20 June 2007

1756) The Real Billy Hayes Regrets 'Midnight Express' Cast All Turks In A Bad Light


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Billy Hayes: "I Prefer Turkish Prisons To Those Of America"


By JOHN FLINN
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

In the history of cinema, has any film done more to blacken a nation's reputation among travelers than "Midnight Express"? A quarter of a century after its release, people still cite it as a reason for steering clear of Turkey. .

The movie is based on the true story of Billy Hayes, a young American caught trying to smuggle 4 1/2 pounds of hashish out of Turkey in 1970.

Thrown into a hellhole of a Turkish prison, he's tortured by sadistic guards, betrayed by corrupt lawyers and toyed with by capricious judges before he finally escapes.  This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians  Site © Click For Larger Image

The 1978 movie, with its Oliver Stone screenplay, still holds up as a masterful piece of filmmaking -- a harrowing nail-biter from start to end.

There's no doubt the movie is a chilling and powerful cautionary tale, but here's the thing: Most viewers come away with the wrong message. That's the opinion of Hayes himself.

"The message of 'Midnight Express' isn't 'Don't go to Turkey,' " he said recently. "It's 'Don't be an idiot like I was, and try to smuggle drugs.' "

Hayes, now 56, lives in Los Angeles, where he works in the entertainment industry. He recently made his directorial debut with the indie film "Cock & Bull Story," but he'll always be known as the guy whose story was told in "Midnight Express."

He said he feels awful that the film gave a brutal reputation to the entire nation of Turkey. The cruel and barbaric prison conditions depicted in the movie were accurate, he said, but they were hardly unique to that country. Malaysia, Thailand and any number of other places were -- and are -- just as bad.

"This story," Hayes said, "could have happened in a variety of countries."

It also bothers him, he said, that "Midnight Express" depicts all Turks as monsters.

"I loved the movie, but I wish they'd shown some good Turks. You don't see a single one in the movie, and there were a lot of them, even in the prison. It created this impression that all Turks are like the people in 'Midnight Express.' ... I wish they'd shown some of the milk of human kindness I (also) witnessed."

Hayes said he wouldn't hesitate to return to Turkey -- if he could. "I'd love to go back. I really loved that country -- except for the five years I spent in prison. I loved the Turkish people."

For years, he stayed away because Interpol held a warrant for his arrest.

Interestingly, Turkey turned his name over to the international police agency not after he escaped from prison, nor after he wrote a book about the episode, but after the film came out.

The warrant expired five years ago, but Hayes has another reason for avoiding Turkey: He fears he'd be held responsible for all the trouble "Midnight Express" has caused its tourism industry.

"There's no doubt it changed the whole face of Turkish tourism," he said. "I'd really like to go back, but I'm afraid about the fallout from people who lost business. It's not fair. The burden fell on people who weren't to blame."

Amazingly, a large number of Americans have failed to heed the real message of the movie. Each year, on average, 1,000 Americans are arrested in foreign countries on drug charges.

While many are quickly released, roughly 1,600 are currently held in foreign prisons, often in conditions similar to those endured by Hayes, according to Stuart Patt of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs.

"Prison conditions in much of the world are pretty horrible," acknowledged Dick Atkins, a Philadelphia attorney who specializes in freeing Americans from these situations. "And the criminal justice systems in a lot of countries are just as bizarre as the one in the movie. It's important to remember that when you travel abroad, your rights as an American citizen don't come with you."



Video Interview : Billy Hayes "Midnight Express"

part 1


Part 2:



Alinur Velidedeoğlu
1999 Cannes Film Festival

'Midnight Express' Man Returns To Turkey To Mend Fences
June 18, 2007
ISTANBUL - Agence France Presse

Billy Hayes, the American whose ordeal in a Turkish jail provided the basis for the 1978 classic "Midnight Express," has returned to Turkey in a bid to mend fences over the damage the movie caused to the country's image abroad. In 1970, Hayes, then aged 23, was caught at an Istanbul airport trying to smuggle hashish and sentenced to 30 years. He managed to escape from jail and the book he wrote about his ordeal was adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Stone and the movie, directed by Alan Parker, won two Oscars. Back in Istanbul after three decades to attend an international security conference in Ceylan Hotel, Hayes admitted that the image the movie created of Turkey and the Turkish people "was not fair to them or true to my experience." It was obvious that he was having a hard time trying to speak in Turkish even though he spent so many years in Istanbul. "I did not write the screenplay or direct the film, but I should accept my share of responsibility for the damage it has done," he was quoted as telling reporters Friday. "I accept that I was the responsible one for the movie, and I always wanted to come back to Istanbul to correct the wrongs that 'Midnight Express' did," he said. Hayes had been barred from returning to Turkey but police said the ban had been lifted temporarily because he was "sincere in his remorse."

