Gary Busey

Gary Busey Headshot

Actor • Singer • Musician

Birth Name: William Gary Busey

Birth Date: June 29, 1944

Age: 79 years old

Birth Place: Goose Creek, Texas

Children: Jake Busey

Though he received a great deal of acclaim early in his career for his performance as Buddy Holly in "The Buddy Holly Story" (1978), actor Gary Busey let his best work become overshadowed by increasingly bizarre personal behavior and speculation that a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1988 had rendered him with a degree of brain damage. Adding fuel to the fire was a long struggle with cocaine and alcohol abuse, and occasional descents into violent behavior, which led Busey to embody an unsettling persona both on and off the screen. With film roles like the psychotic henchman Mr. Joshua in "Lethal Weapon" (1987) and an aging detective in "Point Break" (1991), the actor worked steadily in a wide array of popular movies and usually stole every scene he was in. Following solid supporting turns in "Under Siege" (1992) and "The Firm" (1993), Busey seemed destined to have a long, lucrative career as a talented character actor. But his increasingly troubled public appearances, which were marked by rambling bouts of armchair spirituality and sudden shifts in demeanor, generally earned more attention. While consistently working as a B-movie villain throughout the following decades, Busey occasionally winked at his public perception, as he did with his recurring stint as a crazier version of himself on "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-11). Though he seemed to confirm his troubled personal life with an appearance on "Celebrity Rehab" (VH1, 2008-12), Busey nonetheless remained one of the most - if not the most - unique performer working in Hollywood.

Gary Busey was born in the east coast Texas town of Goose Creek (now Baytown) on June 29, 1944 and grew up in Tulsa, OK, where his father worked in construction. A born entertainer, Busey's first outlet was music, and he constructed a drum set out of oatmeal canisters before driving his family truly crazy with a set of Ludwigs. He also sang at the Christian camp where he spent summers and broadened his interests to include acting after he was mesmerized by a matinee of Cecil B. DeMille's "Samson and Delilah" (1949). As a teen, Busey cultivated an athletic build while working on local ranches and excelled at football, landing an athletic scholarship to Pittsburg State University in Kansas. When a serious knee injury sidelined his sports aspirations, Busey turned his attention to drama, eventually joining the theater department at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. While a student there in 1966, Busey co-founded a bluesy rock band called Carp. After several years of playing local parties and biker bars, they headed to Hollywood in search of a record deal, landing one with Epic and releasing a self-titled album in 1969. When Carp failed to generate much commercial success, most of the band's members went on to become studio musicians, while Busey took advantage of his new locale to revive his earlier acting efforts.

Busey landed his first small screen role in a 1970 episode of the Western "The High Chaparral" (NBC, 1967-1971) and the following year made his big screen debut as a hippie in the low budget Roger Corman biker flick "Angels Hard as They Come" (1971). In 1972, he returned to Tulsa, where he became a regular performer on a local sketch comedy show and appeared in the locally filmed "Dirty Little Billy" (1972) before snaring a high profile role alongside Jeff Bridges in "The Last American Hero" (1973), about NASCAR racer Elroy Jackson, Jr. That same year he earned the unusual pop culture distinction of being the last character ever to die on "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973). Busey joined the fine supporting cast (including Bridges, again) of Michael Cimino's feature directing debut "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" (1974) before enjoying a brief stint as series regular Truckie Wheeler of "The Texas Wheelers" (ABC, 1974-75). Busey returned to the music business in 1975 touring as drummer for Oklahoma songwriter Leon Russell, who had first become a fan of Busey through his popular Tulsa TV character Teddy Jack Eddy. Busey also played drums on Russell's classic album Will o' the Wisp that year, in addition to recording with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Kinky Friedman, and contributing the song "Since You've Gone Away" to Robert Altman's epic film "Nashville" (1975).

