The Buddy Holly Story
“It’s good for everyone to understand that they are to love their enemies, simply because your enemies show you things about yourself you need to change. So, in actuality, enemies are friends in reverse.” Gary Busey
An Academy Award-nominated American actor, Gary Busey has created a reputation for himself as one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood with more than a hundred projects under his belt since making his debut in the early 1970s. A musician-turned-actor, Busey first came to prominence as a road manager in A Star Is Born (1976), and was launched to stardom two years later with his Oscar-nominating turn as the songwriter-guitarist Buddy Holly in the biopic film The Buddy Holly Story. His stunning performance also brought the actor a BAFTA Award and a National Society of Film Critics Award. He has since worked constantly on both the large and small screens. His movie credits include Big Wednesday (1978), Barbarosa (1982), The Bear (1984), Lethal Weapon (1987), Point Break (1991), Hider in the House (1991), Under Siege (1992), The Firm (1993), Rookie of the Year (1993), Drop Zone (1994), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang(1999). His more recent and upcoming projects include Two Shades of Blue (2000), Frost: Portrait of a Vampire (2001), Shadowlands (2003), The Hard Easy (2005), No Rules (2005), Succubus: Hell Bent (2006), Descansos (2006), Kurtlar vadisi - Irak (2006), Shut Up and Shoot (2006), Soft Target (2006), Succubus: Hell Bent (2007), Hallettsville (2007), Lady Samurai (2007), Nite Tales (2007), Beyond the Ring (2007), Crying 4 U (2007), Beyond (2007) and Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter (2007).
Busey, who is widely-known for his eccentric personality, beliefs and individual point of view on life, had been an intense drug user. In 1995, he nearly died from a cocaine overdose, but quick medical attention saved his life. He knew he had suffered a frightening near-death experience where he saw hell and the devil, and declared he had become a born-again Christian, joined Promise Keepers and sermonized against drug abuse. Busey has black belts in budo-jujitsu, capoeira, hapkido, “Jailhouse Rock,” and kendo.
The blond-haired, fair-complexioned actor with a toothy grin and unsettling glint in his eyes has been married twice. He was married to Judy Helkenberg from 1968 to 1990 and Tiani Warden from 1996 to 2001. He has a son, Jake Busey (born 1971, mother Judy Helkenberg) who is also an actor. Busey’s romantic life has also been linked to Malika Kineson and Belinda Bauer.
Childhood and Family:
Gary Busey was born William Gareth Jacob Busey Sr. on June 29, 1944, in Goose Creek, Texas. He was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by his Native American father, Delman Lloyd Busey, and his Irish mother, Virginia Busey. Gary attended Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, in the early 1960 and became interested in acting while there. He then transferred to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but dropped out just one class short of graduation. In 1963, he graduated from Coffeyville Junior College. Gary was a football player in college.
In December 30, 1968, Gary was married to Judy Helkenberg, who gave birth to his son Jake Busey in 1971. The couple divorced in 1990. Six years later, on September 23, 1996, Gary tried to build a new family by marrying Tiani Warden. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in separation in 2001.
Lethal Weapon’s Killer
After graduating from college, Gary Busey got his career start in life as a professional musician with the band Rubberband, which finally changed its name to Carp. As the band’s singer, drummer and leader, he brought Carp to Los Angeles in 1966, in which they encountered the Doors and Byrds and recorded an album for CBS/Epic Records. An accomplished drummer, Busey, who used the pseudonym Teddy Jack Eddy, played with various musicians such as Leon Russell, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.
Busey made his television guest starring debut in 1970 with the NBC Western “The High Chaparral,” and moved on to the big screen a year later in the Roger Corman-produced Angels Hard as They Come, starring Scott Glenn. More film roles followed, including playing Jeff Bridges’ brother in the Lamont Johnson-directed The Last American Hero (1973) before the actor returned to the small screen for the ABC film Blood Sport, that same year. Busey was then reunited with Johnson for the NBC highly acclaimed film The Execution of Private Slovik (1974), starring Martin Sheen, supported Clint Eastwood and again Bridges in Michael Cimino’s motion picture directing debut Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), and in 1975, he contributed to the song “Since You’ve Gone Away” for Nashville, a drama/musical helmed by Robert Altman. It was in 1976 that the actor gained extensive attention, thanks to his role as the road manager of Kris Kristofferson in Frank Pierson’s A Star Is Born.
