‘Midnight Express' escapee will finally tell his story
The Turkish government held Billy Hayes prisoner for five long years and Oliver Stone wrote an Oscar-winning screenplay about Hayes’ hellish ordeal and eventual escape, but the convicted drug smuggler thinks the Eurasian nation took a bad rap from the 1978 film “Midnight Express.”
Hayes will finally get a chance to set the record straight when he tells his own story beginning at 8 p.m. central time Wednesday on the season premiere of the National Geographic Channel’s “Locked Up Abroad.”
“I mean when you look at ‘Midnight Express’ the film, you don’t see any good Turks at all,” Hayes said in a recent interview at The Oklahoman. “It creates this overall impression that Turkey is this horrific place. Well, that’s not fair to Turkey. I love Istanbul. I actually spent quite a bit of time in Istanbul before I was arrested.”
The film is based on Hayes’ autobiography, but Hayes said even his own book doesn’t tell the full story of his imprisonment in 1970 and his escape in 1975.
“When I first got back, to write this book I had legal restrictions,” he said. “There were things I really couldn’t say, in terms of what happened in the past with my life, now that I was back in the United States, due to the legal jeopardy that it might put me in. So I had to be a little circumspect in what I said in the book.”
Hayes, 63, has been working as a writer, actor, producer and director in theater and film ever since. He’s married to Wendy West, daughter of Jackie West, who was for many years a
driving force in Oklahoma City’s theater community before her death on May 4. Hayes was in Oklahoma City recently for Jackie West’s memorial service.
“One of the reasons that I think Jackie accepted me as a son-in-law so readily was because she loved theater,” the New York native said. “When she first met me I was an escaped convict drug smuggler, and a Yankee no less … I actually met Wendy, of all places, at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978 when ‘Midnight Express’ was premiered there.”
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