Hayes thinks none of the prisons in the world are good and they shouldn't be. According to him some of the guardians behaved harshly but most of them were humane toward the prisoners. But the movie didn't have any good Turkish characters. Hayes emphasized that there are many differences between the book and the movie.

The movie, which depicts a dreadful life in a Turkish prison with horrific scenes of torture and rape, has been denounced in Turkey as a racist portrayal of the country, in which every local character, without exception, is depicted as a villain. Even though torture was widespread in Turkish jails at the time, Stone has been criticized for having taken some questionable liberties in the screenplay with regard to Hayes' book. Stone also visited Istanbul in 2004 and said he "never intended to be against Turkey" and that "perhaps some of the zealousness... came from being young and trying to make the point too much." "Midnight Express" was banned in Turkey for many years after its release and was shown on Turkish television only in the 1990s.Hayes, after returning to California, wrote another book titled, “Midnight Return.” He came to Turkey with a special visa for seven days.



Real-Life 'Midnight Express' Character Visits Turkey To 'Make Amends'
© AP 2007-06-15
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Billy Hayes, whose ordeal in a Turkish prison was adapted into the 1978 Academy Award-winning movie «Midnight Express,» said Friday he wanted to «make amends» for the damage the film had caused Turkey. The Hollywood drama about an American imprisoned and brutalized in Turkey after being caught for drug smuggling has long tarnished Turkey's image abroad. The film was adapted from Hayes' book of the same name.

Hayes was in Istanbul to attend an international security conference. «I didn't write or direct the film, but I must accept my share of responsibility for the damage this film has done,» he told reporters at a news conference. «It created a terrible impression of Turkey and the Turkish people that was not fair to them or true to my experience.

«The portrayal of prison and the Turks in the movie was not accurate, and it left the false impression that all Turks were like those in the film,» he said. Director Oliver Stone, who wrote the screenplay for «Midnight Express,» visited Turkey in 2004 to promote another film and said he regretted that «many hearts were broken in Turkey» following the film's release. The film was banned in Turkey for many years after its release, but has since been broadcast on Turkish television channels.

Hayes said he had made similar statements about the film in the past, but «my small voice is drowned out by the powerful images on the screen. «I have always wanted to return to Turkey to make amends for the wrong that 'Midnight Express' has done,» Hayes said. «Making these statements at this conference with the world listening, Inshallah (God Willing) these things will come to pass.



ISTANBUL (AFP) - In 1970, Hayes, then aged 23, was caught at an Istanbul airport trying to smuggle hashish and sentenced to 30 years.

He managed to escape from jail and the book he wrote about his ordeal was adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Stone and the movie, directed by Alan Parker, won two Oscars.

Back in Istanbul after three decades to attend an international security conference, Hayes admitted that the image the movie created of Turkey and the Turkish people "was not fair to them or true to my experience."

"I did not write the screenplay or direct the film, but I should accept my share of responsibility for the damage it has done," he was quoted as telling reporters Friday.

"I always wanted to come back to Istanbul to correct the wrongs that 'Midnight Express' did," he said.

Hayes had been barred from returning to Turkey but police said the ban had been lifted temporarily because he was "sincere in his remorse".

The movie, which depicts a dreadful life in a Turkish prison with horrific scenes of torture and rape, has been denounced in Turkey as a racist portrayal of the country, in which every local character, without exception, is depicted as a villain.

Even though torture was widespread in Turkish jails at the time, Stone has been criticised for having taken some questionable liberties in the screenplay with regard to Hayes' book.

Stone also visited Istanbul in 2004 and said he "never intended to be against Turkey" and that "perhaps some of the zealousness... came from being young and trying to make the point too much."

