How We Came to Own ‘Billy Jack’

Hi. I’m Frank Laughlin.

My sisters, Chris and Teresa, and I own and operate BillyJackRights, LLC, the company that owns this website and all worldwide rights in the films it promotes. How and why we got here is a long and winding story, so rather than a tedious monologue, let me keep this short by simply answering some of the questions we’ve received:

Q: What’s your connection to the films?

We are the progeny of Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor, the creators and stars of the Billy Jack films. In addition, my sister Teresa starred in the Billy Jack films (as Carol, the girl with the guitar), and I carried cables, held reflectors in wind, and was an all-round grunt on the films until I directed ‘The Master Gunfighter’.

Q: How did you come to control the rights?

When a major studio distributes a film, the filmmakers typically give up all ancillary rights (TV, home video, download, etc.) in the film. This happened to our parents when WB ‘picked up’ ‘Billy Jack’ back in 1971. The three of us came to control the ancillary rights when the incredible Phil Klein of Kleinberg Lopez Lange Cuddy and Klein helped us to recover those rights from WB.

Q: How did that happen?

Too long and detailed to go into here. Let’s just say the history between our folks and WB had been very muddied from years of  disagreements and amended settlements. Mr. Klein found inconsistencies serious enough that WB’s agreed made the reassignment of the rights the best solution.

Q: Why don’t Tom and Delores control the rights?

Another long story. Tom and Delores have always controled the copyright and sequel/remake rights to any new films. We control the worldwide rights in the existing films. If you want to see a new Billy Jack film, tell our folks. If you want to see the original, watch it on TV, or (legally) download it, you’ve come to the right place. Our goals in managing the rights is to 1) provide support for our parents (both nearing 80), 2) provide college funding for Tom and Delores’ grandchildren, 3) reintroduce and reinvigorate the films in new markets, and 4) tell the unbelievable story behind the making and success of ‘Billy Jack’.

Q: What are you trying to do?

In addition to the goals mentioned above, we are trying to remind the world of the accomplishments of our parents. ‘Billy Jack’ is probably the most profitable independent movie ever made. ‘Trial of Billy Jack’ invented distribution techniques that revolutionized Hollywood and have become the model for most every studio film released today. Yet very few people know this. And the story behind all of this is the most insane Hollywood story never told. Because Tom and Delores didn’t align themselves with any studio (more on whether that was a good or bad idea later), no one has had much interest in reminding the world of what they accomplished and the contributions to the film industry they made. Our goal is to change that. Our main weapon: the Billy Jack documentary. If you can, we’d love your help, either with a donation of any size (below), or via one of our pre-configured support packages with great rewards.


If you have any questions, please drop us a note or feel free to ask in the comment area below. Thanks for your interest!

TC (11), Chris (>1), and Frank (14) Laughlin in 1969, just before 'Billy Jack' went into production (please note: super-early beanbag adoption. Jealous much?)

44 Responses to How We Came to Own ‘Billy Jack’
  1. Sherri Faulk

    I want to extend my heartfelt sympathies to your family, especially to Delores, on the loss of husband and father.
    Tom meant so much to all of us, but we know our grief in his passing is nothing compared to his loving family. You are all in my prayers. I had been in contact with Tom, via email, a few times in the last several years, and discussed the new movie he wanted to make. I expressed to him that I wanted to work on the film with him.I am sorry that it never came to be. Again, I am praying with you and for you. Peace and love, Sherri

    Current score: 7
  2. Frank Holliday

    I believe you punks screwed your parents some how out of their rights. You dodge the
    Question every time by saying ” that’s along story.”screw you ungrateful punks.

    Frank O. Holliday

    Current score: 4
    • admin

      certainly sorry you feel that way, frank. certainly isn’t the case, but you are entitled to your opinion.

      Current score: 12
  3. I have been watching a Billy Jack movie and have come to the conclusion that intelligent life does exist elsewhere in the Universe, Proof: they do not watch “Billy Jack” movies.

