An American thinking he could leave Turkey in 1970 with two kilos of hashish strapped to his body.
After the film Midnight Express appeared in 1978 (based on the 1977 book of the same name), no one in middle-class white America could imagine a greater horror than doing time in a Turkish prison.
From a Wikipedia entry, some of the differences between the book ("original story") and the film:
- In the movie, Billy Hayes is in Turkey with his girlfriend when he is arrested, whereas in the original story he is alone.
- Although Billy did spend seventeen days in the prison's psychiatric hospital in 1972, he never bit out anyone's tongue, which in the film led to him being committed to the section for the criminally insane.
- In the book's ending, Hayes was moved to another prison on an island from which he eventually escaped, by stealing a dinghy and rowing 17 miles in a raging storm across the Sea of Marmara, and then traveling by foot as well as on a bus to Istanbul and then crossing the border into Greece. In the movie, this passage is replaced by a violent scene in which he unwittingly kills the head guard who is preparing to rape him. (In reality, Hamidou, the chief guard, was killed in 1973 by a recently paroled prisoner, who spotted him drinking tea at a café outside the prison and shot him eight times.) The attempted rape scene itself was fictionalized; Billy never claimed to have suffered any sexual violence at the hands of his Turkish wardens. He did engage in consensual sex while in prison, but the film depicts Hayes gently rejecting the advances of a fellow prisoner.
- There is a fleeting reference to The Pudding Shop restaurant in the bazaar. It was/is not there - it is on Divan Yolu.
In 2007, the escaped Turkish convict -- the American Billy Hayes -- returned to Turkey after 32 years on the lam. A guest of the Turkish Institute for Police Studies, Hayes held a press conference where he apologized to the Turkish people. Three years before that, Oliver Stone, who received an Oscar for his Midnight Express screenplay, apologized for "over-dramaticising" the script, which he said was based expressly on interviews with Hayes.