William Gary Busey Biography

(Best Known for His Role as ‘Buddy Holly’ in the Film ‘The Buddy Holly Story’)

Birthday: June 29, 1944 (Cancer)

Born In: Baytown, Texas, United States

William Gary Busey, better known to his fans as Gary Busey, is an actor who has portrayed versatile roles both on the stage and in films. Blessed with a big toothy grin and gravelly voice, the actor has got looks that make him very suitable for playing weird and crazy characters which he did in movies like ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Under Siege’. He began his professional career as a drummer playing under the name Teddy Jack Eddy before gradually moving on to acting. While in Tulsa, he was cast as Sprunk in a local television comedy show called ‘The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting’. His film career began with the biker movie titled ‘Angels Hard as They Come’ which led to other minor roles in films like ‘Dirty Little Billy’ and ‘Hex’. A big breakthrough happened when he was cast in the leading role in ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ as the rock musician Buddy Holly. A musician himself, he performed his own songs—a fact that was much appreciated by the film critics. He earned an Academy Award nomination for this role and the talented actor seemed poised to achieve greater success. Unfortunately he became a victim to cocaine addiction which marred his life and career and prevented him from realizing his full potential.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Gary Busey

Age: 79 Years, 79 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Judy Lynn Helkenberg, Tiani Warden

father: Delmer Lloyd Busey

mother: Sadie Virginia

children: Jake Busey, Luke Sampson Busey

Actors American Men

Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males

Notable Alumni: Coffeyville Community College, Oklahoma State University, Nathan Hale High School, Pittsburg State University

U.S. State: Texas

More Facts

education: Pittsburg State University, Oklahoma State University, Coffeyville Community College, Nathan Hale High School

Childhood & Early Life
Gary Busey was born to a Native American father, Delmer Lloyd Busey and an Irish mother Sadie Virginia. His father was a construction design manager.
He attended Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa and graduated in 1962.
He earned a football scholarship to attend Pittsburg State University and then transferred to Oklahoma State University. But he quit before graduating.
He used to play percussion with the musicians Leon Russell and Willie Nelson while at college.
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The musically inclined young man made his entry into the show business as a drummer in a band called The Rubber Band. He also played drums on many of Leon Russell’s recordings under the name Teddy Jack Eddy.
He played the role of Sprunk in a local television comedy show called ‘The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting’ while at Tulsa.
By the 1970’s he began playing several minor roles in television and films. He made his film debut with the biker movie ‘Angels Hard as They Come’ in 1971.
He was given small roles in the movies ‘The Magnificent Seven Ride!’ and ‘Dirty Little Billy’ in 1972.
In one of the episodes ‘The Ancient Warrior’ of ‘Kung Fu’, Season 1 in 1973, he made a brief appearance.
Director Barbra Streisand noticed his performance in a television series and chose him to play Bobby Ritchie in the film ‘A Star is Born’ in 1976.
In 1978 he landed the leading role in the biographical film ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ in which he played the talented young singer Buddy Holly whose life was tragically cut short by an accident.
Even though his career seemed to heading on in the right direction, his life was not. He became addicted to cocaine and alcohol which jeopardized his career. He was no longer getting any lead roles, only minor roles were coming his way because of his drug problems.
During the 1980’s he was typecast as a weird and crazy guy and was unable to break out of this stereotype. He played small roles in various movies including ‘The Bear’ (1984), ‘Silver Bullet’ (1985), and ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (1986).
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He was cast as Joshua in the 1987 action film ‘Lethal Weapon’ which also starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. The film was a big hit and revived his faltering career.
The 1991 movie ‘Point Break’ also saw a fine performance by him. He played FBI Agent Angelo Pappas who along with his partner investigates a series of bank robberies. The movie was commercially very successful.
He portrayed a corrupt and psychotic navy officer in the critically acclaimed action film ‘Under Siege’ in 1992. His role was much appreciated by the film critics.
By the mid 1990’s his drug problem was worsening and he almost died as a result of cocaine overdose. He was hospitalized and was arrested by the police for possession of illegal drugs.
His film career went downhill and he no longer got any meaningful roles, though he continued appearing in minor roles in films such as ‘Soldier’ (1998), ‘Glory Glory’ (2000), ‘Latin Dragon’ (2004) and ‘Maneater’ (2007).
Along with his film performances, he has appeared in several television shows mostly in guest appearances.
Major Works
His best known film is ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ in which he played the young musician Buddy Holly. He lost several kilos for this role and also performed the songs himself. He was critically appreciated for this role which earned him several awards and an Academy Award nomination for the Best Actor.
Awards & Achievements
He won the National Society of Film Critics Award for the Best Actor for his portrayal of Buddy Holly in ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ in 1979.
He won the BAFTA Film Award for the Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Role in 1980 for the film ‘The Buddy Holly Story’.

Personal Life & Legacy
He has been married twice with both marriages ending in divorce. Currently he is in a relationship with Steffanie Sampson.
He has three children, all with different women. His son Jake Busey is also an actor and a musician.
He had a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1988 which resulted in severe head injuries because he was not wearing a helmet.
He had a much publicized drug abuse problem though he claims he has been clean from the past many years.
He lent his voice to a video game ‘Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’

See the events in life of William Gary Busey in Chronological Order

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