    Thanks

    Current score: 0
  4. I am a Blackman of 57 years old, few people have touched me in a way that deeply moves my emotions to tears, the first was when I read the Bible and came upon the passage where they crucified Christ, I believed the second was watching first your father and then both your father and mother in the Billy Jack series which I have seen all of them. Few movie actors are able to touch my heart in the roles they portray, but I must say that both of your parents have done that because you see, I was a young boy when I first saw “The Born Losers” and it gave me hope that there are people in the world that would stand up and fight the “evil and corruption” that plagues our World. However, in 1977 I suffered an aneurysm and stroke at the tender age of 21, I had subsequently lost my memory but I must say that I had no problem remembering your mom and dad and the Billy Jack movies. Billy Jack movies and the Bruce Lee movies truly touched my heart. Your father and mother are two of the finest people I have ever known without even knowing them. They weren’t just portraying roles they were doing what they truly believed in and I Bless them and thank them for what they have done.
    Bertie

    Current score: 11
  5. Dave Anderson

    All of the movies are timeless and sadly the messages are still
    relevant today.In other words our society and political environment has not improved.
    If anything bullies in all arenas are bigger than ever.
    In closing,
    Your parents are American treasures and the last of the great role models of their generation.

    Current score: 5
  6. If ever remakes are made please make sure they stick to the scrips. The remakes of Walking Tall had absolutely nothing to do with the original stories and shamed the real late Buford Pusser legacy. Those movies stand with the Billy Jack movies about justice.

    Current score: 5
  7. Kevin

    I too, at 49 years of age, would like to think these movies made me a better person and remain a spiritual statement for me. Through the Billy Jack films I discovered and embraced so much of the Native American philosphy(My Indian AZ friends prefer the word Indian and tribe name but back here in Ct again that seems to be politically incorrect). Oh my goodness I think I grew up with a 10 year old’s crush on TC too… anyway here we are still trying to make this country rise up and live the potential exemplified in the films and espoused by Dr. King and others. Thank you for continuing this legacy. I sure would like to see the 1st, 3rd and 4th film on Blu Ray some time. Anyway, Tom Laughlin and Delores Taylor have left a legacy that will hopefully inspire minds and hearts for decades to come. Thank You Frank, Theresa, Christina, Mr. Laughlin and Ms. Taylor!

    Current score: 8
  8. Forrest Morgan

    Hello: “Billy Jack Goes to Washington” was actually the BEST, as far as showing Corruption in our Country. “Born Losers” was the FIRST “BILLY JACK” Film. When shown on Television, it was CUT so badly, Billy Jack, was Not even in it! The Entire plot was wrecked of course. Well the Country is Going in a BAD Direction. Tom laughlin did more then his share to STOP the REAL Anti American Enemies. Sincerely Forrest Morgan.

    Current score: 2
  9. I just posted the following on my Facebook page and always wanted to thank your parents for what this movie series did for so many of us.

    My father took me and my little brother to see this movie when we were youngsters. We were little mixed NDN kids in the back seat at the drive-in. Mama gave us a brown paper sack full of popcorn she made at home. We were eatin’ that popcorn and playin’ in the back seat when I noticed how my Dads face looked as he was paying attention to the big screen through the car windshield. That night changed my life forever. I saw something in Dad I wanted to understand…and protect. As I peered over the back seat looking up at the movie screen then back at Dads face something awakened in me. I ran across this movie again from time to time and came to understand what I saw on Daddy’s face that night at the drive-in 42 years ago. This was an IdleNoMore time for us. There are many opinions about this movie. Mine is its art. Art stimulates whatever the viewer needs at the moment. At that moment mixed people needed to believe things could change.”

