‘Titanic’ Gave Billy Zane His Iconic Role and a Second Career as an Artist

Caledon Hockley may have hated art, but not his portrayer.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 18: Billy Zane attends the Netflix's "True Story" New York Screening at the Whitby Hotel on November 18, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Billy Zane
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Turns out, “Titanic” was a career highlight in more ways than one for Billy Zane.

Zane famously played Caledon Hockley, the gun-toting fiancé of Rose (played by Kate Winslet), who is incensed that she could prefer the impoverished artist Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) over him. But Zane was even more removed from the role than audiences knew.

“It was a flash point to a whole other life as a painter. That happened on that set,” Zane told Vulture in a recent interview in honor of the James Cameron film’s 25th anniversary. “That’s become an entirely parallel journey — ironic for someone who played a character who didn’t appreciate art.”

Filming on “Titanic” lasted for seven months in Mexico. Initially, Zane would drive back to Los Angeles on Sundays and then drive back to set the next day. But after that became too much, he turned to art.

“There would be days when I wasn’t shooting, so I turned my garage into a studio and started painting. It was Abstract Expressionism. I did it just for the pleasure of doing it, and I would have cast members over for painting parties.”

Years later, a gallerist saw some of Zane’s work and hung them in a show. And much like talking about (and creating memes out of) “Titanic,” Zane’s career as an artist remains active.

“I just had some pieces at Art Basel. I owe a lot of this to Titanic. I still use the technique I applied then, which is improvisational and uses pieces that would otherwise have been discarded, like recycled paint and objects I found around Mexico. There was something about the location that unlocked it for me. That was really important.”

As for whether or not Zane feels like the record-shattering success of “Titanic” has, at times, been a curse? “It’s always a blessing,” he told Vulture. “It’s a great honor, to be honest. It’s a wonderful film and it holds up. I like its reinventions with new technology. I really enjoyed the 3-D release. I’ve never seen a 3-D movie that has so much dramatic screen time as opposed to action. I’m sure if they’re planning another rerelease, in 8K or whatever, it will be that much more thrilling.”

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