Jake Busey owes 'Stranger Things' role to 'The Frighteners'

By Ben Hooper
Actor Jake Busey told UPI in an interview that he found the experience of working on the third season of Netflix's "Stranger Things" to be akin to working on "an independent film." Photo courtesy of Dana Patrick
1 of 3 | Actor Jake Busey told UPI in an interview that he found the experience of working on the third season of Netflix's "Stranger Things" to be akin to working on "an independent film." Photo courtesy of Dana Patrick

Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Jake Busey is experiencing a career resurgence with roles in The Predator and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and he is now offering fans some precious details about his next major project: Netflix's Stranger Things.

Busey, 47, the son of actor Gary Busey, made a name for himself with notable roles in 1990s blockbusters such as Starship Troopers, and now he is heading to the fictional town of Hawkins, Ind., for the third season of Stranger Things.


The actor told UPI that he plays a journalist named Bruce for the Hawkins newspaper in the show, and said the new season will further complicate the lives of its central cast when the rest of the town finds out about what's been happening in their own back yards.

"After two and a half years of the town going through these bizarre experiments and bizarre happenings, the press of course gets wind of it," he said. "The people of the town aren't going to stay in the dark forever."


The actor said he didn't find out until after going through the audition process that Matt and Ross Duffer -- better known as The Duffer Brothers -- had specifically intended the role for him.

"The boys, the Duffer brothers, they really liked a movie I did in the '90s called The Frighteners and they wanted to work with that guy from The Frighteners," Busey said.

Busey likened the experience on the set of Stranger Things to "working on an independent film." He said the cast and crew are still a bit "in shock" about the show's breakout popularity.

"Everyone was thankful for their job and proud of how they had just haphazardly made it to number one without even trying," he said. "It was one of those things where they liked the idea of the show, and they signed on board to make it, but nobody knew it was going to be so big."

"It was nice to see how humble they were about it all, and very professional. It was really cool," he said.

The Predator

Busey said The Predator is the biggest movie he's worked on in over a decade.

One of the ways the film ties back to the franchise's first two outings is the inclusion of Busey's character, the son of the character played by his father, Gary Busey, in 1990's Predator 2. He said stepping into his father's footsteps wasn't as much intimidating as it was worrying.


"The only thing I was worried about was the optics of it. The public perception of, 'Oh wow, look at Jake, he's even playing characters that are related to his dad's characters,'" Busey said. "I tried very hard for 25-plus years to carve my own path and do my own thing."

"But this was one of those opportunities that was more doing it out of respect to my dad, and paying homage to my dad and his career," he said.

Busey said he also welcomed the chance to work with director Shane Black and enter into an established movie universe.

"There was a certain pride that came along with being a legacy member of the Predator franchise. It was really nice. So I was proud to walk exactly in my father's footsteps as they fell on the sand of the beach, as one might say," he said.

He said his father hasn't seen the movie yet, as he's been busy traveling on a book tour.

"I'm sure that he will love it," Busey said. "It's definitely his type of movie."

Joining the MCU

Busey also recently joined another established cinematic universe with a recurring role as Tony "Candyman" Caine on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He said it remains to be seen whether the black market dealer will appear in the sixth season of the ABC series.


"They're very close to the vest. I would very much love to bring back Tony Caine ... but I think they're about seven or eight episodes into the season and I haven't gotten a phone call," he said.

Busey suggested that if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't have room to explore Candyman's future exploits, he would jump at the chance to take the character to Marvel's big-screen franchise.

"I'd like to really explore Candyman and have him be the smart-mouthed antihero kind of a guy, like if Deadpool was a drug dealer," Busey said. "Candyman has never been completely explored so far, not even in the comics. He's sort of mentioned here and there, but he's not fleshed out."

Busey said he wasn't much of a comic book fan as a child, and he was surprised to see super heroes come to dominate Hollywood.

"When we did Starship Troopers, for example, somebody mentioned that they were going to be doing a Marvel movie, and we all kinda thought, 'Wow, nobody's going to go see that,'" he laughed. "Because at that time, our culture was not up to speed."

He credited the "very slow and very calculated" release of the first Marvel Studios films with making the genre "new and exciting" in "a very genius way."


"So I'm certainly a fan of the Marvel universe now, I'm very, very excited and grateful to be invited to hop in and be on S.H.I.E.L.D."

Starship Troopers

Busey said that despite his three-decade career in show business, there is one film that he gets approached about on the street more than any other: 1997's Starship Troopers.

"When we made it, we just thought it was going to be the coolest thing since sliced bread," he said. "We thought it was just going to have a giant opening weekend, and we were all gonna be big super stars -- and none of that happened."

He said a "soft opening weekend" and being panned by critics led many to give up on the movie.

"It didn't get good reviews when it was first released, because the critics didn't understand what it was," he said. "Then about 10 years later, everywhere I went people are yelling 'Starship Troopers!' at me."

Busey said the film, on its surface a gory sci-fi adventure, had hidden depths that even he didn't fully grasp until recently.

"When I watched the 20-year reunion screening, it all hit me, like 'Oh, man, this is why! Now I get it!'" Busey said. "Buried in the subtext of the story, we see that the movie is fascism versus communism, and that the bugs are actually the good guys. When you realize all that, it's just a major head-trip."


He said the movie still resonates with fans today.

"It was made in a different time period, and what's incredible is that it still stands up. It's impressive, it makes you realize what a fantastic director Paul Verhoeven is," he said. "It's incredible. That has become my signature film. I had no idea that would happen."

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