    JaiRogers.com

    Current score: 7
  10. I was speaking with a friend of mine and shared the song and the story of Billy Jack with her. To me, Billy Jack was the Martin Luther King of my time in a way. The movie confirmed to me that having the courage to stand up for what is right, was always the right thing to do. Today I am 48. The lesson I learned from the movies of Billy Jack have helped form me as a man. Thank you so much. Is there an address where I could mail something to your parents? BTW you should sell the Billy Jack hats on your website!
    Thank you
    Brian Mackley
    Founder Deep World Wide Web LLC
    832 334-8152

    Current score: 5
  11. Charlie

    Watched 3 of the Billy Jack movies this past week. I haven’t seen them in a long time. I was only 6 when Billy Jack was made.
    Being i am 47 now i got very emotional during several scenes. I realize how relevant the movies were at the time they came out. I have been thinking about Tom and Delores all week and their whole purpose of making a difference while they are here. I would love to meet them not many touch me that way inside!!

    God Bless

    Current score: 4
    • lori

      I agree billy jack and Delores have changed my life to like no one else has I would love to meet them also some day

      Current score: 2
  12. Would you know how I could purchase the Billy Jack DVD’ s in R4, I am not able to buy in Australia? Well, I have not been able to find them!
    Kindest Regards
    Susie

    Current score: 2
  13. arsenio manalo

    i saw the 2nd feature only as a youth, i was 8 or 9…the rape “scene” effect me to this day….i am uncomfortable to view any rape scenes in movies. i have since bought the the complete set and have viewed the first 3 movies. i am a 3rd degree black belt in tang soo do and all my family train in the martial arts. i love the character of billy jack. i would love to see a remake of the movie. with the incredible fight choreography in todays films it would be a huge hit. i would use the team from the walking tall remake and would even cast dwayne johson the rock..or even jason statham. is there anything in the works and if not shouldn’t it be pitched to hollywood…surely they would jump at the chance to rejuvinate the billy jack persona…sadly i am not a big believer in political movies and would enjoy more a purely entertaining action movie remake….sorry i know it goes against the original intent of the series.

    Current score: 3
  14. casper

    to Frank,TC,&Cristina…….i just wanted to share with you that ive really enjoyed looking thru this site. i was born in the late 70’s and i still love looking thru my moms old albums-(69 thru 78 are my fave years!!)that and being that im such a huge fan of your parents (and you, of course!!)thats made this a particularly special little adventure in time. my parents too, dug the billy jack films, and also toms films from the 50’s (the delinquents was a hip little movie)very very cool. ive enjoyed listening to you frank, and your parents on the commentaries for these movies and its like getting to know the laughlins alil’ bettah, and ive a great amount of respect and love for you all, and wish you all the very best. and a sincere thank you to you all for making these movies which have really helped me through some many dificult times. they really helped lift my spirit. peace and love forever, casper valentino-bakersfield, california.

    Current score: 2
  15. Lana

    I never got to see the Trial of Billy Jack and the rest made after. Will have to rent or catch it on cable, (I hear its playing in certian places on cable). Loved the movie Billy Jack saw it at the movies when I was 15yr. w/ my girlfriends.We all Had huge crushes on Billy Jack.

    Current score: 1
  16. Not only has Tom “Billy Jack” Laughlin been my hero since I was 10 years old & my mother took me to see Billy Jack at the theater in Natchez, Ms, Tom has been & will always be the biggest role model in my lifetime. Our kids need more role models today. Many people don’t have a clue what Tom & Delores went through all those years ago & that is why I have been compelled for many years to spread the word of the great works of Tom & Delores Laughlin. Two American hero’s, activist & humanitarians that stood the test of time in their marriage & career’s. I will forever look up to you both. God bless.

