Tuesday, 1 June 2010

An Interview with Alex Zane

Alex Zane.

Television presenter.

Stand up comedian.


Film reviewer.

Annoying isn't it?

No, not really because Zane, as well as ability, has a charm and likeability.

Actually, that is annoying!

I decided to pitch my own cutting, incisive interview technique (which lacks any ability, charm or likeability) up against Zane and ask him the questions that needed to be asked.

That's not quite true.

What I really did was ask him some frivolous questions that I thought you might enjoy reading the answers to, I don't think you will be disappointed.

The more observant film fans amongst you will have noticed that Alex shares a surname with Hollywood hunk Billy Zane. I asked Alex which of the other Zanes film roles he would most like to have played; Cal Hockley in "Titanic", the voice of John Rolfe in "Pocahontas II", Elrich in "BloodRayne" or Billy Zane in "Zoolander"?

I’d choose Billy Zane as himself in Zoolander, because in it he transcends the idea that he’s just a jobbing actor and becomes ‘Billy Zane’ an oracle of wisdom, a soothsayer of sorts, all in the one line “Listen to your friend Billy Zane, he’s a cool dude” during Zoolander and Hansel’s altercation.

Not that I in anyway encapsulate that kind of gravitas. I have once in my life been witness to an altercation involving a friend. I was at the far side of a car park rubbing my lips along the side of a van, in an attempt to cool them after foolishly ingesting some chili vodka, when I noticed my friend being punched. What happened next reminds me of the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’ when he senses Danny is in danger and travels all the way to the hotel to help him only to get an axe in the back. I ran and ran and ran to the other side of the car park, went ‘What’s going on?’ and got head butted in the face, thus ending my ill thought through intervention.

My close friends know that I am currently working on a script for the film of your life, Alex, which I am calling "I'm Alex, not Billy, Zane". I'm now giving thought to casting and wondered who you would like to play the part of "Alex" in the film? Thanks to the miracle of CGI you can select an actor who has already shrugged off this mortal coil.

I’m going to use the CGI option but not because he’s dead, because I’d like to look like him circa 1977, when Smokey and the Bandit came out. Burt Reynolds was my hero as a child and Smokey and the Bandit is in my Top 5 movies of all time (4th place). I’ve always loved watching car chases and cars driving fast, Smokey and the Bandit, Cannonball Run, The Blues Brothers, these were the films that first alerted my senses to what cinema could offer.

I met Burt Reynolds once in LA doing an interview, that went well enough for him to say at the end “What’s your name, I’ll remember you?” to which I replied “Alex Zane”.

The following day I walked into a whiskey bar on Sunset Boulevard with my friend and Burt Reynolds was sitting in there. I turned to my friend and said, “I know Burt Reynolds” to which my friend said, “No you don’t”. In an attempt to prove myself right, I took my friend over to where Burt was sitting, said “Hi Burt, I interviewed you yesterday” to which Burt Reynolds replied “Oh yeah, Alan right, Alan Zone”.

If that isn't the best anecdote you have heard this year then you are either Stephen Fry (who I imagine regales himself with amusing anecdotes all the day long) or you are dead. What more do you want? It's got Burt Reynolds in it for goodness sake...that's the very definition of a great anecdote. Well, it is for me.

Whenever I hear the description "disc jockey" I always think of tiny men riding seven inch singles around a hit parade themed race track, which, I will admit, says much about me and very little about anything else. But a disc jockey you are, so what music would you chose to have playing over the opening and closing credits of "I'm Alex, Not Billy, Zane"?

I think the closing credit music of a film is as important as the opening. I think the greatest musical end to a film is The Pixies: Where is My Mind over the final scenes of Fight Club. But there are others too that bear less relevance to the plot but, for me, are equally effective, The Prodigy’s Funky Shit at the end of Event Horizon or A Whiter Shade of Pale at the end of The Net both work really well. I think I’d choose AC/DC: You Shook Me All Night Long for no other reason than I’ like to walk out of the cinema with that song playing. For the opening, presumably over my birth, I’d use Yazz: The Only way is Up (Baby). Or perhaps The Bangles: Walk Like an Egyptian, which is the first single I bought, and thanks to CGI I’d be born walking like an Egyptian in that terrifying and unsettling way you get when you apply CGI to babies, like in Son of the Mask.

I haven't ever kissed a girl in the back row of the cinema and, at 36, I think that the time may have passed but what about you, a younger, better looking and more talented man?

I see going to the cinema as more of a solo experience. Perhaps if I’d had a girlfriend as a teenager I might have experienced those ‘back row’ moments but I did not. Therefore I don’t just believe in the cinema not being a suitable location for a date but I struggle to empathise with those who do. Obviously if you’re going to be grown up about it, fine, you sit there and enjoy a film and upon leaving you discuss the highs and lows of the movie experience, I understand that. But if you’re just looking for a dark room in which you can hide away and make squelching and sloshing noises with your partner, elsewhere should you wander, perhaps to Laser Quest, a bowling alley, a shopping centre, a youth club, some woods, a cave, the engine room of a ship, under a bridge, some wasteland, Hull, the moon, but not the cinema.

I did go to the cinema with my schoolmates once to see Groundhog Day. Some older boys through popcorn at us throughout and no one kissed.

I'm very pleased to see that Alex didn't have a girlfriend as a teenager. If he was sat at home listening to The Smiths and crying then we may well be at the start of a beautiful friendship. As there must needs be opposition in all things though, if we are going to be friends that means there will have to be enemies. Which film would you force your enemy to watch on rotation for eternity?

Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. It takes a truly bad film for you to sit through it and then afterwards have no real memory of what occurred on screen so emotionally uninvolving was the whole experience. That’s Lawnmower man 2. All I remember is it’s in the future, there are some of those punky skate boarder-y kids who always seem to inhabit the backstreets of future cities and there may have been a sequence involving a motorcycle of some description. It makes Highlander 2 look like the Godfather Part 2.

So there you have it.

Alex Zane has managed to drop in the names of "Lawnmower Man 2" and "The Mask 2" yet still comes out of this interview smelling of roses...no mean feat I'm sure you will agree.

Many thanks to Alex for agreeing to answer my questions and for those of you based in Edinburgh make sure you take the time to see the man himself during the Edinburgh Festival.

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