Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Lethal Weapon, Point Break, Under Siege
Currently Known For:
1980s - Present
June 29, 1944
Lethal Weapon, Point Break, Under Siege
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“I’ll tell you this: You have to remember to chase and catch your dreams, because if you don’t, your imagination will live in empty spaces, and that’s nowhere land.” Gary Busey has over 150 film credits to his name and is considered one of Hollywood’s wildest and most prolific character actors. His career began in the late 1960s, but he didn’t rise to fame until 1978 when he starred as Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In the 1980s, he became a staple in the industry after he joined Bruce Willis and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon (1987).
Over the last three decades, Busey has proven he’s unstoppable as the now 74-year-old continues to work as hard as ever. Some of his best-known performances including films like Predator 2 (1990), Point Break (1991), Under Siege (1992), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Quigley (2003), and Piranha 3DD (2012). Also appearing in television series like Gunsmoke, Law & Order, Scrubs, Suits, and Entourage, let’s take a closer look at Busey’s career and what makes him a Hollywood time bomb ready to explode at any moment!
Early Life and Career
“Have a mind that’s open to everything, get attached to nothing.” William Gary Busey was born on June 29, 1944, in Goose Creek, Texas to a construction design manager and a homemaker. The family relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma nearly a decade later where Busey attended Nathan Hale High School and then enrolled at Coffeyville Community College. After taking a few basic courses, he accepted a football scholarship to Pittsburg State University in Kansas but discovered his talents were far from the football field when he took an acting class and fell in love with performing. He transferred to Oklahoma State University but quit school just one class short of graduation to launch his career in the spotlight.
Busey’s entertainment career started in music as a self-taught musician who picked up a job playing the drums with The Rubber Band. “I got a Folgers coffee can, a Maxwell coffee can, empty, and a couple of boxes, couple of cards—what do you call ‘em, the round things in Quaker Oats? So I got some pencils and started using those as drumsticks,” he said. “I’m a self-taught drummer, just because I have it in my rhythm. In my gift of expression, drumming.”
Busey created different characters in the band before he slowly transitioned into acting when he joined the cast of the television comedy series, The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting. Developing even more characters, he continued playing music in his free time and made an appearance on an episode of Gunsmoke in 1974. Fortunately, his big break was on the horizon when he made his film debut alongside Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974). He then starred opposite Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in A Star Is Born (1976) and found staying power in 1978 when he gave an award-winning performance as rock legend Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story.
With the film putting him on the map in Hollywood, Busey stayed busy throughout the next decade with roles in dozens of hits like Barbarosa (1982), Silver Bullet (1985), and Lethal Weapon (1987). Then, in December 1988, tragedy struck when Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a helmet and his skull was severely fractured in the accident. Doctors feared he suffered permanent brain damage; fortunately, he made a complete recovery although his behavior became even more erratic. By the 1990s, he landed supporting roles in Predator (1990), Point Break (1991), Under Siege (1992), Rookie of the Year (1993), The Firm (1993), Black Sheep (1996), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). On television, he appeared in The Hitchhiker (1985), The Neon Empire (1989), Wild Texas Wind (1991), Rough Riders (1997), The Girl Next Door (1998), and Walker, Texas Ranger (1999).
New Millennium and Life Today
“There has got to be more to life than being a really, really, ridiculously good actor.” Over the last two decades, Busey has proven he’s unstoppable as one of Hollywood’s most prolific character actors. He voiced Phil Cassidy in the 2002 video game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and later reprised his role in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (2006). He also starred in his own reality show, I’m with Busey (2003), on Comedy Central and made a special guest appearance in an episode of The Simpsons.
In 2007, Busey played himself in a recurring role on Entourage in HBO and, the following year, joined the second season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. He remained on the reality television circuit with a 2011 appearance on Celebrity Apprentice 4 and then Celebrity Apprentice 6 followed by a brief stint on Celebrity Big Brother, the latter of which he won and became the first American to win the UK version of the show. In 2015, he put on his dancing shoes to compete on Dancing with the Stars but failed to impress with a 10th place finish.
In 2018, Busey returned to his musical roots with the release of his studio cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and his single “All the Way.” “It wasn’t my decision,” Busey said of his return to the studio. “It was a decision that we came to in a cooperation between myself and my godson, Teddy Jack Bridges, who is the son of Leon Russell. And I played drums and toured and lived with Leon for several years. We got together, and it was an angelic intervention that did that, because it’s working so well and so good… We have several other songs we’re going to record, we’re going to make a statement of recording, producing, touring…”
In addition to returning to the studio, the 74-year-old Busey recently penned his memoir, Buseyisms: Gary Busey’s Instructions Before Leaving Earth (2018). In the book, he talks about his early career, his battle with addiction, and his brain injury. He also shines a light on his life at home with his three children and two ex-wives. Beyond that, he hasn’t added to his 150+ film credits in the last year, which leaves many to wonder if Busey will return to the silver screen or not!