Busey's music background proved key to truly igniting his film career. His turn as the road manager who keeps Kris Kristofferson in line in "A Star Is Born" (1976) brought him his first widespread attention, though his title role in "The Buddy Holly Story" (1978) made him a star. Busey had always felt a special spiritual kinship with the iconic Texas songwriter-guitarist who died tragically young in an icy plane crash, and his spot-on portrayal of the man and his music earned Busey a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his efforts. Despite his highly acclaimed leading role, Busey's ensuing career consisted mainly of charismatic supporting roles, his potential possibly compromised by a new cocaine addiction that he would battle for decades. He was convincing as a small time carnival hustler in the atmospheric road movie "Carny" (1980) and provided able country boy-support as the protégé of a legendary outlaw (Willie Nelson) in the well-received "Barbarosa" (1982). In one of his rare appearances in a comedy Busey played one of a crew of misfit taxi drivers in "D.C. Cab" (1983) and also contributed the song, "Why Baby Why" to the soundtrack.

His sports prowess and ability to crank up the high-drama masculine energy made for strong performances as Alabama State football coach Paul Bryant in "The Bear" (1984), and as a baseball playing icon in "Insignificance" (1985), Nicolas Roeg's gloriously cinematic examination of fame in America. But Busey's highest profile role of the era was as a nasty drug dealing Vietnam vet in "Lethal Weapon" (1988). His Mr. Joshua had ice in his veins, and though the ruthless albino killer was the actor's first screen villain, it would certainly not be his last. Busey would go on to make a name for himself with supporting characters that were truly terrifying. His career was interrupted, however, by a motorcycle accident in 1988 that fractured his skull. The actor received a lot of press during his recovery for defending his choice not to wear a helmet and for his claim of a roadside, near-death experience. Doctors feared Busey had suffered brain damage, and his increasingly strange ramblings and pseudo-philosophy while making public appearances seemed to support that theory.

Busey returned to the screen to co-star with Danny Glover in the minor sc-fi hit "Predator 2" (1990) and the absurd but blockbusting caper/extreme sports hybrid "Point Break" (1991) starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. He was a little too good as the disturbed former psychiatric patient in the routine thriller "Hider in the House" (1991) and continued his villainous run as the evil thug plotting to steal nuclear weapons in Steven Seagal's mega-hit actioner "Under Siege" (1992). Busey enjoyed a supporting role as a private investigator in the legal thriller "The Firm" (1993) before returning to the sports genre with a co-starring role as an aging pro baseball player in the light "Rookie of the Year" (1993). Busey's role as a former DEA agent in John Badham's 1994 actioner "Drop Zone" was ironic, as the actor was shortly thereafter arrested for drug possession, suffered a drug overdose, and spent time in rehab at the Betty Ford Center. Newly sober, Busey became an enthusiastic born-again Christian and ordained minister active with the Promise Keepers men's group. But just as the unpredictable actor seemed to be gaining a new lease on life, he averted disaster yet again when he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his sinus cavity.

After recuperating from surgery and radiation treatment, Busey seemed poised to resume his improved Hollywood standing, landing in a remake of the TV series "Hawaii Five-O" (CBS, 1968-1980), but the show's pilot was reportedly a disaster and the project never moved forward. Busey rebounded with a starring role in the well-received Spanish-American war miniseries "Rough Riders" (TNT, 1997) and enjoyed cameos in art house flicks "Lost Highway" (1997) and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998) before a pair of arrests for domestic violence charges filed by ex-wife Tiani Warden and a string of dismal low-budget films reduced Busey's name to a pop culture curiosity, known more for the mug shot seen 'round the world than for the promise he had once shown as an actor. Embracing his new reputation, Busey began to appear as an oddball artifact on "The Man Show" (Comedy Central, 1999-2004) and Howard Stern's radio show before cementing his tarnished image as the center of Comedy Central's "I'm with Busey" reality show (2003). Over 13 uncomfortable episodes, Busey shared his off-kilter wisdom of the world with alleged fan and buddy Adam de la Pena. It was unclear whether Busey's bizarre philosophical outbursts and explosive behavior were due to a mental unraveling or whether he was amping up the crazy factor for audience benefit.

