Since publishing his best-selling book, Midnight Express, BILLY HAYES has had an extensive career as an actor, director, screenwriter and public speaker. His second book, Midnight Return, explores his life after prison and the parallel lives of those he left behind. Completing the trilogy in early 2013, Hayes published The Midnight Express Letters: From a Turkish Prison 1970-1975.
Hayes has written and directed several plays including Cock & Bull Story, which received the 1992 L.A. Drama Critics Circle, L.A. Weekly, and Drama-Logue awards. He then wrote and directed the film version which had a vibrant life on the festival circuit. He directed the Amnesty International production of William Inge’s award-winning The Last Pad in Los Angeles. Hayes adapted the prison drama The Cage for an all-female cast in New York City and performed in it himself in LA at the original Odyssey Theatre. His direction of Washington Square Moves earned the 1993 LA Weekly Production of the Year award. He also staged the critically acclaimed Break of Day at the Lillian Theatre. In 2006 Hayes received the LA Weekly Best Actor Award for his performance in the one-act play, Shuffle, Shuffle, Step, a tribute to Samuel Becket. He is a member of the Actors’ Studio West Playwright/Director Unit.
Hayes has written the screenplays, Pamplona and Kauai. His TV credits include directing episodes of the series Copper as well as developing and co-producing the CBS TV movie, The Bachelor’s Baby, starring Scott Bakula.
Billy’s desire to tell his own story and to correct the misconceptions created by the highly fictionalized motion picture version of Midnight Express led him to write his one-man show, Riding the Midnight Express with Billy Hayes. The work attracted producer Barbara Ligeti, who stepped in to guide the development, taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013. The rest is history.
Even in these politically tumultuous times, Hayes continues to work to correct the negative images of Turkey and the Turkish people created when the film was released. In 2007, he was invited back to Turkey to speak to a convention of law enforcement officials. In 2014, during the Off-Broadway run of Riding the Midnight Express with Billy Hayes at the Barrow Street Theatre, the Consul General of Turkey invited Hayes to raise the Turkish flag over Wall Street, in honor of the anniversary of the founding of the modern day Turkish Republic. His life-long journey had finally come full-circle.
A documentary, Midnight Return – The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey has recently been released and is playing to enthusiastic audiences on the festival circuit.
Hayes credits the Yoga he has practiced every day since he was incarcerated with getting him through the hard times and keeping him centered. Billy met his wife, Wendy West, at the Cannes Film Festival when Midnight Express premiered there in 1978. They’ve been married since 1980 and currently live in Las Vegas.