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Bill Hayes

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William “Billy” Hayes (born April 3, 1947 in New York) is an American writer, actor and director. He is best known for his autobiographical book Midnight Express, about his experiences in and escape from a Turkish prison after being convicted of smuggling hashish.

Hayes, an American student, was caught trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey in 1970. He was originally sentenced to four years and two months in a Turkish prison; with his release date weeks away, he learned that the authorities had chosen to penalize him with a life sentence. He escaped in 1975 to Greece, and then home.

Hayes wrote a book on his ordeal, Midnight Express, which later became the hit film Midnight Express, released in 1978, starring Brad Davis as Hayes. The film was directed by Alan Parker, with a screenplay by Oliver Stone. The movie differs from Hayes’ real life experiences in a number of respects, including a scene in which Hayes kills the prison guard Hamid, the main antagonist of the story. Nothing of the kind took place in real life, when in fact the prison guard was murdered by another prisoner years before Hayes’ actual escape.

Hayes is still active in the entertainment industry, specifically acting and writing. One of his successes was writing and directing 2003’s Southside (later released as Cock and Bull Story in the US).


Interview on Midnight Express film
During the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, Alinur Velidedeoğlu, a Turkish advertiser, met Billy Hayes by chance and interviewed him on the film Midnight Express. Hayes expressed his disappointment with parts of the film adaptation, especially its portrayal of all Turks as bad, and his regret that Turkey’s image was negatively affected by the film.

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