Filmmaker Tom Laughlin, who shot to fame as the rugged half-breed action hero "Billy Jack," died Thursday in Thousand Oaks, California surrounded by his family. He was 82 years old.
While involved at 0ne point with just about every facet of the film business, Laughlin may be best known for his series of "Billy Jack" films. He has been married to Delores Taylor since 1954, and she co-produced and acted in all four of the "Billy Jack" movies.
In addition to acting, he was a producer, director and screenwriter, and drew attention for a groundbreaking promotion campaign on 1974s "The Trial of Billy Jack" that included TV trailers during national news and an "opening day" nationwide release.
The first film he directed was "The Proper Time" in 1957, followed by "The Young Sinner" in 1960, which marked the first time that he wrote, directed and starred in a film.
Laughlin was an iconoclast. In the early 1960s, he temporarily left his film career behind to start a Montessori preschool in Santa Monica that became the largest school of its kind in the United States.
In recent years, Laughlin became involved in psychology and domestic abuse counseling, writing several books on Jungian psychology and developing theories on the causes of cancer. He ran for President of the United States in 1992, 2004, and 2008.
His early career as an actor found him parts in feature films including "Tea and Sympathy" and "South Pacific" along with the original "Gidget." His first starring role was in Robert Altman's 1957 film, "The Delinquents."
© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.