The Hollywood filmmaker and actor Tom Laughlin, aged 82, who rose to fame by playing the role of a tough action hero known as Billy Jack, has died. He passed away on Thursday in Thousand Oaks, California circled by his family, reports are saying.
While involved at one time with almost every single aspect of the movie business, Laughlin will always be best known for his Billy Jack film series. He had been married to Delores Taylor since the early 1950’s and she not only co-produced but also performed in all four of the Billy Jack flicks as well.
Besides his acting career, he was a screenwriter, director and producer. He ended up drawing national attention when he had a revolutionary promotion campaign for 1974′s The Trial of Billy Jack which included running trailers on television during the national news and having an opening day release of the movie which was held all over the United States.
Back In 1967, Laughlin wrote, directed and also starred in the motorcycle gang movie The Born Losers. This was the very first film that the Billy Jack character appeared in.
It was in 1971 that he followed up with a sequel called Billy Jack. He made it independently and with his own cash. The many political mentioning and also frontal nudity made numerous studios extremely leery of the movie. But Warner Bros. eventually agreed to market it. Laughlin became upset with how the film studio was promoting the movie, so he sued in court to get it back. He won his case and then he released the film himself.
This second release got a lot attention and helped create box-office success. But it also brought controversy. In the movie Laughlin played the main character who was a vigilante previous Vietnam War hero who protects a hippie sort of school and the students counter-culture.
Billy Jack appeared to be telling everyone that a gun was better than the constitution in the execution of justice. “So is America’s only hope that the good fascists end up beating the bad fascists?” Roger Ebert asked in a film review of Billy Jack.
Laughlin stated that the youth of the United States only have two heroes. They are Ralph Nader and Billy Jack. This was said after the film became a big hit, mainly with younger generation of moviegoers.
Billy Jack ended up being one of the very first films that introduced martial arts to mainstream audiences that went to the movies in the U.S.
Laughlin was considered a nonconformist in many ways. In the early 1960’s, he briefly left behind his movie career to start a Montessori preschool in southern California. It would later become the largest school of this kind in the entire United States.
In the most recent years, he had become interested in psychology and domestic abuse treatment. He wrote numerous books on Jungian psychology and came up with numerous theories on what were some of the causes of cancer. He also contended for the position of President of the United States in the years of 1992, 2004 and 2008.
His initial movie career had him star in roles in feature films such as Tea and Sympathy and South Pacific. He had his first starring role in Robert Altman’s 1957 film The Delinquents.
Tom Laughlin, better known as Billy Jack, has died.
By Kimberly Ruble