“There are various iterations of my life out there,” says Billy Hayes, digging into his Eggs Benedict at a Manhattan diner. “People who know me from college, it’s one thing. If they read my book, Midnight Express, it’s something else. If they saw the movie, it’s really something else. The show helps bring all that together—and from a 67-year-old’s perspective.”
Most pop culture connoisseurs know him as the tortured protagonist of Midnight Express, the Alan Parker-directed and Oliver Stone-scripted saga of an American tourist who’s caught trying to traffic four kilos of hash out of Turkey in 1970 and sentenced to four years and two months in dicey Sağmalcılar Prison—which is later extended to 30 years.
In Parker’s film, Hayes, played by the stunning Brad Davis, spews racial epithets at Turkish magistrates (“And I fuck your sons and daughters because they’re pigs! You’re a pig! You’re all pigs!”) and escapes by impaling his sadistic prison guard’s head on a coat hook. The xenophobic film caused a stir in Turkey, where tourism plummeted 95 percent upon the movie’s release and Hayes was branded persona non grata.