The show did not paint a flattering portrait of the star but it raised his profile enough to land a recurring role (as himself) on HBO's hot Hollywood drama "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-11). Busey's personal life was back in the headlines in 2004 when he was taken to court for failing to pay rent on his rented Malibu home and arrested for not showing up at a hearing related to alleged millions owed his ex-wife. In 2005, Busey claimed his prayers for a fitness opportunity were answered when he was asked to join the cast of the VH1 weight loss chronicle "Celebrity Fit Club 2," during which he allegedly lost 50 pounds. Busey's film career was busier than ever regardless of his reputation, with the actor headlining over 20 low-budget and direct-to-DVD titles from 2004-06. He made gossip column headlines in February of 2008 for a red carpet appearance at the Academy Awards that sent nervous stars including Jennifer Garner - whose neck he appeared to either bite or kiss - and E! host Ryan Seacrest looking for the exit. Busey next appeared on the second season of "Celebrity Rehab" (VH1, 2008-12). He claimed to appear on the show not as an addict, but as an inspirational figure for the other patients, which initially confused the show's star, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Busey nonetheless went through an enormously successful transformation. Following a cameo appearance in the hit comedy "Grown Ups" (2009), starring Adam Sandler, David Spade and Chris Rock, Busey joined the season four cast of the celebrity version of "The Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ), playing for charity against the likes of model Niki Taylor, former "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch, and rap star Lil Jon.

Credits

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Mansion of Blood

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Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

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Os Gracies e o Nascimento do Vale Tudo

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Buckaroo: The Movie

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Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

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Best Actress

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1998

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ChasersStream

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33%

Breaking Point

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Warriors

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Combat d'élites

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Fallen Angels

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Walker, Texas RangerStream

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1993

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Eddie Lomax
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Rookie of the Year

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The Tonight Show With Jay Leno

Guest
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Patrulla de Muerte

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Chrome Soldiers

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79%

South Beach

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1992

My Heroes Have Always Been CowboysStream

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1991
33%

Point BreakStream

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70%

Wild Texas Wind

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1991

Law & OrderStream

Guest Star
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1990

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1990

Predator 2Stream

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30%

The SimpsonsStream

Guest Voice
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85%

The Neon Empire

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Frank Weston
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Hider in the House

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Act of Piracy

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Ted Andrews
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1989

Bulletproof

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Frank McBain
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1988

La Rage de vaincre

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Tony O'Neil
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1988

Lethal WeaponStream

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Mr. Joshua
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1987
80%

Let's Get HarryStream

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Jack
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1986

Half a Lifetime

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Bart
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1986

Eye of the Tiger

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Buck Matthews
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1986

Insignificance

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The Ballplayer
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Silver Bullet

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Uncle Red
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The Bear

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Paul W. Bryant
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The Hitchhiker

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1983

Didn't You Hear?

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James
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1983

D.C. Cab

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Dell
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1983

BarbarosaStream

Actor
Karl Westover
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1982
100%

Foolin' Around

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Wes
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1980

CarnyStream

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Frankie
Movie
1980
57%

Big Wednesday

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Leroy Smith
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1978

Summer of Innocence

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Leroy Smith
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1978

The Buddy Holly StoryStream

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Buddy
Movie
1978
100%

Straight TimeStream

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Willy Darin
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1978
83%

Graffiti Party

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1978

A Star is BornStream

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Bobbie Ritchie
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1976
38%

The Gumball Rally

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Gibson
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1976

Saturday Night LiveStream

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1975

You and Me

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1975

Thunderbolt and LightfootStream

Actor
Curly
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1974
88%

The Law

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William Bright
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1974

Kalibar 22 za specijalista

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1974

The Execution of Private Slovik

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Jimmy Feedek
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1974

Hex

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Hard Driver

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Bloodsport

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David Lee Birdsong
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1973

Lolly Madonna XXX

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Zeb
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1973

The Last American HeroStream

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1973
75%

Le Prix de la victoire

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Kung FuStream

Guest Star
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The Magnificent Seven Ride!

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Hank Allan
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1972

Dirty Little Billy

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Hippie 2
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Angels, Hard as They Come

Actor
Henry
Movie
1970

The High Chaparral

Guest Star
Series
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The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonStream

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1962

BonanzaStream

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GunsmokeStream

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1952

News aboutGary Busey