Tom Laughlin, the maverick actor and filmmaker best known for the “Billy Jack” films, has died. He was 82.
Laughlin died Thursday in Thousand Oaks, his family announced.
Laughlin had been married to actress Delores Taylor since 1954 and also had several ill-fated runs for president. But he was best known for the “Billy Jack” films, which also starred Taylor. In 1967, he wrote and directed (under the pseudonym T.C. Frank) and starred in “The Born Losers,” a motorcycle exploitation film that became a big box-office hit. It introduced the world to the part-Native American Vietnam veteran title character.
The 1971 sequel, the vigilante-themed “Billy Jack,” was, after a legal battle with studio Warner Bros., released independently. It also became a box-office smash, though it generated controversy for its suggestion of guns and violence as a justice-seeking tool.
Laughlin co-produced and starred in all four “Jack” films, including the little-seen final one, 1977’s “Billy Jack Goes to Washington.” The third film, “The Trial of Billy Jack,” was one of the first movies to get a major television and national advertising push.
Laughlin was also known for his activisim — he started a Montessori preschool and ran for president on three occasions. He had spoken in recent years of trying to bring the Jack character back to the big screen.