Michael Laughlin Dead: Cult Filmmaker and ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ Producer

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Michael Laughlin, a filmmaker and producer whose credits included the likes of 1971’s “Two-Lane Blacktop” and 1981’s “Strange Behavior,” died on Oct. 20 from complications related to COVID-19. He was 82 years old.

Laughlin’s death was confirmed to Variety by his friend Brooke Nasser. He died in Honolulu, Hawaii, where had been living for many years.

Laughlin was born and raised in Illinois. He was recruited to play basketball at Stanford University and graduated from Principia College in 1960.

After moving to London, Laughlin began a career as a film producer, working on projects such as Bryan Forbes’ 1967 thriller “The Whispers” and the 1968 feature “Joanna,” director Michael Sarne’s precursor to “Myra Breckinridge.” He met and married French actress and ballerina Leslie Caron during his time abroad. The two separated in 1975.

During the 1970s, Laughlin helped bring eight independent features to fruition, including the Monte Hellman-directed cult classic “Two-Lane Blacktop.” Interviews with Laughlin are included in the 2007 Criterion edition of the film.

From 1976 to 1991, Laughlin lived with the writer Susanna Moore. During this period, he served as both screenwriter and director on three of his own features: “Strange Behaviors” (1981), a horror film starring Louise Fletcher and Michael Murphy; “Strange Invaders” (1983), a sci-fi mystery starring Nancy Allen and Michael Lerner; and “Mesmerized” (1985), a drama starring Jodie Foster and John Lithgow. Laughlin also co-wrote the romantic comedy “Town & Country” (2001), starring Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn.

Beyond filmmaking, Laughlin was also a farm owner and writer. His book “Radical Golf” was published by Crown in 1996, while his recently finished memoir will be published posthumorously.

Laughlin is survived by his three stepchildren, Christopher Hall, Jennifer Caron Hall and Lulu Sylbert.

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