Happy Birthday Gary Busey: Reliving the Hollywood Legend’s Most Iconic Moments

by Emily Morgan
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To tribute the Texas native and legendary actor, Gary Busey, for his 77th birthday, we’re looking back at some of his finest moments throughout his career. 

Long before Busey became a familiar face on TV, he was born in Goose Creek, Texas. Later, Busey and his family moved from Goose Creek to Tulsa, Okla. After high school, he attended Coffeyville Community College before transferring to Pittsburg State University in Kansas on a football scholarship. Once there, he first became interested in pursuing acting. Before acting full time, he moved to Oklahoma State University but dropped out just before graduation.

Busey got his start as an actor in minor roles on both TV and films in the ’70s. In 1975, he booked the role of “Harvey Daley,” who was the last person killed on “Gunsmoke” in the third-to-last episode of the classic western series.

Before his “Gunsmoke” appearance in 1974, Busey made his major film debut in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring heavy-hitting actors Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges.

Gary Busey Breaks Out As Famed Hollywood Actor

Later, in 1976, Barbra Streisand recruited Busey to play Bobby Ritchie, the road manager for Kris Kristofferson’s character in A Star is Born. According to Streisand, after seeing Busey on TV, she thought he was great and wanted him for the role. 

In the late ’70s, Busey picked up steam as an actor when he played Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story. Busey also earned critical acclaim for his performance when he was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Actor.”

That same year, he also starred in the drama, Straight Time and Big Wednesday, both of which have become cult classics. 

During the ’80s, Busey continued to book roles. He played a part in the critically acclaimed western Barbarosa, alongside Willie Nelson. In addition to westerns, he also landed parts in comedies such as D.C. Cab and Insignificance. Busey also starred in the Stephen King adaptation, Silver Bullet. He later played the villain opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the fan-favorite, Lethal Weapon.

He played prominent roles in successful action films in the ’90s, such as Predator 2Point Break, and Under Siege. He also appeared in Rookie of the YearThe FirmBlack SheepLost Highway, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

In 2003, Busey starred in the Comedy Central reality show “I’m with Busey.” In 2005, he also voiced himself in an episode of the classic show, “The Simpsons.” He also appeared as himself in HBO’s “Entourage.” 

In 2008, he joined the second season of the reality show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” Busey later returned to reality television when he became a cast member on season four of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

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