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The Only Main Actors Still Alive From Midnight Express

Many movies have a hidden message to impart to audiences, some straightforward, some more subtle. The message of "Midnight Express," for example, is that unless you'd like to spend the best years of your life in a foreign prison, don't try to smuggle several pounds of illicit substances on your person across international borders. That's what happens to Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) in director Alan Parker's drama, and boy, does he pay the price. After several years of torture in a Turkish prison for attempting to fly to the United States with hashish bricks taped to his chest, he only narrowly escapes a life sentence.

Based on the memoirs of the real-life Billy Hayes, "Midnight Express" was a hit with general audiences and critics alike and is widely considered to be one of the best prison films of all time. It ended up earning six Academy Award nominations, including best picture, best director (Parker), and best supporting actor (John Hurt), and walked away with Oscars for best adapted screenplay (Oliver Stone) and best score (Giorgio Moroder).

Since "Midnight Express" came out back in 1978, several of its lead actors have since passed away, but there are a handful who are still with us, including Randy Quaid, Irene Miracle, and Paolo Bonacelli.

Irene Miracle (Susan)

In "Midnight Express," Irene Miracle plays Susan, Billy's girlfriend, who is with him while he is caught attempting to smuggle drugs. She also plays a key role in facilitating Billy's eventual escape from prison, as her presence on a visit five years into his sentence shakes him out of a depressive stupor and encourages him to take action (as well as providing him with the much-needed funds for escape).

Miracle won a Golden Globe for her performance in the film, where she was awarded the award for new female star of the year. She was still at an early point in her career when she appeared in "Midnight Express," having made her cinematic debut just three years earlier in "Night Train Murders," and her role as Susan was only her third on-screen performance. She continued to work, largely in the horror genre, throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

The actor made her final film appearance in 1997, when Miracle was cast as Emma in "Walking Thunder." Since then, she has spent time working behind the camera, both as a director and producer, on various short films. In 2023, she announced that she would be appearing in an upcoming film, "Game of Death: The Six Doors to Hell."

Randy Quaid (Jimmy Booth)

In the years since "Midnight Express" was released, Randy Quaid has become a famous Hollywood figure — or, should we say, infamous? In the film, he plays Jimmy Booth, one of Billy's fellow prisoners in the Turkish jail, whose escape attempts lead to his (presumably) sticky end. While some of his fellow actors were rising stars when they appeared in "Midnight Express," Quaid had already established himself in Hollywood with performances in "The Last Picture Show," "Paper Moon," and "The Last Detail." The latter movie is regarded as one of the best films of the "New Hollywood" era and earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.

Quaid's career only continued to rise throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The star was featured in the blockbuster smash hit "Independence Day," but he is arguably best known for his recurring role as the perpetually optimistic yet extremely unlucky Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon's "Vacation" franchise.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Over the past two decades, Quaid has been charged with several criminal acts, including burglary, fraud, vandalism, and evading arrest, which led him to seek asylum in Canada (a request that has since been denied). He and his wife currently live in Vermont, and both face potential arrest if they travel to other states.

Paolo Bonacelli (Rifki)

Paolo Bonacelli has a relatively small role in "Midnight Express." He plays Billy's fellow prisoner, Rifki, who frequently rats out the other inmates in exchange for preferential treatment. Despite not having a massive amount of screen time in this film, however, his presence in Italian cinema in particular looms large.

A stalwart figure on the Italian screen and stage, he acted in films such as "Christ Stopped at Eboli," and "Caligula," alongside occasional appearances in American productions, including "Mission Impossible III" and "The American." Bonacelli is probably best known for his starring role as the Duke in "Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom," a gruesome, frequently disturbing adaptation of one of the Marquis de Sade's most infamous works. In 1985, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the David di Donatello Awards — the Italian equivalent of the Academy Awards — for his work in "Nothing Left to Do But Cry."

Although he's currently in his late 80s, Bonacelli is still going strong — in 2023, he was featured in the Italian historical drama "Comandante," and he has four upcoming films in varying stages of production.