Gary Busey Used His Real-Life Death Experience in a Movie

Gary Busey’s manic energy and expressive face helped him become a regular actor in Hollywood and a meme topic on the internet. But he came close to dying before appearing in some of his most notable roles. Busey was severely injured in a motorcycle accident that reshaped his work habits in a bizarre way. This anecdote is one of many stories about Gary Busey that are easy to laugh at, but the actor recently became embroiled in a serious celebrity scandal

Gary Busey changed his perspective after crashing his motorcycle

Gary Busey motorcycle accident
Gary Busey | Christina Elliott/FilmMagic

On December 4, 1988, Gary Busey lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into a highway guardrail in downtown Los Angeles. He sustained severe head injuries and underwent two hours of neurosurgery that night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Busey was 44 and not wearing a helmet. 

Such recklessness isn’t unfamiliar to him and other actors. It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of celebrity. But life-altering events often lead to changes of perspective, and Busey confirmed as much in an interview with Larry King. The actor revealed that he didn’t wear a helmet because his ego had grown to an unsustainable size. 

“I was wrong. Arnold — my friend Arnold — [said,] ‘Gary, you need to wear your helmet.’ My son, Jake, [said,] ‘Dad, you’ve got to wear that helmet.’ And I’d say, ‘OK — it will be there when I need it,'” Busey told King (per CNN). “But God had a way of teaching me the lesson and making a humanitarian out of me — by slamming me against that curb at 75 miles an hour, splitting my skull open. Having brain surgery, dying on the table after the brain surgery, having an [out-of-body experience].”

During his out-of-body experience, the actor claimed to see angels more in line with the Bible’s description of them rather than the entities depicted in films. “They’re big balls of light that float and carry nothing but love and warmth,” the actor claimed.

After recovering, Busey appeared in movies such as Point Break, Lost Highway, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. 

His beliefs on Heaven’s design led to a fight on the set of a bad movie 

The effects of Gary Busey’s motorcycle crash later emerged in more ludicrous ways. In a 2012 AV/Club Toronto interview, Curtis Jackson, best known as Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, revealed a hilarious tale about Busey’s kooky on-set conduct. (The original article is no longer on the site, so all the quotes come courtesy of Vulture.)

Jackson and Busey worked together on 2003’s Quigley, a forgotten direct-to-video flick where Busey plays a software tycoon who dies and returns as a Pomeranian. In case you don’t believe this movie exists, here is the poster on IMDb, complete with a necktie-wearing dog.

Jackson’s take on his co-star speaks for itself:

“We were shooting this movie — which is a horrible movie — and he was supposed to come back from the dead. And he, of course, Gary Busey, supposedly had done this — he’d been in an accident and died and came back. He showed up on a set made to look like Heaven, and he looked around and said, ‘I can’t play this scene.’ They were three days behind at this point. But Busey said, ‘It’s nothing like this. I’ve been to Heaven, and it doesn’t look like this. That sofa is all wrong. That mirror is ridiculous. They don’t even have mirrors!’ It was ridiculous. He was completely nuts about the design of Heaven.”

Demanding that a production team take down every mirror on set because of a hallucination following a traumatic brain injury is wild enough, but Busey eventually became violently passionate about his beliefs. You see, another guy working on Quigley had had a near-death experience, and their debate led to a fistfight.

“This guy got into an argument with Busey about the way Heaven looked! The two of them wound up coming to blows, and they had to send everybody home. So there you go. That’s what we were working with,” Jackson concluded.

Gary Busey is accused of sex crimes at a recent horror convention

This past August, Gary Busey’s strange behavior allegedly took a turn for the criminal. During a photo shoot at the Monster-Mania Con in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the actor reportedly groped two women and tried to undo the bra of a third. The actor allegedly urged police to ask the women not to file reports against him. Still, he was charged with two counts of criminal sexual contact in the fourth degree, one count of a criminal attempt of sexual contact, and one count of harassment. (Police documents were first obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer.)

Monster-Mania released a statement on its Facebook page confirming that it’s “assisting authorities” with the investigation and that it removed Busey from the convention following complaints. 

Busey told TMZ that his conduct was aboveboard and that eyewitnesses could confirm his innocence. The day after charges were filed, the 78-year-old was seen with his pants around his knees while sitting in a public park in Malibu. 

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