Tom Laughlin, Star Of “Billy Jack,” Dies At Age 82By: Tobias Roth - December 15, 2013
Another silver screen legend has passed away. Tom Laughlin, the star of the groundbreaking film Billy Jack, has died. The well-known actor died Thursday at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.
His daughter, Teresa Laughlin said that the cause of death was due to complications from pneumonia. He was 82 when he died.
Tom Laughlin’s hit film Billy Jack was released in 1971 after a long struggle to get the film made on a low budget, and went on to become a big hit. He wrote, directed, and produced the film, in addition to starring in the title role, in a way that was not done at the time.
His wife was also a part of his film-making process, and he created Billy Jack with his wife and collaborator, Delores Taylor.
The film told the story of an ex-Green Beret who defends a progressive school against the racists of a conservative Western community. It became a hit for those involved in the counterculture. It became a favorite for those in the anti-war movement due to its message, and the character of Billy Jack was half-white, half Native American, and a Vietnam veteran who had come to hate war.
While Billy Jack was his most famous film, Tom Laughlin also appeared in The Big Sleep, The Delinquents, South Pacific, and several others. Billy Jack also spawned several sequels including Billy Jack Goes To Washington, a remake of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
In addition to being a filmmaker, like his Billy Jack character, he was an opponent of nuclear energy, and a longtime advocate for Native Americans. He also formed a bond with Marlon Brando, a fellow actor-activist.
Hollywood also lost another legendary actor over the weekend, when the news was announced today of the death of Peter O’Toole, an actor most known for Lawrence Of Arabia.
Laughlin was in his mid-30’s when he created the film. It initially flopped at the box office, but has become an inspiration for independent filmmakers in the way Tom Laughlin was able to get it made. Recently, he had written books, and had attempted to make another Billy Jack movie.
While he attempted and failed to make another film in relation to Billy Jack, there would be the interest, but then something would always happen. His daughter talked about the situation, and stated “One of the prime reasons that he couldn’t get a deal was his failing health and, I think, his inability to come to terms with that. In his mind’s eye, he remained Billy Jack.”
Tom Laughlin will always be remembered for his role in Billy Jack, and will be missed by all who loved his classic film, and as a member of Hollywood.
Image via Youtube