Who Is Gary Busey?

Actor Gary Busey began studying theater after a knee injury derailed his plans to pursue pro sports. In 1971, he made his film debut in Angels Hard as They Come and in 1978, he starred in The Buddy Holly Story. Later, he appeared in several action films but his personal life was tumultuous, including a cocaine overdose and a near-death motorcycle accident.

Early Life

William Gary Busey was born on June 29, 1944, in Goose Creek, Texas. Raised in Oklahoma, Busey attended Pittsburg State University in Kansas on a football scholarship before a knee injury caused him to abandon his pursuit of a professional sports career. While turning his attention toward theater studies, he played percussion with Leon Russell, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. He transferred to Oklahoma State University but dropped out before earning a degree.

Movie Career

In 1971, Busey made his cinematic debut with a lead role in the biker film Angels Hard as They Come, which was written by Jonathan Demme. During the late 1970s, his credits included supporting roles opposite Barbra Streisand and former bandmate Kristofferson in A Star is Born (1976), as well as Dustin Hoffman in Straight Time (1978). Later that year, Busey landed the title role in The Buddy Holly Story, in which he showcased his musical roots by performing his own guitar and vocal work. Busey earned an Academy Award nomination for his definitive portrayal of the rock icon.

Later in his career, Busey took on more sinister roles in the action thrillers Lethal Weapon(1987), Predator 2 (1990), and Point Break (1991) with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. As part of an A-list ensemble that included Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter, and Ed Harris, he earned kudos for his role in the film adaptation of John Grisham's bestseller The Firm (1993). During the late 1990s, Busey??s roles ranged from a psychotic militia leader in The Rage (1997) to a cameo appearance in Terry Gilliam's black comedy Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).

Personal Life and Son

In 1988, Busey was the victim of a near-fatal motorcycle accident, which resulted in the enactment of stricter helmet laws in the state of California. A notorious drug user, he was hospitalized after a cocaine overdose in 1995, at which time he underwent rehabilitation in lieu of facing criminal charges. Three years later, he dedicated his life to the Christian faith by joining the Promise Keepers.

Busey married photographer Judy Helkenberg in 1968; they had a son, Jake Busey, before divorcing in the mid-1970s. In 2000, after he was arrested and charged with spousal abuse, Busey separated from his second wife Tiani Warden.


  • Name: Gary Busey
  • Birth Year: 1944
  • Birth date: June 29, 1944
  • Birth State: Texas
  • Birth City: Goose Creek
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Actor Gary Busey was nominated for an Oscar for his title role in 'The Buddy Holly Story.' He later appeared in films such as 'Lethal Weapon,' 'Point Break' and 'The Firm'.
  • Industries
    • Action
  • Astrological Sign: Cancer
  • Schools
    • Pittsburg State University
    • Oklahoma State University

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  • Article Title: Gary Busey Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/actors/gary-busey
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: April 12, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014