I think an essay could be written about who was the best film bully of the 1980’s. Was it Matt Dillon in MY BODYGUARD? Or was it Billy Zabka in, well, everything he starred in?
He was the go to guy for playing bullies. Yet, like many bullies, as far as his acting career went, his best time in life was probably in high school, and you don’t know what he is up to today.
Billy, or William Zabka, made his film debut in 1984’s THE KARATE KID. Who didn’t hate him in this, as Johnny, Elisabeth Shue’s ex-boyfriend. It is one of those roles that is just hard to live down. He was just perfect in it.
He would go on the next year to play a jerk in JUST ONE OF THE GUYS, the one where Joyce Hyser disguised herself as a guy to win a journalism competition.
Zabka played Dana Hill’s boyfriend, Jack (as in "God, I miss Jack"), in NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION. He told her on the phone that he was hanging out with her friend, so he was a jerk in that as well.
He was also in Rodney Dangerfield’s BACK TO SCHOOL, briefly in KARATE KID 2 (according to some cast lists. I have no memory of the film), and 1988’s A TIGER’S TALE with C. Thomas Howell.
There was some TV work along the way, GIMME A BREAK, the sitcom E/R (that also starred George Clooney), an afterschool special, and a few episodes of THE EQUALIZER.
He acted in films in the 90’s as well, but I can honestly say, I have never heard of one of them.
So What Ever Happened To Him?
Would you believe it if I told you that William Zabka, the guy that played all those evil roles, was actually nominated for an Oscar?
In 2003, a short film he wrote, MOST, was nominated for Best Live Action Short. It didn’t win, but won several film festival awards.
He even spoofed himself in this music video, No More Kings “Sweep the Leg”, playing himself, living in a trailer, watching KARATE KID over and over again.
And not only did he play himself in that video (arguably the funniest of the past ten years, if not longer, especially the finale) but Zabka wrote and directed it!
He may have a real career behind the camera.
He does continue to act. But in smaller films.