Gary Busey

William Gary Busey (/ˈbjuːsi/; born June 29, 1944)[2] is an American actor. A prolific character actor, Busey has appeared in over 150 films, including Lethal Weapon (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Point Break (1991), Under Siege (1992), The Firm (1993), Carried Away (1996), Black Sheep (1996), Lost Highway (1997), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Gingerdead Man (2005), Quigley (2003), and Piranha 3DD (2012). Busey also made guest appearances on television shows such as Gunsmoke, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law & Order, Scrubs, Suits, and Entourage.

For portraying Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story (1978), Busey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor.

Gary Busey
CUN2008 Oscar party Gary Busey
Busey in 2008
William Gary Busey[1]

June 29, 1944 (age 74)
Years active1967–present
  • Judy Helkenberg
    (m. 1968; div. 1990)
  • Tiani Warden
    (m. 1996; div. 2001)
Children3, including Jake Busey

Early life

Busey was born in Goose Creek, Texas, the son of Sadie Virginia (née Arnett), a homemaker, and Delmer Lloyd Busey, a construction design manager.[3] while he was in fourth grade, Busey moved from Goose Creek to Tulsa, where he later attended Bell Junior High School, then attended and graduated from Nathan Hale High School.[4]. Busey attended Coffeyville Community college [5] before attending Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas on a football scholarship, where he became interested in acting.[6] He then transferred to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma where he quit school just one class short of graduation.


Early career

Texas Wheelers cast
Gary Busey (standing), Mark Hamill and Jack Elam from The Texas Wheelers, 1974

Busey began his show business career as a drummer in The Rubber Band.[7] He appears on several Leon Russell recordings, credited as playing drums under the names "Teddy Jack Eddy"[8] 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[8] 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."[8]

He played in a band called Carp, which released one album on Epic Records in 1969.[9] 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").[10]

Rise to prominence

Gary Busey (1976)
Gary Busey at the premiere of A Star Is Born in 1976

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 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, the comedies D.C. Cab[11] and Insignificance, and the Stephen King adaptation Silver Bullet. He played one of the primary antagonists opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the action comedy Lethal Weapon.

In the 1990s, he had prominent supporting roles in successful action films such as Predator 2, Point Break and Under Siege. He also appeared in Rookie of the Year, The Firm, Black Sheep, Lost Highway, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Busey sang the song "Stay All Night" on Saturday Night Live in March 1979 (season 4, episode 14), and on the Late Show with David Letterman in the 1990s.[12]


In 2002, Busey voiced the character Phil Cassidy in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and later reprises the role in the prequel Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories in 2006. He received much praise from critics and fans for his portrayal of the outlandish character. In 2003, Busey starred in a Comedy Central reality show, I'm with Busey. In 2005, he also voiced himself in an episode of The Simpsons[13] 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[14] and anti-Semitism.[15]

In 2007, he appeared as himself in a prominent recurring role on HBO's Entourage, in which he parodied his eccentric image, ultimately appearing on three episodes of the show.

In 2008, he joined the second season of the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.[16] Busey returned to reality television in Celebrity Apprentice 4, which premiered in March 2011,[17] and appeared again in Celebrity Apprentice 6. There, he briefly reprised his role as Buddy Holly by performing "Not 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.[18]

In 2014, he became a celebrity spokesperson for Amazon Fire TV. That August, he appeared in, and became the first American winner of the fourteenth series of the UK version of Celebrity Big Brother.

On September 1, 2015, it was announced that he would be competing on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. He was paired with professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya.[19] Busey and Trebunskaya made it to Week 4 of competition but were then eliminated and finished in 10th place.[20]

Personal life

Gary Busey 2007
Busey in September 2007

In 1971, Busey's wife Judy Helkenberg gave birth to their son, William Jacob "Jake" Busey. Busey and Helkenberg divorced when Jake was 19 years old. Busey has a daughter named Alectra from a previous relationship.[21]

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.[22]

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."[23][24] Busey cites the motorcycle accident, as well as a 1995 cocaine overdose,[25] as events that strengthened his religious faith.

In 1997, Busey underwent successful surgery to remove a cancerous, plum-sized tumor from his sinus cavity. The growth was found after Busey began suffering nose bleeds.[26]

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 valproic acid (Depakote), with which Busey agreed.[27]

In February 2010, Busey's fiancée Steffanie Sampson gave birth to their son, Luke Sampson Busey.[28]

In 2015, Busey supported Donald Trump's 2016 presidential bid saying, "For the American people, vote for Donald Trump come election night."[29][30] In late 2015, he again expressed support for Trump's candidacy for president.[31]




Video games

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work Result
1978 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Actor The Buddy Holly Story 3rd place
New Generation Award Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor 2nd place
1979 Academy Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture Actor – Musical/Comedy Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Best Actor Won
1980 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Nominated
1987 CableACE Awards Actor in a Dramatic Series The Hitchhiker Won
1994 Fallen Angels Nominated


