In a fascinating interview with the New York Times Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor, the husband and wife team that brought us Billy Jack – the classic outsider hero of the 60s/70s – says they are going to make a new film. They are looking at combining the film with political activism around the Iraq war:
“We despise both political parties, really loathe them,” he said. (“We” might be Mr. Laughlin and his alter ego, or it might include his wife, Delores Taylor, who played Billy Jack’s pacifist partner, Jean; but one doesn’t interrupt the man lightly.)
“We the people have no representative of any kind,” he continued. “It’s now the multinationals. They’ve taken over. It’s no different than the 70′s, but it’s gotten worse. And if you use words like ‘impeachment’ or ‘fascist’ you’re a nut on a soapbox.”
So Mr. Laughlin and Ms. Taylor are planning to bring their characters back to the big screen with a new $12 million sequel, raising money from individuals just as they did to make their films three decades ago.
In this new film, they say, they will take on social scourges like drugs, and power players like the religious right. They say they will also outline a way to end the current war and launch a political campaign for a third-party presidential candidate.
They have already formed a 527 nonprofit committee with the aim of ending the war, and say they will run full-page ads in major newspapers beginning next month explaining their plan to withdraw from Iraq. (Money raised for that committee is separate from the film project.)
There is a sense that they are “Billy Jack” lots of talk about thier triumph outside the studio system and Taylor concludes:
“This is something we have to do. We don’t know if it will be successful, but we’re committed. We have to do it. Just like ‘Billy Jack.’ ”
Robert Sklar, professor of cinema studies at New York University notes the seminal importance of the Billy Jack films both in terms of the genre and in terms of the self-releasing model:
“He was the model for Rambo, for ‘Walking Tall,’ When you think of what ‘Rocky’ meant for the culture – Laughlin was ahead of all that. He represented the indomitable outsider, and he was the first one in that era. It was also true in the sense in which he fought to make the film, and fought to get it distributed with this terrific idea of self-releasing.”
We see here an early example of fusion between outsider hero character and outsider hero actor coming together as a political and business statement. A model that has been developed very differently by Arnold Schwazenneger and Mel Gibson.