"Midnight Express" was banned in Turkey for many years after its release and was shown on Turkish television only in the 1990s.
©AFP



Author Apologizes for ‘Midnight Express’
Billy Hayes has apologized to Turkey for the depiction of the country in “Midnight Express,” the 1978 Alan Parker film based on an Oscar-winning Oliver Stone screenplay about Mr. Hayes’s ordeal in a Turkish prison where he was serving 30 years for attempting to smuggle hashish, Agence France-Presse reported. “I did not write the screenplay or direct the film, but I should accept my share of responsibility for the damage it has done,” he was quoted as telling reporters on Friday. He said that the image of Turkey and the Turkish people created by the film “was not fair to them or true to my experience.” Mr. Hayes, whose book about his ordeal, including his escape, was the basis for the screenplay, was back in Istanbul for an international security conference. Although he had been barred from returning, the police said the ban had been lifted temporarily because Mr. Hayes was “sincere in his remorse.” Mr. Stone, who visited Turkey in 2004, said he never intended “to be against Turkey” and that “perhaps some of the zealousness” of the film “came from being young and trying to make the point too much.”



32 Years After Escape, Hayes Returns To Turkey
BY JOHN VALENTI
john.valenti@newsday.com
June 13, 2007
The story of his nightmarish incarceration in a Turkish prison and his harrowing escape back to the United States terrified anyone who ever saw the 1978 movie "Midnight Express."

But on Thursday, 32 years after his daring prison escape, William James Hayes -- or Billy Hayes from North Babylon -- is scheduled to be back in Istanbul, Turkey.

Not to serve out the remainder of his state-imposed 30-year sentence for trying to smuggle 4.3 pounds of hashish out of Turkey in 1970, but as a featured guest speaker at the 2nd Istanbul Conference on Democracy and Global Security -- invited at the request of the Turkish National Police.

Reached at his hotel in Istanbul, Hayes, now 60, described the arrangements with Turkish officials surrounding his return as "delicate" and declined comment. He said any premature reporting of his trip could jeopardize his appearance.

Reached at her home in West Babylon, his 83-year-old mother, Dorothy, told Newsday her son called last week to tell her about his plans.

She said she tried to talk him out of it, then went to St. Joseph's Church in Kings Park and lit a prayer candle for him.

"I'm not crazy about it, but it's what he wanted to do," Dorothy T. Hayes said. "I didn't think he'd ever go back there. But he said he was looking forward to it ... He likes the Turkish people, he just didn't care for the Turkish jails."

Hayes' former attorney and longtime friend, Michael Griffith of Southampton, called it "incredible." He said Hayes called him Tuesday, saying he was headed to Los Angeles International Airport -- en route to Paris, then on to Istanbul.

"It seems crazy," he said. "It's hard to believe he was really going back there."

Hayes grew up in North Babylon and was a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee when he was arrested at the Istanbul airport trying to smuggle about two kilos of hashish taped to his body on a flight to the U.S.

A national court sentenced Hayes to a four-year prison term. But near the end of that term, amid a political dispute over U.S. aide to Turkey, the sentence was appealed -- and on Sept. 10, 1973, Judge Rasih Cerikcioglu of the Sixth Heavy Duty Penalty Court in Istanbul apologetically sentenced the then 26-year-old Hayes to an additional 30 years in prison, telling him through a translator that he had no choice. Newsday reported Cerikcioglu claimed he had been ordered to uphold a prior court decision.

In 1975, Griffith, hired by Hayes, said he was working on an international agreement that would have transferred custody of Hayes to U.S. law enforcement officials, who had agreed to release him upon his return to the U.S. Instead, Hayes escaped, crossed into Greece and returned to the U.S.

In recent years, Hayes, who is married and living in Los Angeles, has worked as a filmmaker. Griffith said Hayes hopes to produce a documentary about the aftermath of his escape and his return to Istanbul.

On Wednesday, Dorothy Hayes said: "When he gets home, then I'll be happy."



'Midnight Express' Hero On Fence-Mending Turkey Trip
June 18, 2007
ISTANBUL -- Billy Hayes, the American whose ordeal in a Turkish jail provided the basis for the 1978 classic Midnight Express, has returned to Turkey in a bid to mend fences over the damage the movie caused to the country's image abroad, newspapers reported Saturday.

In 1970, Hayes, then aged 23, was caught at an Istanbul airport trying to smuggle hashish and sentenced to 30 years.

He managed to escape from jail and the book that he wrote about his ordeal was adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Stone and the movie, directed by Alan Parker, won two Oscars.

