Interview – Jake Busey

Interview – Jake Busey

jake-1Human nature proves, for better or worse, most of us are a product of our environment. This in mind, accomplished Film/TV Actor Jake Busey’s childhood no doubt played a massive role in his performance inspirations. Growing up the son of prominent Academy nominated star Gary Busey, Jake caught the bug early on, yearning to express himself in a creative way.

Going on to have memorable leading roles in films such as 1996’s Frighteners, 1997’s Contact, 1997’s Starship Troopers, among many others, Jake Busey has built an impressive resume. Heavily active in film and television nearly four decades since he began, Jake’s passion for acting still burns strong. Recently we caught up with Jake to talk his life experience as an actor, his latest film, Arbor Demon, plans for the future, plus more. – You have been acting professionally in film and television since you were a young child. In that time, you have gone on to star in some successful films and TV series. Coming from a family of actors, what inspired you to pursue this career?

Jake Busey – I would consider myself a child of the circus: I grew up in the circus and I am just carrying on what I was privy to as a child. I really feel most comfortable on a film set, and that to me is really where, emotionally, I call my home. I’m thankful for that and the fact that, my dad being a working actor when I was a child, it allowed me to see and experience a lot more of the world than most normal kids would have the opportunity. I suppose that’s where you would say I fell in love with the craft of acting. I guess osmosis might even be a good term. – Right, naturally, we are products of what we are exposed to as a child. You have gone into a successful career, and of your diverse resume of roles, many of your films have been within the Horror as well as Sci-Fi related genres. Do you enjoy working in these areas?

Jake Busey – Yeah, I do. I do enjoy those genres. It’s kind of where you get to be the most dynamic. It is where you can explore, you can really break the rules and be vivacious, larger than life, and it doesn’t go on record as being a hindrance or a slight. So, I do enjoy the Horror and Sci-Fi genres.

One of the things I wish  that I had more opportunity to do is Science-Fiction. Contact (1997) and Starship Troopers (1997) are really the two films that I’ve done in the Sci-Fi realm. The Frighteners (1996) was kind of the big one in the Horror genre, but then there’s been a bunch of smaller, independent ventures that I’ve delved into in hopes of finding that next The Blair Witch Project (1999) or just having a good time at work.


Universal Pictures


Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group – Yes, and these are memorable roles. Hopefully you will have more opportunities within these said genres. Do you have any memories that stick out from your younger years prior to acting?

Jake Busey – In 1984, I was on the set of a movie called Silver Bullet that my dad starred in, and that was directed by Dan Attias and it was shot in North Carolina. The late Corey Haim was in the film and we were the same age, Corey was six months younger than I was. So me being there as a visitor and Corey being there as an employee and the lead kid, we really became friends.

We spent a lot of time together, we did a lot of fishing off the piers of Rascoe Beach in North Carolina. We had a really good time. It was before he was a celebrity, before anyone knew who he was. It was kind of one of his first movies, so he hadn’t been tainted by the machine yet. We really did hit it off well, and I remember watching him work and thinking – we’re skateboarding together, we’re fishing together, we’re on the beaches of North Carolina. We’re doing whatever, whatever thirteen year-olds do. Yet, I was on the sidelines watching him and my dad acting, and I remember thinking, “I could do this, I could totally be doing this. That looks really fun. In fact, this is frustrating that I don’t get to do it.”

I think that was one of my early inspirations: not only did I grow up on the film sets but then becoming friends with someone of the same age and thinking, geez, I could do that too. I had when I was five, but then my parents discouraged me from acting and they didn’t want me to become a child star for fear of what could happen with early fame. Interestingly enough, the very kid that I had become friends with and had been inspired by wound up succumbing to some of the demons that can occur from an early childhood fame.

Therefore, I started my foray into acting at eighteen years-old when I had gone to college for a minute, and realized that I was just sick of being in school and I wanted to be working. So I went to Los Angeles, I went home, and I started taking professional, vocational acting courses. After about three years of auditioning, I finally ended a small role in a movie. I’m a late bloomer and a slow-starter. It’s just been like slow and steady wins the race, I guess. I never really had any huge explosion of fame and popularity; I’ve just been a workhorse of an actor, continuing to enjoy the process of working on unique and interesting projects. – It sounds like it has been quite an interesting ride for you. You have been very busy of late with film/TV projects. One of your most recent is the forthcoming release of Arbor Demon, where you play the role of Sean. What attracted you to this role?

Jake Busey – This was a unique film. It didn’t seem to fit the mold of so many things that we’ve seen. The concept of it was really unique: the fact that the forest comes alive. When you read the script, it’s a little more of a Matisse painting, kind of abstract. You don’t really know: Is it a tree coming to life, or is it a creature, or is it a bear? What is it?

It was also an exercise of how good of work can we do with only the space of being confined in a tent. If you see the movie, all I was ever in was the tent. It was just in a small camping tent. I was never farther than two feet from the other actors. So it was very intimate, it was very quiet. It was a unique experience and I really enjoyed it. Fantastic people and they made for a really good experience. Fiona was really, really dedicated to the material and it shows in the film. So was Kevin, both of them were really right on par.


Warner Bros.


Buena Vista Pictures Distribution – Yes, you did a fantastic job with your role as well. The film is certainly a slow build through the first 35 to 40 minutes prior to your character’s entry. Then it really begins to pick up steam from that point forward. Your character plays an important role in the story.

