Billy Hayes Midnight Express The Book, The Movie, The Letters and The Ballet

pic midnight express dvd coverAfter Spending 5 Years in a Turkish Prison and Asylum for a Drug Smuggling Charge Billy Mays Speaks Out About The Book, The Movie, His Letters and Now a New Ballet.

When I found out I would get a chance to speak with Billy Hayes about his book and movie Midnight Express I jumped on the opportunity.

Right after watching the movie I found myself in South America in a situation I had not figured on… I was caught by the Columbian police for pot possession! All I could think of was the Midnight Express Movie and I could imagine myself laying on the floor of a dingy foreign prison eating roaches off the floor for food and living in my own filth.

The pot was not mine, but the cops didn’t care, but they did take a bribe and I never was actually arrested…. phewwww. I can only imagine that I am one of thousands of kids overseas that have gotten into some terrible circumstance through their own or not of their own stupidity… Scary!

Actually when I think of all the stupid stuff I used to do in Columbia and in the states… I get the shivers.. Well these are stories for another time, but for now, by the grace of God, somehow I made it through unscathed.

Billy was a great interview and we got a chance to really dig in here so thanks to Billy for his wonderful attitude and his brilliant candor.

This is now one of my favorite interviews.. – JW

billy hayes mugshot Billy Hayes

Billy Hayes has been writing, speaking, acting, and directing since the book he wrote about his experience in a Turkish prison, Midnight Express, was made into an Academy Award-winning film which was released 35 years ago.  Initially published in 1977 and reprinted numerous times, it is being republished as a new edition by CBP, pub date May 20, 2013, $15.99, softcover, $7.99 ebook.  Simultaneously, The Midnight Express Letters: From a

Turkish Prison 1970-1975, an annotated collection of the raw source material of Midnight Express in his original words, debuts for the first time on May 20, 2013, and is also published by CBP, $15.99 softcover, $9.99 ebook.

Billy Hayes

Hayes has acted extensively in film, theater, and television, and was honored with a Best Actor Award (L.A. Weekly) for his 2006 performance in a tribute to Samuel Beckett, Shuffle, Shuffle, Step.

After directing the critically acclaimed and award-winning Cock & Bull Story at the Fountainhead Theatre in Los Angeles, Hayes went on to direct a feature film version starring Brian Austin Green, garnering attention at film festivals around the world.

Other directing credits include the award-winning William Inge play, The Last Pad, produced by Ammnesty International in Los Angeles; The Cage at New York City’s Neighborhood Group Theater; and the Los Angeles Production of the Year (L.A. Weekly), Washington Square Moves, and for which the NAACP honored Hayes with a Best Director nomination.  He directed episodes of the TV series Copper, produced and directed the documentary Angel Food, and developed and co-produced The Bachelor’s Baby, a CBS movie of the week starring Scott Bakula.  Hayes is a member of the Actors’ Studio West Playwright/Director Unit.

BillyHayes 02Hayes worked as an artist member of Inside Out, using theater skills therapeutically with both

at-risk youth and disturbed, incarcerated patients in a hospital setting.  He has also shared the lessons of his life experience mentoring homeless youths at the L.A. Free Clinic and in extensive speaking engagements at universities across North America.  He’s also an outspoken advocate of legalizing all illegal drugs.

In 2010 the National Geographic series Locked Up Abroad gave Hayes a chance to retell his story to a new worldwide audience. He is now preparing a one-man show, Riding the Midnight Express, for the New York stage, and will be in London early in April for the ballet based on Midnight Express, being presented at the London Coliseum.

Hayes lives with his wife, Wendy, in Los Angeles.

book midnight express 3d coverMidnight Express Book

Los Angeles, CA… Midnight Express, published by CBP, $15.99 softcover, $7.99 ebook,  the book that tells the true story of Billy Hayes when he was arrested for drug smuggling in Istanbul in 1970 and sentenced to 30 years in a Turkish prison, is being rereleased on May 20.

Simultaneously, The Midnight Express Letters, also published by CBP, $15.99 softcover, $9.99 ebook, will be published.  These are the letters Billy wrote during his five years of imprisonment.

Midnight Express tells the gut-wrenching true story of a young man’s incarceration and escape from a Turkish prison. A classic story of survival and human endurance, told with humor, honesty, and heart, it became the Academy Award-winning blockbuster film of the same name.

In 1970 Billy Hayes was an English major who left college in search of adventures to write about, like his hero Jack London. He had a rude awakening when he was arrested at the airport in Istanbul trying to board a plane while carrying four pounds of hashish, and given a life sentence. After five brutal years, relentless efforts by his family to gain his release, and endless escape plotting, Hayes finally took matters into his own hands.

On a dark night, in a wailing storm he began a desperate and daring escape to freedom… This is the astounding journey, told in Billy Hayes’s own words, of those five years of living hell and of the harrowing ordeal of his time on the run.

Midnight Express was made into an Academy Award-wining movie by Columbia Pictures.  This is the 35th anniversary of its release.  It is a classic story of survival and human endurance, told with humor, intelligence and honesty.  It’s no wonder that Billy Hayes, as the focal point of the story, has attracted a strong cult following and is a sought-after inspirational speaker.