  1. ^ "William Gary Busey : Texas Birth Index". Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  2. ^ "Texas Births, 1926–1995". Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  3. ^ "Gary Busey Biography (1923)". Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  4. ^ Eaton, Kristin and Anna Holton Dean. "Gary Busey". Tulsa People Marcj 2019. Accessed March 22, 2019.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Gary Busey". eBiog. Archived from the original on October 8, 2007. Retrieved August 5, 2007.
  7. ^ Johnny Carson Show August 23, 1985
  8. ^ a b c Tulsa TV, Gary Busey reference as Teddy Jack Eddy in Tulsa, OK.
  9. ^ Carp at AllMusic
  10. ^
  11. ^ People May 15, 1989, pp. 65–68
  12. ^ Gary Busey - Stay All Night on YouTube
  13. ^ "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister". The Simpsons. Season 16. Episode 11. 2005-06-03. Fox.
  14. ^ "Turkish rush to embrace anti-US film". BBC News. February 10, 2006. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  15. ^ "Turkish Film Uproar: Attacking the American Enemy on Screen – International – Spiegel Online – News". Der Spiegel. February 22, 2006. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  16. ^ Archive of ""Celebs Check Into Rehab 2 With Dr. Drew"". Archived from the original on June 13, 2008. Retrieved March 22, 2010.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link), VH! press release, June 10, 2008
  17. ^ Wright, Adam (November 18, 2010). "Celebrity Apprentice Season Four Cast Revealed". Archived from the original on November 29, 2010.
  18. ^ Cassens Weiss, Debra (August 30, 2010). "'Lawyer Norman Tugwater' Ready to Sue for Pro Athletes' Fantasy Rights". ABA Journal. American Bar Association.
  19. ^ "Dancing with the Stars Season 21 Cast Announcement". ABC. September 2, 2015. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
  20. ^ "'Dancing with the Stars' Recap: Most Memorable Years for the Top 10". Archived from the original on August 24, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  21. ^ James Peragine. "First Photos: Gary Busey Introduces Son Luke". Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  22. ^ Moran, W. Reed (July 5, 2001). "Gary Busey ministers to brain injury community". USA Today. Retrieved August 5, 2007.
  23. ^ Cramberg, Joanne. "Tulsa's 'Bad Boy' Gary Busey Accepts Jesus". Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  24. ^ Virtue, David. "Rescued From The Present Evil Age". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  25. ^ "Gary Busey On His Life-Changing Cocaine Overdose And Motorcycle Accident (VIDEO)". Huffington Post/Oprah Winfrey Network. January 21, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  26. ^ "Gary Busey Heads for Cancer Surgery".
  27. ^ "Celebrity Rehab 2 with Dr. Drew (Episode 2)". Retrieved March 26, 2009.
  28. ^ Kate Stanhope. "Gary Busey and Girlfriend Are Expecting". Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  29. ^ Gary Busey Endorses Donald Trump for President. People Video. April 29, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  30. ^ Powers, Lindsay (April 18, 2011). "Gary Busey Endorses Donald Trump for President". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  31. ^ Glines, Carole (September 15, 2015). "Donald Trump gets coveted Gary Busey endorsement ahead of big debate". Fox News. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  32. ^ "'Two and a Half Men': Gary Busey joins as a mental patient – From Inside the Box – Zap2it". November 4, 2011. Archived from the original on November 6, 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  33. ^ "Hitman Promo Asks You to Kill Gary Busey or Gary Cole". Gamespot. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  34. ^ "HITMAN Elusive Target #7 - The WildCard (Gary Busey)". YouTube.
  35. ^ Tripwire Interactive (2018-11-08), Killing Floor 2 Twisted Christmas: Season's Beatings - Gary Busey Badass Santa Announcement Trailer, retrieved 2018-11-08

External links

Act of Piracy

Act of Piracy is a 1988 American/South African thriller film directed by John Cardos and starring Gary Busey, Belinda Bauer and Ray Sharkey. While enjoying an exotic cruise to Australia, a family yacht is taken over by terrorists. It is also known as Barracuda.

Bulletproof (1988 film)

Bulletproof is a 1988 action movie directed by Steve Carver and starring Gary Busey

Carried Away (1996 film)

Carried Away (also known as Acts of Love) is a 1996 American English language film directed by Brazilian Bruno Barreto. It is based on the novel Farmer by Jim Harrison.

The film stars Dennis Hopper, Amy Irving (Barreto's then wife), Gary Busey, and Amy Locane. The tagline reads "No love is safe from desire".

D.C. Cab

D.C. Cab (also known as Street Fleet) is a 1983 American comedy film, starring Max Gail, Adam Baldwin, Mr. T, Charlie Barnett, Gary Busey, Marsha Warfield, and Whitman Mayo. The film was written and directed by Joel Schumacher with the story by Topper Carew & Schumacher.

Drop Zone (film)

Drop Zone is a 1994 American action film directed by John Badham, starring Wesley Snipes, Gary Busey, Yancy Butler, Michael Jeter, Luca Bercovici and Kyle Secor. Drop Zone was released in the United States on December 9, 1994.

Foolin' Around

Foolin' Around is a 1980 film directed by Richard T. Heffron and starring Gary Busey and Annette O'Toole. The film was shot on location in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The theme music was performed by Seals and Crofts.