Jake Busey – Yeah, I suppose. That, of course, all falls back onto the director; that’s his choice of his pacing and what happens with the story. I kind of did what was on the page and what was assorted to me. Of course, everything that happened before I was there didn’t really pertain to me. Although, all I can say is that I do my best to make the best out of my time when I am on-screen. I always try to give it my all: sometimes it’s too much, sometimes it’s not enough. You never know until you see the final product and I think this one is pretty good. – Agreed, and it all came out very well. As you mentioned, it is a very interesting story and it is a different story. There is clearly an underlying theme throughout the film. What did you take away from the film’s theme?

Jake Busey – Don’t mess with Mother Nature (laughs). I guess the overall message of the film would be along the lines of don’t mess with Mother Nature. At the same time, you don’t necessarily see anything, you don’t see anyone destroying the forest and then being reprimanded for it. To me, and Patrick never explained this to me, it did kind of feel like just an overall shame on you for being a man. (laughs) 


Jake Busey as Sean in Arbor Demon – (laughs) Yes, that is quite a prevailing vibe in the film. Well, it will be exciting to see how viewers respond with the film’s release on February 3rd. Beyond film, you have many other artistic interests, one of them being music. How important is music to you, both as a consumer and lover of music, as well as a musician?

Jake Busey – Music is the soul, music is the international language. Music is similar to laughter in the sense that….I often ask people, “Have you ever heard anyone laugh in a different language?” Music is really along those lines. Other than the lyrics, everybody can relate to rhythm and sound. To me, music is ever important as music is the soul and music is life.

What’s interesting about it is that the bands that I’ve been in, one thing that you truly do realize is that music is a mood. That’s why people have ten-thousand songs in their music catalogue or whatever. Now people aren’t even owning music, they’re just listening to Pandora and different applications like Spotify…different predetermined mixes based on algorithms of what they like or music that they own – or even based off an algorithm of one particular song. I think music is definitely changing in a huge way. Of course the way it’s made is changing.

I just went to NAMM and I saw some incredible, new technology around making music. Everything from drum machines that are actually robots that are hitting drums, to different synthesizers, different instruments that are really involved with the leading edge of technology. For me, all that stuff, all that fancy stuff really pales in comparison to what the intent of it is. The intent of it is a mood and a feeling: to uplift you, to calm you, to soothe you. When you want to be wild or rebellious, there’s a song or a band to fit that mood. Which is where I was going with people having ten-thousand songs in their playlist category; because all those different songs fit different moods.

Currently, I’m not in a band. Currently, I’ve been spending most of my time with my four year-old daughter when I’m not working. A band is a great thing and making music is a great thing, but at this point in my life, I’m really focused on being a father. – Of course, you have to make priorities and being a father is an important one. As mentioned, you have shared a good deal of time in film and television. That said, what was your experience like working on the El Rey’s From Dusk till Dawn: The Series

Jake Busey – We had a great time on From Dusk till Dawn. I’m really glad that I was able to have the opportunity. Not only to have the opportunity to be on the show, but to reprise a great role that was originally portrayed by Tom Savini. For the role, I got to wear the infamous Robert Rodriguez cock gun. So all of those things were just magnificent.

I was a huge fan of the film and to be in the TV series, it had so much buzz and so much hype around Hollywood, everybody was so excited about it. All the actors and all the agents, everybody was like, “Oh, the From Dusk ‘Til Dawn show,” everybody was trying to get on that show. I didn’t know it, but I kind of won a marathon by getting that role. A couple of my friends that are actors told me, “Dude, we all wanted that. We all wanted to be on that show.” For me, it’s kind of ironic that no one has seen the show (laughs). In the three years that we’ve done it, I’ve had two people walk up to me and say, “Hey, I saw you on that From Dusk ‘Til Dawn show.” I guess that’s the way of the world now; there’s just so much content that not everybody sees everything.

We really did have a good time doing it and I felt that we really made fun episodes. If I could do it again, I would. It was a great experience and I’m sorry to see it go. I feel like the third season, we were just getting rolling; the show really found its identity in the third season. So then to have the rug pulled out from under you, that was kind of a letdown. To answer your question, I am very blessed and fortunate to have been a part of it. I’m glad that I got to be a part of it as long as it did last.


Jake Busey in From Dusk Till Dawn Series – It was a good show and there is a fanbase for it. As you said, things are so fragmented now I guess some people don’t see certain things. This is something that will probably pick up steam in more years to come, more people will discover it.

Jake Busey – I can see that probably in five to ten years everybody will be talking about it. It’s kind of like when The Frighteners came out, nobody saw it at the box office. Now, everywhere I go, people are like, “You’re that guy from The Frighteners,” and that was twenty years ago. It’s just hard to fathom that it was that long ago.

Even with Starship Troopers, that was technically a failure at the box office because they always want the opening week of a film to gross three-times the amount that it cost to make it. It grossed about half what it cost to make it, so Sony wasn’t happy with it. Yet, it’s the biggest cult-classic film that I’m a part of. It’s got a ground-swell following. It’s just interesting how things play out.

Gravitas Ventures

Gravitas Ventures

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  • Jeannie Blue
    Posted at 01:09h, 04 February Reply

    Great interview, Frank. I was so happy to hear Jake surmise similar themes from “Arbor Demon” that I did, as it’s always hard to interpret art. I might think Mother Nature and someone else might think Cabella’s camping supplies. 😛

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