William Gary Busey
June 29, 1944
|Occupation||Actor, singer, musician|
(m. 1968; div. 1990)
(m. 1996; div. 2001)
|Partner(s)||Steffanie Sampson (2008–present)|
|Children||3, including Jake|
William Gary Busey (//; born June 29, 1944) is an American actor, singer, and musician. As a character actor, he portrayed Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story (1978), for which Busey was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor.
Busey was born in Goose Creek, Texas, the son of Sadie Virginia (née Arnett), a homemaker, and Delmer Lloyd Busey, a construction design manager. 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. Busey attended Coffeyville Community College before attending Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, on a football scholarship, where 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.
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 name "Teddy Jack Eddy" 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 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 an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and the National Society of Film Critics' Best Actor award for him. 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.
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 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 antisemitism.
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.
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. Busey and Trebunskaya made it to Week 4 of competition but were then eliminated and finished in 10th place.
On June 17, 2019, he was announced to star as God in the Off-Broadway musical Only Human at the Theatre at St. Clements in New York. The production is scheduled to begin performances October 8, 2019, and officially open October 21. The plot of Only Human is described as follows: "Before they were enemies, they were co-workers. Jesus and Lucifer never saw eye-to-eye, but when an extreme case of creative differences gets the best of them, all hell breaks loose. Literally." In a statement on playing God in the upcoming production, he said, "God is everything love is and that love becomes the beginning of blessings and miracles. Playing this role of God is easy because I'm not acting, I'm just believing." In May 2020, the first season of Gary Busey Pet Judge was released in which Busey presides as a pet court judge to help resolve problems.
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 born in 1994 from a relationship with stunt coordinator Tracy Hutchinson.
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 he suffered permanent brain damage.
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." Busey cites the motorcycle accident, as well as a 1995 cocaine overdose, as events that strengthened his religious faith. Also in 1996, he married actress Tiani Warden, who was in three movies with Gary – The Chain, The Rage, and Plato's Run. They divorced in 2001.
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.
During the filming of the second season of Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Busey was referred to psychiatrist 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 February 2010, Busey's fiancée Steffanie Sampson gave birth to their son.
- Angels Hard as They Come (1971)
- The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972)
- Dirty Little Billy (1972)
- The Last American Hero (1973)
- Hex (1973)
- Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
- The Gumball Rally (1976)
- A Star Is Born (1976)
- Straight Time (1978)
- The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
- Big Wednesday (1978)
- Carny (1980)
- Foolin' Around (1980)
- Barbarosa (1982)
- D.C. Cab (1983)
- Insignificance (1985)
- Silver Bullet (1985)
- Eye of the Tiger (1986)
- Lethal Weapon (1987)
- Predator 2 (1990)
- Point Break (1991)
- Under Siege (1992)
- The Firm (1993)
- Rookie of the Year (1993)
- Surviving the Game (1994)
- Drop Zone (1994)
- Black Sheep (1996)
- Lost Highway (1997)
- Soldier (1998)
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
- Piranha 3DD (2012)
- Behaving Badly (2014)
Awards and nominations
|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|
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- on YouTube
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- Evans, Greg. "Gary Busey To Play God In Off Broadway Musical 'Only Human' This Fall". Deadline.com. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- BWW News Desk. "Gary Busey Is God In New Off-Broadway Musical ONLY HUMAN". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- Kreps, Daniel. "Gary Busey to Play the Role of God in Off-Broadway Musical". RollingStone.com. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
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- Cramberg, Joanne. "Tulsa's 'Bad Boy' Gary Busey Accepts Jesus". Retrieved April 29, 2013.
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- "Actor Gary Busey attacked by bird on Aussie TV show". NewsComAu. February 8, 2021. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
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