    Current score: 5
  17. Dennis Hymowitz

    As I read all the comments from the other visiters. I come to the conclusion that “Billy Jack” was more than something that was the spirit of my generation, but also was a lesson learned many times over. This timeless movie will continue to feed the Human Spirit till the end of time itself. If anything was learned by the movie, than all should know that we need a Billy Jack right Now to stand up for the human spirit which is taking a huge beating from the ESTABLISHMENT. People may have watched Billy Jack, but there children are loosing the meaning of what freedoms it stood for. Todays fight for freedom, is slowly being taken away, with laws that leave us open to the wims of the ESTABLISHMENT. “WE THE PEOPLE” looked and held “Billy Jack” dear in our hearts because of the truth’s he stood for, and the role model he was. I remain he fan forever.

    Current score: 2
  18. Will Butler

    Billy Jack is a great movie..I had heard of Billy Jack but never seen the movie, now I can’t quit watching!! I have only had it 2 days and have watched it four times. You just don’t find good movies like that anymore!!

    Current score: 2
  19. One thing I’d like to mention or shall I say several things I’d LOVE to mention is the whole gist of the movie itself. Let us not forget folks that his character was trying desperately to let others know the plight of the original AMERICANS! How the white establishment tried and still tries to put under the incredible spirit of these wonderfully spiritual human beings, the TRUE HUMAN BEINGS, along with the Aboriginals in Australia, and every other spiritual nation on this earth. I DO love the movies, I own the entire set! But people, come on, we must bring back that spiritualism within ourselves, bring back community, bring back the love that once existed so long ago. I am proud to say that in one lifetime, I was Native American and have been told by my dearest friend who is of the Klinket People of Alaska, that my spirit and my heart is still Native American. I do congratulate Tom, Delores, and the rest of the entire movie and movies for all they accomplished on the films and dearly love them this and always will. So, people, open your minds to the possibilities of what we can accomplish because of what we felt during these films, what stirred inside of us, what we can be to and for one another, what we ourselves can be, and most of all, how we as individuals can learn to love all and not just the one, meaning just ourselves. I’m off my soapbox now. Who’s next?

    Current score: 3
  20. George Roberts

    I saw the Trial of Billy Jack when i was 11 with my sister who was 16. I remember her crying and crying during the climactic massacre at the School. It made a big impression on me. I have been an admirer of that particular film, along with the rest, particularly Billy Jack, for forty years. Keep on truckin’ Tom and happy birthday (belated).

    Current score: 1
  21. Tim

    Will there ever be a sequal?

    Current score: 2
    • Tim

      or a remake, I guess is, what I’m trying to ask.

      Current score: 1
  22. Roger Bunge

    Billyjacks son Running Bear is a prisoneer of the taliban, Please join with me in praying for his release. Billyjack wants to do another movie showing some new things and showing the abuses of the prison system. Contact me for details.

    Current score: 2
  23. Allen Sloan Boyd

    I’ve already been here once today, but had to come back. I really do appreciate what your parents did for us all. The Billy Jack movies were not only great intertainment, but had a message that has stayed with me my wholel life. I’m 53 years of age now. We’re all getting older aren’t we. But when I was a kid watching for the first time, it molded me a some really good ways. Also, I had the biggest crush on TC. She was the cutest girl I’d ever seen. I bet she still is. And to find out now after all these years that Frank had directed “Master Gunfighter” came as a very nice surprise. Great job Frank. That was a great movie. My only regret is that your parents didn’t make more movies. I don’t know your folks, but I do love these people that I’ve never met. Probably because of the wonderful gift of the work they did. I would love to see another Billy Jack movie. It would be great to see Tom pass on Billy’s wisdom on to a grandchild. That would be so great to see Billy taking on the role that the Indian medicine man had in “Trial”. Hey guys, we have been having a great time with your parents facebook group. There have been some wonderful discussions. I know that all of you are very busy. But it would be great if your folks could come on there some time. If not them, perhaps one of you guys. I think that the fans would get such a kick out of that. I know I would. And of course we’d need to have advanced noticed. I wouldn’t want to miss it. Take care guys. I wish you all the best. Allen Boyd.

