William Gary Busey (born June 29, 1944), better known as Gary Busey, is an American film and stage actor. He has appeared in a variety of films, including Lethal Weapon (1987), Point Break (1991), and Under Siege (1992), as well as guest appearances on Gunsmoke, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law & Order, and Entourage. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978 for his role in The Buddy Holly Story.
Busey was born in Goose Creek (now Baytown), Texas, the son of Sadie Virginia (née Arnett), a homemaker, and Delmer Lloyd Busey, a construction design manager. He graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1962. While attending Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas on a football scholarship, he became interested in acting. He then transferred to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where he quit school just one class short of graduation. He is of Irish and Pretindian descent.
Busey began his show-business career as a drummer in The Rubber Band. He appears on several Leon Russell recordings, credited as playing drums under the names "Teddy Jack Eddy" and "Sprunk", a character he created when he was a cast member of a local television comedy show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting on station KTUL (which starred fellow Tulsan Gailard Sartain as "Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi"). For his skits on Uncanny Film Festival, Busey drew on his American Hero, belligerent, know-it-all character. When he told Gailard Sartain his character needed a name, Sartain replied, "Take three: Teddy, Jack and Eddy."
He played in a band called Carp, which released one album on Epic Records in 1969. Busey continued to play several small roles in both film and television during the 1970s. In 1975, as the character "Harvey Daley," he was the last person killed on the series Gunsmoke (in the third-to-last episode, No. 633 - "The Busters").
Rise to prominence:
In 1974, Busey made his major film debut with a supporting role in Michael Cimino's buddy action caper Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges.
In 1976, he was hired by Barbra Streisand and her producer-boyfriend Jon Peters to play Bobby Ritchie, road manager to Kris Kristofferson's character in the remake film A Star is Born. On the DVD commentary of the film, Streisand says Busey was great and that she had seen him on a TV series and thought he had the right qualities to play the role.
In 1978, he starred as rock legend Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story with Sartain as The Big Bopper. For his performance, Busey received the greatest critical acclaim of his career and the movie earned Busey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and the National Society of Film Critics' Best Actor award. In the film, he changes the lyrics to the song "Well All Right" and sings, "We're gonna love Teddy Jack..." a reference to his Teddy Jack Eddy persona. In the same year he also starred in the small yet acclaimed drama Straight Time and the surfing movie Big Wednesday, which is now a minor cult classic.
In the 1980s, Busey's roles included the critically acclaimed western Barbarosa (1982), the comedies D.C. Cab (1983) and Insignificance (1985), and the Stephen King adaption Silver Bullet (1985). Perhaps most notably, he played one of the primary antagonists in the smash hit action comedy Lethal Weapon (1987).
In the 1990s, he had prominent supporting roles in successful action films such as Predator 2 (1990), Point Break (1991) and Under Siege (1992), which remain some of his best known roles today. He also appeared in a number of other notable films such as Rookie of the Year (1993), The Firm (1993), Black Sheep (1996), Lost Highway (1997), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), further establishing himself as a prolific actor in major films. Many of these characters are defined by their dynamic yet odd and offbeat personalities.
Busey sang the song "Stay All Night" on Saturday Night Live in March 1979, Episode 14, Season 4, and on the Late Show with David Letterman in the 1990s.
Busey has since appeared in very few mainstream films. However, in 2002, Busey voiced the character Phil Cassidy in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, then again in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories in 2006. In 2005, he also voiced himself on an episode of The Simpsons and appeared in the popular miniseries Into the West. Busey controversially appeared in the 2006 Turkish nationalist film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, (Kurtlar Vadisi: Irak, in Turkish), which was accused of fascism, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.
In 2007, he appeared as himself in a prominent recurring role on HBO's Entourage, in which he parodied his eccentric cultural image. He ultimately appeared on three episodes of the show.
In 2008, he joined the second season of the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Busey returned to reality television in Celebrity Apprentice 4, which premiered in March 2011, and appeared again in Celebrity Apprentice 6. There, he briefly reprised his role as Buddy Holly by performing "Fade Away".
In a series of 2010 YouTube advertisements for Vitamin Water, Busey appeared as Norman Tugwater, a lawyer who defends professional athletes' entitlements to a cut from Fantasy Football team owners.
In 1971, Busey's wife Judy Helkenberg gave birth to their son, William Jacob "Jake" Busey. Busey and Helkenberg divorced when Jake was nineteen.
Busey has a daughter named Alectra from a previous relationship.
On December 9, 2009, it was announced that Gary Busey and girlfriend Steffanie Sampson were expecting their first child in May 2010. On February 23, 2010, their son Luke Sampson Busey was born.
In 1996, Busey publicly announced that he was a Christian, saying, "I am proud to tell Hollywood I am a Christian. For the first time I am now free to be myself."
Motorcycle accident and brain damage:
On December 4, 1988, Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in which he was not wearing a helmet. His skull was fractured, and doctors feared he suffered permanent brain damage.
