Billy Hayes, the man who lived the true story of the hit film, Midnight Express, is finally opening up at age 63 to let the world know exactly what happened in that Turkish prison.
For those unfamiliar with the 1978, Oliver Stone-penned screenplay, Midnight Express chronicled the five long years that Billy Hayes spent in a Turkish prison after being busted in an attempt to smuggle drugs from Turkey to the United States. The film, marked by a driving Giorgio Moroder score, makes you feel uncomfortable from the first frame–it offers a sense that funky stuff is about to go down…and it does.
As suggested in the film, Billy Hayes did spend 5 years in a Turkish prison. And like the film, Hayes did escape–but not how it was portrayed in the film. And he never bit the tongue out of the mouth of a hated prisoner–he just tried to kill him. For the first time since his escape 35 years ago, Billy Hayes is opening up to tell-all about his true Turkish experience, including the fact that he loved Turkey–until he got arrested.
The success of Midnight Express led to the inevitable backlash from the film. Of course the film pissed-off the Turkish government. They were so angered by the way Turkey was portrayed in the film that they issued an arrest warrant for Hayes through INTERPOL. No arrest ever came.
Unlike the film, Hayes’s escape was far more Hollywoodesque. It involved a rowboat in a rainstorm during a prison transfer, several days of hiding throughout Turkey, dying his hair different colors as authorities searched for him and ultimately, a dangerous river swim to escape into Greece. For years, he remained silent, enjoying a life in Oklahoma, married to Wendy West, the daughter of Jackie West, a prominent personality within the local theatre scene. Hayes became a writer, actor and director and is now letting the world know what really happened.
You can catch Billy sharing his story on National Geographic’s Locked up Abroad, which airs tonight at 10PM/EDT.