Just a person who protects children and other living things...
He's a warrior, a mystic, a martyr, capturing the heart and soul of a generation. Embodying all these and more, Billy Jack quickly became one of the most unorthodox and magnetic movie heroes of all time.
Tom Laughlin charismatically plays the title character, a half-breed Native American and ex-Green Beret returning to live in solitude on an Arizona reservation. He is drawn to the progressive Freedom School - and the idealistic woman (Dolores Taylor) who runs it. But when tensions flare between the students and narrow-minded local bigots, Billy Jack becomes the school's protector. Once again, violence finds him.
First released with little fanfare and dismissed by most critics, the film's gut honesty struck a chord with audiences, who later made it a box-office giant and a landmark film of its era.
A box-office success with an attractive plot for modern-day youth. Laughlin stars as a half-breed (half Indian, half white) war hero who fights bigotry and injustice with Karate-trained effectiveness.
Although filming began in Prescott, Arizona, in fall 1969, American International Pictures pulled out of the production, halting filming. Twentieth Century Fox came in and filming eventually resumed, but when that studio refused to distribute the film, Warner Bros. took over.
The film was released in the spring of 1971 after more than one year of shooting. It opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, only, on April 19, 1971. The film lacked distribution, so Laughlin took it to theaters himself. He had had terrific problems with the studio; at one time the studio had taken the masters with plans to reedit the film without him. Laughlin actually sued Warner Bros. for millions and ended up settling years later for a six-figure payoff.
The theme song by Coven, "One Tin Soldier," was a hit on the Billboard charts.
The film died at the box office in its initial run but took in more than $40 million in its 1973 rerelease, which was supervised by Laughlin.
The hat Tom Laughlin wore in the film was actually a Halloween present from his daughter T.C.