    Current score: 1
  24. michael oconnell

    I saw Billy Jack in a tiny theater in Goldsboro, North Carolina when it was first released. I lived in a redneck, bigot filled town 20 miles from Smithfield, N.C., the home of the Ku Klux Klan.

    I and my friends were given “Purple Haze” by a friend and experienced a “spiritual” revelation when watching the film.

    We will never forget that night.

    All the best, Michael

    Current score: 2
  25. brad

    i loved the movie. im training a cutting horse 3 yr old for this million dollar event in november and i named the colt billy jack!!!!!

    Current score: 0
  26. Hello Frank
    A message from the Twin Cities, first saying that I was sorry
    about the misinformation about MPLS rather than Millwaukee.
    Just goes to show you can’t believe everything you read!
    I also need to say that Michael hit the nail on the head
    as far as I feel about the general situation.
    And I also appreciate his connection with a site to find
    Billy Jack music. I’ve always felt that the music was such
    a huge part of the package.
    It created the whole mood so perfectly, I had 2 different
    vinyl copies and used to listen to them regularly.
    And as far as a new Billy Jack movie, they would just need
    too be Extemely carefull as far as cast, writing, direction
    production, EVERYTHING!
    Thanks again to all of you!!

    Current score: 1
  27. Ben Carnes

    Some thoughts I might add is that if a new BJ movie is made, even if it is a remake. I would suggest using a Native actor. Too many of our people are put off by non-Native actors or the white hero saving the Natives. Also, if there is a remake, explore more of the contemporary issues from the perception of Native people and not, Native Americans. There is a cultural and political difference.
    A documentary would be interesting to see what happened behind the scenes!

    Current score: 4
  28. Samantha

    I would love to see another Billy Jack movie. All four of them are awsome and they tell a great story. Sadly in the 21st century where I live Natives are treated the same way they are depicted in the movies, even worse. We need a Billy Jack in modern day society.

    Current score: 5
    • Deveron Sheffield

      I agree Samantha, this day and age needs Billy Jack to come riding into our lives again. Not just for Native peoples, but on Black issues as well. I thought we had moved past all that, but here it is as if nothing has been learned or accomplished, as well as 2 wars one of which should never have happened and the other one questionable.

      Current score: 0
  29. Christopher Gabehart

    As a child I saw the movie “Billy Jack” and have been all my life striving to be what Billy strived to be.As a Chickasaw native I have held this movie and its meaning to me close to my heart.As a son of mixed marriage I saw the conflict.Be well Frank,and may God bless you.I am honored to be your friend.

    Current score: 3
  30. Kimberly Kolo

    Oh, yes! I vote for Billy Jack: The Next Generation starring Frank and Chrissy Laughlin on a mission to retake Washington, throw out the villainous politicians, and successfully run for Mayor of Chicago with special guest appearance by Tom as a lovable (as only Tom could pull off) Harry Reid!! Seriously..Bring Back Billy Jack!

    Current score: 2
  31. Kathleen Ford

    Oh, lest I forget, any chance we can get a release of the soundtracks for all the movies? I would love to get that on a CD!

    Current score: 0
    • Michael Appel

      Kathleen,

      A really good CD is available at http://www.billyjack.com.
      It is called “The Music of Billy Jack”. On it is HOW I NEED YOU, GOLDEN LADY, JOHNNIE, WHEN WILL BILLY LOVE ME, SHED A TEAR, DANNY’S SONG, DREAMING AND HOPING, RAINBOW MADE OF CHILDREN, LOOK, LOOK TO THE MOUNTAIN, GIVE PEACE A CHANCE, and of course, ONE TIN SOLDIER performed by Jinx Dawson of Coven. What’s missing is one song I’d really like to have. Teresa Laughlin’s performance of ONE TIN SOLDIER from the end credits of BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON. Hopefully, someday Teresa’s ENTIRE version of that song will be released, if the entire song exists with her also singing the first stanza.

