an interesting case of a performance as it is almost fascinating to watch in his lack of authenticity in any aspect of his performance, his physical, performance, his line delivery, everything seems almost otherworldly in his inability to play Cal in any manner that is even slightly how you'd expect a person to act.
One really hasn't seen much of anything though until Zane stops being just some pompous dweeb and starts to portray Cal as a demented psychopath. You know if this was a comedic performance this would actually be quite the success as I could not help but snicker every type Zane said something, unfortunately that is not the case as the whole film wants to be a straight forward romance with Zane being the jilted other man in a completely serious manner. Zane apparently thinks to do that he should play Cal as a merely mentally deranged individual. The scene where Zane chases Jack and Rose while shooting is a particular highlight as we see Zane showing off at his great ability of facial contortion. Zane, to be menacing, I guess bulges his eyes, opens his mouth wide, sneers to his utmost ability, and the best part is he never does them together making one really bizarre display of ACTING.
Technically speaking this is a terrible performance that I did enjoy as I found myself laughing repeatedly at Zane's various antics. If he was suppose to be the comedy relief then bravo to Zane, unfortunately intent does matter. This was suppose to be a dramatic character in a dramatic film, if you go by that as the intent is a horrendous performance and it's badness is so powerful that it can even effect the film as a whole. I would actually say this is a perfect example of a terrible supporting performance for a film as it does exactly what you don't want a performance to do. It's badness actually distracts from any positive elements, and at times it is hard to take the film as a whole seriously because of the quality of this performance. Whenever someone tries to state that Titanic is a perfect film, or even a great film there are only two words that need to be uttered to break that delusion of grandeur, Billy Zane. Zane has left me no other choice but to give him the following: