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Gary Busey

Gary Busey

American actor
The basics
Occupation Actor Film actor Stage actor Television actor
Country United States of America
AKA William Gary Busey
Date of birth Baytown
Height: 1.8288 m
Authority IMDB id Musicbrainz id ISNI id VIAF id Library of congress id
The details

William Gary Busey (/ˈbjuːsi/; born June 29, 1944) is an American actor of film and television. 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) and Piranha 3DD (2012). Busey also made guest appearances on television shows such as Gunsmoke, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law & Order, Scrubs, 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. In 2014, he lampooned his public image through a series of advertisements for Amazon Fire TV.

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. 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, Oklahoma, where he quit school just one class short of graduation.


Early career

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. 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

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 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.


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 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 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. 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 "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.

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 will be competing on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars. He was paired with professional dancer Anna Trebunskaya. Busey and Trebunskaya made it to Week 4 of competition but were then eliminated and finished in 10th place.

Personal life

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. In February 2010, Busey's fiancee Steffanie Sampson gave birth to their son, Luke Sampson Busey.

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 valproic acid (Depakote), with which Busey agreed.

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." This return to Christianity occurred as a result of his motorcycle accident, as well as a 1995 cocaine overdose.

In 2011, Busey supported Donald Trump's 2012 presidential bid saying, "For the American people, vote for Donald Trump come election night." In 2015, he again endorsed Trump for president.



  • 1968: Wild in the Streets
  • 1971: Angels Hard as They Come (also known as Angel Warriors)
  • 1972: The Magnificent Seven Ride!
  • 1972: Dirty Little Billy
  • 1973: Lolly-Madonna XXX (also known as The Lolly-Madonna War)
  • 1973: Hex
  • 1973: The Last American Hero (also known as Hard Driver)
  • 1974: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
  • 1975: You and Me
  • 1976: A Star Is Born
  • 1976: The Gumball Rally
  • 1978: The Buddy Holly Story
  • 1978: Straight Time
  • 1978: Big Wednesday
  • 1980: Carny
  • 1980: Foolin' Around
  • 1982: Barbarosa
  • 1983: Didn't You Hear...
  • 1983: D.C. Cab
  • 1984: The Bear
  • 1985: Insignificance
  • 1985: Silver Bullet
  • 1986: Eye of the Tiger
  • 1986: Let's Get Harry
  • 1987: Lethal Weapon
  • 1988: Bulletproof
  • 1989: Hider in the House
  • 1990: Act of Piracy
  • 1990: Predator 2
  • 1991: Point Break
  • 1991: My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
  • 1992: Canvas
  • 1992: Under Siege
  • 1993: The Firm
  • 1993: Rookie of the Year
  • 1993: South Beach
  • 1994: Breaking Point
  • 1994: Surviving the Game
  • 1994: Drop Zone
  • 1994: Warriors
  • 1994: Chasers
  • 1995: Man with a Gun
  • 1996: Livers Ain't Cheap (also known as The Real Thing)
  • 1996: One Clean Move
  • 1996: Black Sheep
  • 1996: Carried Away (also known as Acts of Love)
  • 1996: Sticks & Stones
  • 1996: The Chain
  • 1997: Steel Sharks
  • 1997: Suspicious Minds
  • 1997: The Rage
  • 1997: Lost Highway
  • 1997: Lethal Tender
  • 1997: Plato's Run
  • 1998: Rough Draft
  • 1998: Soldier
  • 1998: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • 1998: Detour (also known as Too Hard to Die)
  • 1999: Two Shades of Blue
  • 1999: Hot Boyz (also known as Gang Law)
  • 1999: The Girl Next Door
  • 1999: No Tomorrow
  • 1999: Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang
  • 2000: A Crack in the Floor
  • 2000: Tribulation
  • 2000: Glory Glory (also known as Hooded Angels)
  • 2000: G-Men from Hell
  • 2001: A Crack in the Floor
  • 2001: Down 'n Dirty
  • 2002: Sam and Janet
  • 2002: On the Edge
  • 2002: Welcome 2 Ibiza
  • 2002: Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice
  • 2003: Frost: Portrait of a Vampire
  • 2003: The Prize Fighter
  • 2003: Quigley (also known as Daddy Dog Day)
  • 2003: Scorched
  • 2003: The Shadowlands
  • 2003: Ghost Rock
  • 2004: Shade of Pale
  • 2004: Motocross Kids
  • 2004: Fallacy
  • 2004: Lexie
  • 2004: El Padrino
  • 2004: Border Blues
  • 2004: Latin Dragon
  • 2005: The Hand Job
  • 2005: Souled Out
  • 2005: No Rules
  • 2005: Chasing Ghosts
  • 2005: A Sight for Sore Eyes (Short)
  • 2005: The Baker's Dozen
  • 2005: Buckaroo: The Movie
  • 2005: The Gingerdead Man
  • 2006: The Hard Easy
  • 2006: Descansos
  • 2006: Valley of the Wolves: Iraq
  • 2006: Dr. Dolittle 3 (voice)
  • 2006: Shut Up and Shoot!
  • 2006: Soft Target
  • 2006: Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film (Documentary)
  • 2007: Lady Samurai
  • 2007: Homo Erectus (also known as National Lampoon's The Stoned Age and Dawn of Sex)
  • 2007: Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter
  • 2007: Succubus: Hell-Bent
  • 2008: Beyond the Ring
  • 2009: Hallettsville
  • 2009: Down and Distance
  • 2010: Freaky Saturday Night Fever
  • 2011: Guido
  • 2011: Jenny
  • 2012: Change of Heart
  • 2012: Piranha 3DD
  • 2012: Lizzie
  • 2013: Matt's Chance
  • 2013: Bounty Killer
  • 2014: Confessions of a Womanizer
  • 2014: Behaving Badly
  • 2015: Entourage