Interestingly, the release of Hayes’ books follows on the heels of the Midnight Express opening as a ballet at the London Coliseum in April.

Learn more at

book midnight express lettersMidnight Express Letters

The Midnight Express Letters is a compelling collection of letters that Billy Hayes wrote to his family, girlfriend, and friends during his years in a Turkish prison. Here is the raw source material from which Midnight Express—the worldwide best-selling book and Academy Award-winning film–is drawn.

Together with annotation, photos, and images of the handwritten pages, these letters tell Billy’s story of both the events and the inner journey, in his original words, with the urgency and intimacy of the moment.

In 1970 Billy Hayes was an English major who left college in search of adventures to write about, like his hero Jack London. He had a rude awakening when he was arrested at the airport in Istanbul trying to board a plane while carrying four pounds of hashish, and given a life sentence.

After five brutal years, relentless efforts by his family to gain his release, and endless escape plotting, Billy took matters into his own hands and pulled off a daring escape to freedom. Soon after, he wrote Midnight Express.

pic midnight express dvd coverMidnight Express Movie

From Amazon

Forever embroiled in controversy, Midnight Express divides viewers into opposing camps: those who think it’s one of the most intense real-life dramas ever made, and those who abhor its manipulative tactics and alteration of facts for the exploitative purpose of achieving a desired effect.
That effect is powerfully achieved, regardless of how you may feel about director Alan Parker and Oscar®-winning screenwriter Oliver Stone’s interpretation of the story of Billy Hayes. It was the American Hayes–played by the late Brad Davis in an unforgettable performance–who was caught smuggling two kilograms of hashish while attempting to board a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, in 1970.
He was sentenced to four years in a hellish Turkish prison on a drug possession charge, but his sentence was later extended (though not by 30 years, as the film suggests), and Hayes endured unthinkable brutality and torture before his escape in 1975.
Unquestionably, this is a superbly crafted film, provoking a visceral response that’s powerful enough to boil your blood. By the time Hayes erupts in an explosion of self-defensive violence, Parker and Stone have proven the power–and danger–of their skill.
Their film is deeply manipulative, extremely xenophobic, and embellishes reality to heighten its calculated impact. Is that a crime? Not necessarily, and there’s no doubt that Midnight Express is expertly directed and blessed with exceptional supporting performances (especially from John Hurt as a long-term prisoner). Still, it’s obvious that strings are being pulled, and Parker, while applying his talent to a nefarious purpose, is a masterful puppeteer. Jeff Shannon

With the Turkish government trying to crack down on drugs, terrorism and crime, Billy Hayes has the misfortune of being caught at the border with a hashish stash.

At first sentenced to four years and two months for drug possession, his prison term grows to 30 years when the prosecution’s appeal finds him guilty of smuggling.

Pleas from his parents, litigation from his lawyer and actions from the U.S. Embassy amount to nothing.

Things get worse when Hayes is sent to a detention center for the mentally unstable after he bites off a warden’s tongue to prevent him from divulging his escape plans.

Forced to struggle with daily violence, despair and abuse, he finally reaches his breaking point and is willing to do anything to escape.

Knowing that he is on his own, Hayes has one risk left to take: riding his own Midnight Express.

Midnight Express BalletMidnight Express Ballet

Istanbul airport, 1970.

For Billy Hayes, waiting to board the plane that will take him home to America, a living nightmare is about to begin. With 4lbs of hashish stowed in his bag, the prospect of being caught it too horrific to imagine – until it happens. Billy is arrested for drug smuggling, tried, and sentenced to thirty years in a Turkish Prison.

This is the astounding true story, of five shockingly brutal years spent in incarceration; of the fear, degradation and desperation that eventually prompted a daring escape bid. The ballet concentrates of Billy’s relationships with his fellow inmates and the cruel conditions they were held in.


A  ballet in two acts, based on the true story of Bllly Hayes, choreographed by Peter Schaufuss & Set/Lighting Design by Steven Scott.

Olivier and Evening Standard award winning dancer, director and choreographer Peter Schaufuss presents the UK Premiere of his acclaimed ballet Midnight Express, an original production based on Billy Hayes’s bestselling 1977 book.

Following the controversial and widely debated Tchaikovsky Triple Bill, Midnight Express is set to dazzle admirers of Peter Schaufuss’s unconventional style but also inspire anyone who identifies with the themes of Billy Hayes’s book.

Midnight Express is performed to a specially conceived and mastered sound track.

Midnight Return

For Billy Hayes, being arrested in 1970 and sentenced to life in a Turkish prison was both the worst and best thing that ever happened to him.

As chronicled in the book and film, Midnight Express, and now in the sequel book, Midnight Return, this fascinating journey into peril, fame, and fortune was a strange voyage of discovery that extended far out beyond the bars–from the isolation of a prison cell to worldwide notoriety.

Midnight Return takes us on that ride, using photos, maps, and old handwritten letters in this vivid portrait of a most unusual experience.

Billy Hayes Main Site


Thank You to

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