Billy Hayes spent most of the seventies in a Turkish prison after trying to smuggle hash out of the country. His experiences were made into the film Midnight Express, which starred the late Brad Davis, and he is now a happily married film maker living and working in LA.
His 2002 directorial debut was with the film Cock and Bull Story, a violent but earnest tale about a sexually confused boxer and his friendship with a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
Billy spoke with Mark Adnum in March 2003.
MARK ADNUM: Billy, my first love was Brad Davis as yourself in the 1976 film Midnight Express. It’s a performance that’s had an impact on a lot of people. What response have you had to it, at the time of the film’s release, and over time in the almost thirty year’s since?
BILLY HAYES: I loved what Brad did because his heart was into it. He touched people, like yourself, for example, and that’s what I still want to do—affect people and change the world in whatever small or large way I can.
MA: Most people, when they think of “Billy Hayes”, imagine Davis, the sexily suicidal movie star who doesn’t resemble you physically or otherwise. Apart from your book, your profile is limited, and the film didn’t stay true to all the facts you detailed in your memoir. What’s it like to have a partly-fictionalised reputation, personified by someone else?
BH: My reputation, like all of us, is a Rashomon-like portrait. All I can do is try and stay true to my heart, which guides me. The fictionalized part is due to the film’s liberties, the book’s inability to say everything I wanted, although it’s a fairly accurate rendition of who I am, or rather, who I was. Hopefully one is constantly growing and changing…
FORTUNE AND MEN’S EYES
Director: Harvey Hart, Jules Schwerin
Stars: Wendell Burton, Michael Greer, Zooey Hall
Tom of Finland meets “Banana Splits” in the completely stupid Fortune and Men’s Eyes.
Doe-eyed hottie Smitty (Wendell Burton) gets six months in the Canadian clink for using pot. Smitty’s prison life initially seems much like a boys boarding school – roughhousing high jinx, buddies, power plays, and the lurking suggestion of male-male sex. He’s shocked to find, then, that gang raping is common, and is only preventable by being another powerful inmate’s exclusive bitch. Smitty reluctantly chooses to marry up with Rocky (Zooey Hall) who expects him to bend over and put out whenever he’s asked, and, when he’s not busy with that, make Rocky’s bed and fetch him hot drinks.
UN CHANT D’AMOUR
Director: Jean Genet
Available on DVD - order here
Review by Mark Simpson
I had already wondered what would become of the meeting of a handsome young guard and a handsome young criminal,” wrote Jean Genet in his 1943 debut prison novel, Our Lady of the Flowers, penned while he was himself serving a life sentence as a persistent petty criminal, one that would only end when he received a State Pardon arranged by Jean Cocteau’s lawyer. “I took delight in the following two images: a bloody and moral shock, or a sparkling embrace in a riot of spunk and panting…”.
Well, you would Jean.…