  • 1970: The High Chaparral; episode: "The Badge"
  • 1971: Dan August; episode: "The Manufactured Man"
  • 1972: Bonanza; episode: "The Hidden Enemy"
  • 1973: Kung Fu; episode: "The Ancient Warrior"
  • 1974: The Execution of Private Slovik (movie)
  • 1974–1975: The Texas Wheelers (all 8 episodes)
  • 1975: Gunsmoke; episode: "The Busters"
  • 1975: Baretta; episode: "On the Road"
  • 1979: Saturday Night Live (March 10) (as himself / host)
  • 1985: The Hitchhiker; episode: "W.G.O.D."
  • 1993: Fallen Angels; episode: "Since I Don't Have You"
  • 1997: Hawaii Five-O (unaired pilot)
  • 1988: A Dangerous Life (miniseries)
  • 1989: The Neon Empire (movie)
  • 1991: Wild Texas Wind (TV movie)
  • 1992: Chrome Soldiers (TV movie)
  • 1997: Hawaii Five-O (movie)
  • 1997: Rough Riders (miniseries)
  • 1998: Universal Soldier II: Brothers in Arms (movie)
  • 1998: The Girl Next Door (movie)
  • 1999: Walker, Texas Ranger; episode: "Special Witness"
  • 1999: Shasta McNasty; episode: "The Thanksgiving Show"
  • 2000: The Outer Limits; episode: "Revival"
  • 2000: The Huntress; episode: "What Ralph Left Behind"
  • 2001: Law & Order; episode: "Formerly Famous"
  • 2001: King of the Hill; episode: "Soldier of Misfortune" (voice)
  • 2002: The Man Show; episode: "The Juggbournes" (as himself)
  • 2003: Russians in the City of Angels (3 episodes)
  • 2003: I'm with Busey (all 13 episodes) (as himself)
  • 2004: Penn & Teller: Bulls***!; episode: "12 Stepping" (as himself)
  • 2004–2005, 2007: Entourage; episodes: 1.6, 2.1, 4.8 (as himself)
  • 2005: Esenin (miniseries)
  • 2005: The Simpsons; episode: "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister" (as himself) (voice)
  • 2005: Into the West (miniseries)
  • 2005: Celebrity Fit Club (USA) (season 2) (as himself / team member)
  • 2006: Tom Goes to the Mayor; episode: "Wrestling") (voice)
  • 2006: Scrubs; episode: "My Missed Perception" (as Gary Busey lookalike)
  • 2006: Celebrity Paranormal Project (all 9 episodes) (as himself)
  • 2007: Maneater (movie)
  • 2008: The Cho Show; episode: "Off the Grid") (as himself)
  • 2008: Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (season 2) (as himself/participant)
  • 2009: Nite Tales: The Series; episode: "Trapped"
  • 2009: The Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy (as himself)
  • 2011: Celebrity Apprentice 4 (as himself/contestant)
  • 2011: Two and a Half Men; episode: "Frodo's Headshots" (as himself)
  • 2012: truTV Presents: World's Dumbest... (as himself)
  • 2012: Rove LA (4 episodes) (as himself)
  • 2012: Celebrity Wife Swap (1 episode) (as himself)
  • 2012–2013: Mr. Box Office (4 episodes)
  • 2013: Celebrity Apprentice 6 (contestant)
  • 2014: American Dad!; episode: "She Swill Survive" (as himself) (voice)
  • 2014: Celebrity Big Brother 14 (contestant and winner)
  • 2015: Dancing with the Stars (contestant)

Video games

  • 2002: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (voice)
  • 2006: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (voice)
  • 2008: Saints Row 2 (voice)
  • 2016: Hitman (voice and likeness) (uncredited)

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
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