Homo Erectus (film)

Homo Erectus (released on DVD in the United States as National Lampoon's Stoned Age) is a 2007 comedy film written and directed by Adam Rifkin, and starring Giuseppe Andrews, Gary Busey, David Carradine, Ron Jeremy, Ali Larter, Hayes MacArthur, Adam Rifkin, and Talia Shire. The film premiered at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival in January 2007.

I'm with Busey

I'm with Busey was a comedy/documentary television show which aired on Comedy Central in the summer of 2003. It revolved around a young writer named Adam de la Peña, who met and befriended his childhood idol, actor Gary Busey. Although the show lasted for only one season and the popularity of the show was limited, it has developed a cult following in the years after its cancellation.

Let's Get Harry

Let's Get Harry is a 1986 action film directed by Stuart Rosenberg. It stars Michael Schoeffling, Thomas F. Wilson, Glenn Frey, Rick Rossovich, Ben Johnson, Mark Harmon, Gary Busey, and Robert Duvall. The film direction is credited to Alan Smithee, a pseudonym used by directors who repudiate their involvement in a film.

No Tomorrow (film)

No Tomorrow is a 1999 action thriller film directed by Master P and starring Master P himself, as well as Pam Grier and Gary Busey. It was released direct-to-video on October 19, 1999 by No Limit Films. Kickboxer, Gary Daniels co-stars. The film was a big success for No Limit Records and No Limit Films.

Quigley (film)

Quigley, released in the United Kingdom as Daddy Dog Day, is a 2003 family comedy film that was directed by William Byron Hillman. It was released straight to video on February 3, 2003 and stars Gary Busey, Curtis Armstrong, and Oz Perkins.

Rookie of the Year (film)

Rookie of the Year is a 1993 American sports comedy film starring Thomas Ian Nicholas and Gary Busey as players for the Chicago Cubs baseball team. The cast also includes Albert Hall, Dan Hedaya, Eddie Bracken, Amy Morton, Bruce Altman, John Gegenhuber, Neil Flynn, Daniel Stern (who also directed) and John Candy in an uncredited role.

Silver Bullet (film)

Silver Bullet is a 1985 American horror film based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf. It stars Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Everett McGill, Megan Follows, Terry O'Quinn, Lawrence Tierney, Bill Smitrovich, Kent Broadhurst, David Hart, and James Gammon. The film is directed by Dan Attias and produced by Dino De Laurentiis.

Symphonion Dream

Symphonion Dream is the ninth album from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They were joined by guest musicians Leon Russell and Linda Ronstadt, along with actor Gary Busey, who was credited as "Teddy Jack Eddy", and played various percussion instruments.

The Apprentice (U.S. season 11)

The Celebrity Apprentice 4 (also known as The Apprentice 11) is the eleventh installment of the reality game show, Celebrity Apprentice, which premiered March 6, 2011. Country music star John Rich was named the winner defeating actress Marlee Matlin. Lil Jon, La Toya Jackson, Gary Busey, and Lisa Rinna all returned for All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. Jackson and Busey placed twelfth and sixth, respectively, and both won $20,000 for their charities money while Lil Jon and Rinna were both semifinalists placing third and fourth, respectively, and Jon raised $160,000 and Rinna raised $504,500 resulting in her improving immensely from her first season.

The Bear (1984 film)

The Bear is a 1984 biopic starring Gary Busey and Jon-Erik Hexum. The film was written by Michael Kane, directed by Richard C. Sarafian, and produced by James A. Hearn and Larry G. Spangler.

The Buddy Holly Story

The Buddy Holly Story is a 1978 biographical film which tells the life story of rock musician Buddy Holly. It features an Academy Award-winning musical score, adapted by Joe Renzetti and Oscar-nominated lead performance by Gary Busey.

The film also stars Don Stroud, Charles Martin Smith, Conrad Janis, William Jordan, and Maria Richwine, who played Maria Elena Holly.

It was adapted by Robert Gittler from Buddy Holly: His Life and Music, the biography of Holly by John Goldrosen, and was directed by Steve Rash.

The Law (1974 film)

The Law is a 1974 Universal Television made-for-television film directed by John Badham starring Judd Hirsch as defense attorney Murray Stone with John Beck, Bonnie Franklin and Gary Busey.

The Texas Wheelers

The Texas Wheelers is an American sitcom that aired in 1974 and 1975. The series, produced by MTM Enterprises, is about the cantankerous but lovable Zack Wheeler, a long-lost father who returned to raise his children Truckie, Doobie, Boo, and T.J. in rural Texas after their mother died.

The show was not successful, due to being broadcast against the second half of NBC's Top 20 hit The Rockford Files, and was canceled after four episodes in the fall of 1974. An additional four episodes were aired in June and July 1975. The show is notable as one of MTM's few flops, and for the well-known actors in its cast, including Jack Elam as Zack, Gary Busey as Truckie, Mark Hamill as Doobie, Tony Becker as T.J., and Lisa Eilbacher as the Wheelers' friend Sally.

The theme song for the show was "Illegal Smile" by John Prine.

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