Zorin was born in Dresden around the end of the Second World War, after which Dresden became part of East Germany. He later moved to France and became a leading French businessman, operating on the microchip market. However, it is revealed later in the movie that he was the product of Nazi medical experimentation during World War II, in which pregnant women were injected with massive quantities of steroids in an attempt to create "super-children." Most of the pregnancies failed. The few surviving babies grew to become extraordinarily intelligent—but also psychopathic.
After the war, Hans Glaub, the German scientist who conducted the experiments, was spirited away by the Soviet Union, where he continued his experiments with steroids. It is strongly implied that the young Zorin was raised by Mortner, who was one of Zorin's closest allies in the movie, and explicitly stated that Zorin was trained by and long-affiliated with the KGB. Among other activities, Mortner organizes a doping program for Zorin's thoroughbred race horses, allowing Zorin to win horse races with ease by activating illegal horse steroids by means of implanted microchips; since the drugs are 'administered' during the race, they do not show up on blood tests taken beforehand, and the dose is so minute that they dissolve into the system before tests can be taken afterwards.
Despite Zorin's longtime KGB affiliation, his outside activities draw attention that the KGB sees as unwelcome, and at a meeting between Zorin and KGB head General Gogol, Gogol rebukes him. Zorin responds by telling Gogol that he no longer considers himself a KGB employee.
Zorin forms a plan, dubbed Project Mainstrike to destroy his only competition in Silicon Valley by triggering a massive earthquake in the San Andreas Fault at high tide, causing the valley to flood. Such a disaster would effectively wipe out all computer companies competing against Zorin in the world microchip market and leave him as the leading supplier of microchips, as well as slaughtering millions residing in the valley. His plan was to use his vast resources to set off a super-earthquake in both the San Andreas Fault and Hayward Fault by flooding them both with water from San Andreas Lake and then breaking the geological lock that forbade both faults from moving simultaneously. To accomplish this, Zorin mined underneath the lakes and planned to blast through the lake beds in order to flood the fault, further exacerbating it by pumping water into them via a vast system of oil wells. Once the floodwaters came in, he would set off the explosives necessary to break the lock.
Zorin's plan is foiled by Bond and Zorin's former lover and henchman May Day, who joins Bond's side after Zorin attempts to kill her, having already killed most of his workers as well as May Day's friend Jenny Flex, and sacrifices her life to ensure that the bomb set by Zorin could not trigger the quake - she was killed in the explosion seconds after managing to push a trailer full of explosives out of the valley and into open air.
Bond and his partner Stacey Sutton both witnessed the explosion, which infuriated Zorin and made him even more determined to gain revenge on Bond. When leaving the valley in his airship with Scarpine and Mortner, he captures Stacey and makes away with her, only for Bond to grab hold of a mooring rope as the airship heads for the Golden Gate Bridge. Zorin attempts to kill Bond by flying him into the framework of the bridge, but Bond manages to hold on and bring the airship to a halt by mooring it to the framework. Stacey attacks Zorin and as Scarpine and Mortner try to stop her, the airship crashes into the side of the bridge, knocking Mortner unconscious. Zorin sends Scarpine to kill Bond, but Stacey smashes him round the back of the head with a fire extinguisher, knocking him out too. Stacey then escapes onto the bridge's support cable to join Bond, but is closely followed by Zorin who viciously attacks Bond with a fire axe. After a brief scuffle, Bond causes Zorin to lose his grip on the framework which made him fall into the bay below.
Well spoken and extraordinarily intelligent, Zorin is extremely psychopathic as well as sadistic and displays a near-total lack of loyalty to his own men, as shown when he oversaw the execution of a Soviet spy who attempted to sabotage his oil well operations and when he personally massacred hundreds of his own mine workers to ensure the success of his own plans.
Despite his long-standing and intimate relationship with his loyal right hand woman May Day, he willingly sacrifices her for the sake of his plans, although this betrayal would backfire horribly on him later on. He would likely do the same against Scarpine, his Head of Security, who was also completely loyal and nothing more than his unthinking right-hand-man. Clearly, this vilain is vindictive and can change his allegiance at the drop of a hat if it fit his grander schem.
Henchmen & Associates
Behind the scenes
After the general disappointment of the preceding film, Octopussy, Albert Broccoli was under the impression that the attitude of Bond films had to change. One was the feeling among moviegoers that Bond films had become too reliant on Sean Connery-style humor. Another was the increasing disdain for Bond casually bedding woman after woman. The sexual revolution of the 1960s had largely been enfeebled by the threat of HIV/AIDS being medically proven to be linked to casual sex. Broccoli elected to tackle the former problem first, and had proposed the character of Max Zorin written expressly for one actor: David Bowie. Bowie. a popular musician in the UK, was believed to have the villiainous attitude to attract the next generation of Bond fans, to the extent that early promotions for the film went so far as to showcase Bowie. Bowie, who was a Bond fan, expressed his concern that his appearance in the film could damage the film series' reputation, degenerating it into the same kind of problems that befell the reputation of Batman, which at the time was less known for the edgy comics, but rather the campy TV series of the 1960s which often used famous celebrities and singers as guest villains. Bowie declined the role, and Mick Jagger was also approached for the part of Zorin. Jagger expressed similar concerns to Bowie and also declined. The role ultimately went to Christopher Walken, who had a reputation for unstable characters akin to Zorin. Seven years after View to a Kill, Walken would play a similar villian with the same forename in Batman Returns, a sinster corporate criminal named Max Schreck.
- Legal problems arose before the film's release when producers became aware there was a pre-existing company named the Zoran Corporation which makes microchips. The Zoran Corporation threatened to sue for defamation. Pre-production crew had neglected to do a trademark search prior to filming. The parties came to an agreement and, because of this, A View to a Kill is the first 007 film with a legal disclaimer inserted.
- In the 2004 video game Everything or Nothing, it is stated that Zorin had an apprentice named Nikolai Diavolo (voiced by Willem Dafoe), who plans to use nanobots to commence the rebirth of the Soviet Union. Diavolo also wishes to kill Bond in order to exact vengeance for Zorin's death.
- Zorin is a playable multiplayer character in the 2002 video game Nightfire.