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Alibi Flashback: Billy Jack in New Mexico

2005 Tom Laughlin interview

[ Wed Dec 18 2013 1:34 PM ]
V.14 No.40 • October 6-12, 2005
V.14 No.40 • October 6-12, 2005

Actor-director Tom Laughlin will probably forever be less famous than his creation, ass-kicking pacifist Billy Jack, but that’s to be expected as, by all accounts, Laughlin pretty much was Billy Jack. He died this past weekend at age 82, but back in 2005 Alibi’s Devin O’Leary got a chance to chat with him about his pioneering indie film productions. An excerpt:

Billy Jack and The Trial of Billy Jack were both shot in New Mexico. What brought you here?

It was both Arizona and New Mexico. When Billy Jack was halfway through, Sam Arkoff [president of AIP] tried to screw me and Dolores on the picture—really tried something rotten and evil. So we shot the picture and worked on a deal to buy him out. At that time, the Academy Awards were on and all the state governments had their film commissions trying to hustle you to come shoot in their state. We had shot half of it in Arizona already, just because it was closer to us in Los Angeles. They had a big meeting. The governor [of New Mexico] came out. He'd been partying a bit the night before. He came out in his stocking feet. He saw Dolores there and he quickly changed. He comes out and he says, “I want you to finish this in New Mexico. What do you need?” She says, “I need helicopters for a week.” He says, “You got 'em!” She listed everything. “You got it! You got it!” Well, we couldn't say no to that. Later on, guys on the [film] commission, after he gave us all those, they really ripped him. They said, “You stupid idiot, those helicopters cost us 150 bucks an hour.” But in any event, the locations in both places were spectacular.

You can read the rest of the interview with Tom Laughlin in our back issue department.