      Michael

      Current score: 1
  32. Kathleen Ford

    Thank you soooooo much for releasing the Billy Jack movies on DVD! I would love to see another Billy Jack movie if possible. After all, they did leave it up for a sequel after Billy Jack Goes to Washington (we do need some sort of catchup!). Love and Hugs to all!

    Current score: 2
  33. Anita Weaver

    Oh, by the way, Frank my major in college was Psychology. I didn’t realize until recently that your Dad was so well known in the field of psychology. Maybe that is another reason I gravitated so much to Billy Jack. Wish my professors would have had your Dad as a guest lecturer back then.

    Current score: 1
  34. Anita Weaver

    I can only say that as a college student (1968-1972) with very little income, I saw Billy Jack at least four times. I have NEVER paid to see any other movie that many times. It made such an impact on me that I still talk about it and have a copy of it to show my kids and grandkids. I knew it was a low budget film, but I am learning now through your posts on this site the story behind the story. The social issues addressed in Billy Jack were cutting edge at that time. I told a friend recently “Who wouldn’t want a hero like Billy Jack on their side?” I truly loved your parents work Frank and I don’t believe any action hero since can measure up to Billy Jack. Thank you for telling more of the story.
    P.S. Billy Jack is the first time I ever saw Howard Hesseman. I know he went on to other roles, but I still think his part in Billy Jack was his best work.

    Current score: 4
    • admin

      Thank you, Anita. The story behind the story is truly insane. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we’re underway producing a documentary to tell the unbelievable story behind the making and marketing of the film. It’s truly a film that deserves its own film. But the only reason all of it happened is because of people like you that were touched by the movie and made it a hit. Thank you.

      Current score: 3
  35. ANTHONY GIORDANO

    GOD BLESS YOUR PARENTS WHAT A INPACT THEY LEFT ON ME WITH BILLY JACK, I OWN THE COMPLETE DVD SERIES AND MY SON IS A YOUNG ACTOR NOW 17 YRS OLD (JARRED) HE IS ON HAMPTON MODELS WEBSITE UNDER TEENS, I WATCH THE SERIES WITH HIM AND HE LOVES IT HE LOVES THE 60’S 70’S 80 ERA HE PLAYS PIANO AND KEYBOARD AND IS GOING TO GO TO A MUSIC COLLEGE IN FALL WE LIVE ON LONG ISLAND NEW YORK SO IF YOU NEED US JUST CALL. ALL OUR LOVE TO YOUR PARENTS AND GOD BLESS THEM AND YOU SHOUD GET YOUR SONGS OUT THERE THEY WERE GREAT ! ANTHONY

    Current score: 0
  36. Bravo for tackling this huge job, and for keeping the films alive and available for the world. Not only the story of making them, but the message of the films is an incredible one which should be kept alive. Good luck!

    Current score: 1
  37. Michael Appel

    Frank, You are 100% correct. The vast majority of people have no clue as to what Delores and Tom have accomplished, especially the “young” people who weren’t around when the Billy Jack films were released. The Laughlin’s have been ignored, harassed, and abused by Hollywood studios and the film industry. Even when trying to help others in their field, they have been treated badly, like when they offered to help out FILMEX. And where are the Laughlin’s stars on the Hollywood walk of fame? How do actors get a star for just acting-doing their jobs-while an actor who also writes, produces, directs – literally makes his own films from scratch against all odds that go on to become huge hits – get no recognition? What the Laughlin’s do have is a solid, core group of die hard fans like myself who have followed their battles over the decades and admired their courage and perseverance and staying true to their goals and never backing down against all the impossible odds they have encountered over the years. Thank you Tom and Delores for inspiring me with your work both on AND off the screen.

    Current score: 12
    • If ever remakes are made please make sure they stick to the scrips. The remakes of Walking Tall had absolutely nothing to do with the original stories and shamed the real late Buford Pusser legacy. Those movies stand with the Billy Jack movies about justice.

      Current score: 0
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