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Tom Laughlin, the writer, director and star of the Billy Jack films, died on Thursday at age 82. Laughin was considered a maverick, whose Billy Jack films broke the Hollywood rules.
His daughter Teresa confirmed to The Associated Press that he died at the Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Teresa added that the cause of death was complications from pneumonia.
As the Los Angeles Times notes, Laughlin frequently struggled in Hollywood, battling with executives. His personality could be summed up by his drive to get the first Billy Jack film finally released by Warner Bros. in 1971. He actually rented 1,200 theaters himself to screen the film and devised a marketing campaign that would better fit a concert than a movie. But it worked and after making $6 million at first, it went on to make $100 million and changed the way movies were marketed.
The character Billy Jack, a Vietnam veteran, had appeared in Laughlin's 1968 biker movie Born Losers before 1971’s Billy Jack. Loughlin made two more films and in later years, Laughlin continued to try to make another film, but was unsuccessful.
Laughlin also appeared in South Pacific and Robert Altman’s The Delinquents. He is survived by his wife and three children, as well as his sister and five grandchildren.