Busey’s big breakthrough, however, arrived two years later when director Steve Rush had him play the title character in the biography film The Buddy Holly Story. Outstandingly portraying the rock’n’roll legend Buddy Holly, whose tragic death astonished a nation, Busey was handed a BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer in a Leading Film Role and a National Society of Film Critics for Best Actor. He also took home a Best Actor Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. The success paved the way for Busey’s productive career as primarily a supporting player. The same year, Busey also could be seen in the films The Set-Up, Straight Time and John Milius’ classic Big Wednesday.
During the early 80s, Busey had a solid, if unglamorous career. After forcefully playing a small time carnival hustler in the distinctive road movie Carny (1980), he was cast as the protégé of a legendary outlaw in the well-earned Barbarosa (1982, opposite old friend Willie Nelson) and appeared as a taxi driver in the Joel Schumacher comedy D.C. Cab (1983), in which he also composed and performed the song “Why Baby Why.” He then gave remarkable performances in such films as The Bear (1984, as Alabama State football coach Paul Bryant), Nicolas Roeg’s Insignificance (1985, portrayed the Ballplayer) and Eye of the Tiger (1986, as a good-guy former con battling a biker gang and crooked sheriff). After several years away from the limelight, Busey proved he was back in the saddle again when he was cast as the cruel assassin “Mr. Joshua” in the original Lethal Weapon (1987), opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. The film was a huge commercial success. The following year, after making his miniseries debut in the HBO “A Dangerous Life,” playing an American correspondent caught up in the 1986 revolution in the Philippines, and starring in Bulletproof, Busey found himself severely injured in a motorcycle crash, where his skull was fractured and doctors feared he suffered brain damage. He then recovered and returned to work in the Showtime miniseries “The Neon Empire” (1989).
Next, Busey rejoined Danny Glover in the fast-paced sequel Predator 2 (1990), costarred with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break (1991), finely played a bothered former psychiatric patient in the routine thriller Hider in the House (1991), supported Steven Seagal and Tommy Lee Jones in the very popular Under Siege (1992), in which he delivered a memorable turn as the evil thug plotting to steal nuclear weapons, and appeared as himself in star-studded black comedy The Player (1992). He again played a character on the right side of the law in the 1993 The Firm, directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Tom Cruise, offered a brackish performance as an over-the-hill pitcher in Rookie of the Year (1993), was a crazed psycho in the dreadful action film Warriors (1994) and worked with Wesley Snipes in Drop Zone (also 1994). He went on to play roles in Bruno Baretto’s Carried Away (1996, opposite Dennis Hopper and Amy Irving), Sidney J. Furie’s The Rage (1997, as a psychotic former militia man), the TNT miniseries “Rough Riders” (1997), the TV film Universal Soldier 2: Brothers in Arms (1998) and Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). In 1999, he starred as the infamous Hooded Fang in the remake of Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang, helmed by George Bloomfield.
2000 – 2003 saw Busey in a number of films, including Glory Glory (2000), A Crack in the Floor (2000), Two Shades of Blue (2000), Frost: Portrait of a Vampire (2001), On the Edge (2002), Welcome 2 Ibiza (2002), Sam & Janet (2002), Quigley (2003) and Shadowlands (2003). On the small screen, he appeared in episodes of “The Huntress” and “The Outer Limits” (both 2000), “Law & Order” and “King of the Hill” (both 2001) and starred as March in the TV series “Russkie v Gorode Angelov” (2003). The following years, the actor could be seen in such movies as Shade of Pale (2004), A Sight for Sore Eyes (2004), Ghost Rock (2004), The Hard Easy (2005), No Rules (2005), Souled Out (2005), Chasing Ghosts (2005), Buckaroo: The Movie (2005), Succubus: Hell Bent (2006), Descansos (2006), Kurtlar vadisi - Irak (2006), Shut Up and Shoot (2006) and Soft Target (2006). He also acted in the miniseries “Into the West” and “Esenin” (both 2005), and starred as Grady Barnes in the made-for-TV film Maneater (2006).
Recently starring in the thriller Succubus: Hell Bent (2007), the prolific performer is scheduled to play roles in the upcoming movies Hallettsville (2007), Lady Samurai (2007), Nite Tales (2007) and Beyond the Ring (2007). Other forthcoming projects are Crying 4 U (2007), Beyond (2007) and Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter (2007).
- CableACE: Actor in a Dramatic Series, “The Hitchhiker,” 1987
- BAFTA: Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Role, The Buddy Holly Story, 1980
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Actor, The Buddy Holly Story, 1979
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association: New Generation, 1978