Back in Istanbul after three decades to attend an international security conference, Hayes admitted that the image that the movie created of Turkey and the Turkish people "was not fair to them or true to my experience."

"I did not write the screenplay or direct the film, but I should accept my share of responsibility for the damage it has done," he was quoted as telling reporters Friday. "I always wanted to come back to Istanbul to correct the wrongs that Midnight Express did," he said.

Hayes had been barred from returning to Turkey but police said that the ban had been lifted temporarily because he was "sincere in his remorse."

The movie, which depicts a dreadful life in a Turkish prison with horrific scenes of torture and rape, has been denounced in Turkey as a racist portrayal of the country, in which every local character, without exception, is depicted as a villain.

Even though torture was widespread in Turkish jails at the time, Stone has been criticized for having taken some questionable liberties in the screenplay with regard to Hayes' book.

Stone also visited Istanbul in 2004 and said that he "never intended to be against Turkey" and that "perhaps some of the zealousness ... came from being young and trying to make the point too much."

Midnight Express was banned in Turkey for many years after its release and was shown on Turkish television only in the 1990s. ?

'Midnight Express' hero returns to Turkey to mend fences

Billy Hayes, the American whose ordeal in a Turkish jail provided the basis for the 1978 classic "Midnight Express," has returned to Turkey in a bid to mend fences over the damage the movie caused to the country's image abroad, newspapers reported Saturday.

In 1970, Hayes, then aged 23, was caught at an Istanbul airport trying to smuggle hashish and sentenced to 30 years.

He managed to escape from jail and the book he wrote about his ordeal was adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Stone and the movie, directed by Alan Parker, won two Oscars.

Back in Istanbul after three decades to attend an international security conference, Hayes admitted that the image the movie created of Turkey and the Turkish people "was not fair to them or true to my experience."

"I did not write the screenplay or direct the film, but I should accept my share of responsibility for the damage it has done," he was quoted as telling reporters Friday.

"I always wanted to come back to Istanbul to correct the wrongs that 'Midnight Express' did," he said.

Hayes had been barred from returning to Turkey but police said the ban had been lifted temporarily because he was "sincere in his remorse".

The movie, which depicts a dreadful life in a Turkish prison with horrific scenes of torture and rape, has been denounced in Turkey as a racist portrayal of the country, in which every local character, without exception, is depicted as a villain.

Even though torture was widespread in Turkish jails at the time, Stone has been criticised for having taken some questionable liberties in the screenplay with regard to Hayes' book.

Stone also visited Istanbul in 2004 and said he "never intended to be against Turkey" and that "perhaps some of the zealousness... came from being young and trying to make the point too much."

"Midnight Express" was banned in Turkey for many years after its release and was shown on Turkish television only in the 1990s.



'Midnight Express' hero returns to Turkey

June 18, 2007

Billy Hayes, the American whose ordeal in a Turkish jail provided the basis for the 1978 classic "Midnight Express," has returned to Turkey in a bid to mend fences over the damage the movie caused to the country's image abroad, newspapers reported Saturday.

In 1970, Hayes, then aged 23, was caught at an Istanbul airport trying to smuggle hashish and sentenced to 30 years. He managed to escape from jail and the book he wrote about his ordeal was adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Stone and the movie, directed by Alan Parker, won two Oscars.

Back in Istanbul after three decades to attend an international security conference, Hayes admitted that the image the movie created of Turkey and the Turkish people "was not fair to them or true to my experience."

"I did not write the screenplay or direct the film, but I should accept my share of responsibility for the damage it has done," he was quoted as telling reporters Friday. "I always wanted to come back to Istanbul to correct the wrongs that 'Midnight Express' did," he said.

Hayes had been barred from returning to Turkey but police said the ban had been lifted temporarily because he was "sincere in his remorse".

The movie, which depicts a dreadful life in a Turkish prison with horrific scenes of torture and rape, has been denounced in Turkey as a racist portrayal of the country, in which every local character, without exception, is depicted as a villain.

Even though torture was widespread in Turkish jails at the time, Stone has been criticized for having taken some questionable liberties in the screenplay with regard to Hayes' book. Stone also visited Istanbul in 2004 and said he "never intended to be against Turkey" and that "perhaps some of the zealousness... came from being young and trying to make the point too much."

"Midnight Express" was banned in Turkey for many years after its release and was shown on Turkish television only in the 1990s.- AFP

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