By now, you may have seen Billy Zane’s comic side on Samantha Who? And it’s a style that suits him well. In the new movie Love N’ Dancing (now in theaters), Zane plays a familiar character with a much different attitude. The film is about Jake Mitchell (Tom Malloy, who also wrote the script), a world-class competitive swing dancer who walked away from his career in 2002. He felt like he was winning only because he is deaf, and now he teaches dance and gives motivational speeches in schools. Jessica (Amy Smart) is a teacher in a school where Mitchell lectures, and she approaches him to teach her and her distracted fiancé Kent (Zane) how to dance before their wedding.
While Zane, best known as Kate Winslet’s vengeful ex in Titanic, is again playing the jilted fiancé, this time he’s funny and likeable, if insensitive. “There was pressure at the beginning to make Kent (Zane) a jerk, but we didn’t want to make him a jerk. In fact, he’s not a jerk in the movie. He’s just one of these guys who is focused on work 24/7, and they’re just not right for each other,” Malloy explained.
“I’ve played a few jilted fiancés in my time,” Zane explained. “I almost didn’t take the role because of it, but seeing the room for comedy, I thought it was fun to lampoon myself. And to be part of such a lovely and charming movie, which we all need now.”
Malloy told a story about his first idea for the script. Nine years ago, he was interested in West Coast Swing and went to a contest where John Lindo was competing. “He was about four hundred pounds and he’s one of the best West Coast Swing dancers in the world, and I said, “That’s it — that guy’s incredible. And he won the competition in everybody’s eyes, and when they announced the winners, they announced him as number two.”
It turned out that the winner was deaf, and Malloy thought it would be a great idea to write the film about a character that wins competitions, but doesn’t deserve to win. “Now (the dancer) is a friend of mine, and he told me, “Yeah, I didn’t think I deserved to win that. I didn’t think I deserved to win a lot of the competitions, but they used to give it to me as almost like a sympathy vote.”
Zane explained that it’s both a good and bad time to be an independent filmmaker. Bad, because there is such a glut of product in the marketplace, but good, because there are so many tools that help filmmakers create their work.
“There’s no excuse not to make your film,” Zane said. “If it’s good, if you have a good story, there will always be a demand for it. But the traditional channels? Forget ‘em. Just do it. Just start it, shoot it, call your friends and make a movie. If it’s good, it’ll get attention. The thing to think about is finding distribution, whether it’s YouTube, or finding a distribution company. It’s a crowded marketplace and there are major motion pictures with major stars in them that are not getting bought right now.”
Malloy added: “There are nine words to being a producer — ‘I have multiple projects in various stages of development’ — if you say that quote, you’re producing movies. My friend Melissa Leo starred in a movie called Frozen River that cost $500,000 to make and she ended up nominated for an Oscar.”
One of Zane's funniest scenes is when he busts out his break dancing moves. You wouldn’t expect the psycho killer from Dead Calm to do that, would you? “I had to take a lot of lessons to learn how to be a bad dancer", he cracked.
UPDATE: Love N' Dancing is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.