During the filming of the second season of Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Busey was referred to psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy. Sophy suspected that Busey's brain injury has had a greater effect on him than realized. He described it as essentially weakening his mental "filters" and causing him to speak and act impulsively. Sophy recommended Busey take a medication called Depakote (valproic acid), to which Busey agreed.
1968: Wild in the streets,
1971: Angels Hard as They Come,
1972: The Magnificent Seven Ride!,
1972: Dirty Little Billy,
1973: Lolly-Madonna XXX,
1973: Bloodsport (made for TV movie) directed by Tony Thomas,
1973: The Last American Hero,
1974: The Execution of Private Slovik,
1974: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,
1976: A Star Is Born,
1976: The Gumball Rally,
1978: The Buddy Holly Story,
1978: Straight Time,
1978: Big Wednesday,
1980: Foolin' Around,
1983: Didn't You Hear...,
1983: D.C. Cab,
1984: The Bear,
1985: Silver Bullet,
1986: Eye of the Tiger,
1986: Let's Get Harry,
1987: Lethal Weapon,
1988: A Dangerous Life,
1989: The Neon Empire,
1989: Hider in the House,
1990: Act of Piracy,
1990: Predator 2,
1991: Point Break,
1991: My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,
1992: Under Siege,
1993: Breaking Point,
1993: The Firm,
1993: Rookie of the Year,
1994: Surviving the Game,
1994: Drop Zone,
1995: Man with a Gun,
1996: Steel Sharks,
1996: One Clean Move,
1996: Black Sheep,
1996: Carried Away,
1996: Sticks & Stones,
1996: The Chain,
1997: The Rage,
1997: Lost Highway,
1997: Lethal Tender,
1997: Plato's Run,
1997: Rough Riders,
1998: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,
1998: Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms,
1998: Detour (a.k.a. Too Hard to Die),
1999: Hot Boyz,
1999: The Girl Next Door,
1999: No Tomorrow,
1999: Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang,
2000: A Crack in the Floor,
2000: Glory Glory (a.k.a. Hooded Angels),
2000: G-Men from Hell,
2001: Frost: Portrait of a Vampire,
2002: On the Edge,
2002: Welcome 2 Ibiza,
2002: Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice,
2003: The Prize Fighter,
2004: Shade of Pale,
2004: Motocross Kids,
2004: El Padrino,
2004: Border Blues,
2004: Latin Dragon,
2004: Ghost Rock,
2005: The Hand Job,
2005: Souled Out,
2005: No Rules,
2005: Chasing Ghosts,
2005: The Baker's Dozen,
2005: Into the West,
2005: Buckaroo: The Movie,
2005: The Gingerdead Man,
2005: The Hard Easy,
2006: Valley of the Wolves Iraq,
2006: Dr. Dolittle 3 (voice),
2006: Shut Up and Shoot!,
2006: Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride,
2007: Lady Samurai,
2007: Homo Erectus (a.k.a. National Lampoon's The Stoned Age),
2007: Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter,
2008: Beyond the Ring,
2008: Nite Tales: The Movie,
2009: Down and Distance,
2012: Piranha 3DD,
2013: Matt's Chance,
2013: DaZe: Vol. Too (sic) - NonSeNse,
2013: Bounty Killer,
2014: Confessions of a Womanizer,
1973: Kung Fu (episode: "The Ancient Warrior") (),
1975: Gunsmoke (episode: "The Busters"),
1974-75: The Texas Wheelers (all 8 episodes),
1979: Saturday Night Live (himself/host) (Mar. 10),
1997: Hawaii Five-O (unaired pilot),
1999: Walker, Texas Ranger (episode: "Special Witness"),
2000: The Outer Limits (episode: "Revival"),
2001: Law & Order (episode: "Formerly Famous"),
2001: King of the Hill (episode: "Soldier of Misfortune") (voice),
2004, 2005, 2007: Entourage (episodes 1.6, 2.1, 4.8) (as Gary Busey),
2002: The Man Show (as himself),
2003: I'm with Busey (Comedy Central reality show) (as himself),
2004: Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (episode: "12 Stepping") (as himself),
2004: High Chaparall (episode: "The Badge"),
2005: The Simpsons (episode: "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister") (voice) (as himself),
2005: Celebrity Fit Club 2 (VH1 reality) (as himself),
2005: Esenin (Russian mini-series),
2006: Tom Goes to the Mayor (episode: "Wrestling") (voice),
2006: Scrubs (episode: "My Missed Perception") (as Gary Busey lookalike),
2006: Celebrity Paranormal Project (VH1 reality) (as himself),
2008-09, 2012: The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest... (truTV) (as himself),
2008: The Cho Show (episode: "Off the Grid") (as himself),
2008: Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (9 episodes) (as himself/participant),
2009: The Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy (Comedy Central special) (as himself),
2011: Celebrity Apprentice 4 (as himself/contestant),
2011: Two and a Half Men (episode: "Frodo's Headshots") (as himself),
2012: Mr. Box Office (4 episodes),
2012: Rove LA (as himself) (4 episodes),
2013: Celebrity Apprentice 6 (as himself/contestant),
2002: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (voice),
2006: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (voice),
2008: Saints Row 2 (voice)