Town & Gown: JSU alum survives, thrives after alien abduction
This Town and Gown is written by Julie Skinner in Jacksonville State University’s Office of Public Relations.

To have once been abducted by aliens, Cary Guffey is refreshingly down to earth.

Guffey, the JSU alumnus who was cast as Barry Guiler in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, says he never considered acting as a career. Guffey was born in Gadsden, and moved to Georgia when he was two. An odd stroke of luck occurred when he just happened to be in the same preschool class in Douglasville, Ga., as the niece of the film’s casting director. When the casting director spotted Guffey one day, he instantly knew Guffey was the kid for the movie.

Though Guffey’s parents never thought their son would become an actor, especially at such a young age, they made a decision early on that they wouldn’t let the opportunity affect their way of life or go to their son’s head. After filming began in Mobile, Guffey celebrated his fourth birthday while on set.

“I was basically the only kid on set, so I had all of these people catering to me,” Guffey says. “I remember some of the games we played in between shooting scenes.”

Guffey recalls taking motorcycle rides with Steven Spielberg and never feeling as though filming was a job, but more of play time.

“The best part of the movie to me is the scene where I’m abducted,” Guffey says. “Steven was really careful to not to let me get scared. He let me blow up the kitchen a couple times by pushing a control button outside. So when it came time to film it, I had already seen it several times.”

On Nov. 16, the film celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary, which Guffey finds surreal. He says it’s still an important film today because it showcased aliens in a different light.

“This film had a different take on aliens,” Guffey says. “Up until this movie, aliens were scary things.”

With two boys of his own, ages nine and 10, Guffey sometimes stops to watch the movie if he’s flipping through channels to see the similarities between himself and his two boys.

Guffey went on to do more acting in 11 projects altogether, working with Burt Reynolds, Patrick Swayze and Michael J. Fox.

“Everybody I worked with was great, just absolutely great,” Guffey says. “Part of the advantage of growing up around famous people when you’re three years old and acting is you get to see that these people put their pants on the same way I did. To me, they were just people.”

Guffey now resides in Birmingham, where he is a certified financial planner. When he decided to obtain his MBA degree, Guffey chose Jacksonville State University, where both of his parents attended. Though Guffey received his undergraduate degree from a larger university, he says he appreciated JSU for the smaller classes and knowing professors by name.

“I love JSU. It has a down home feel and the quality of education is just outstanding,” Guffey says. “Having my MBA has just opened up so many doors.”

So, does Guffey believe that there are aliens out there?

“Never say never. I believe that we were created, and if a creator wanted there to be others, sure. Why not? It’s a great big universe, so who knows?” Guffey says. “Do I think they’re coming to see us any time soon? Probably not.”

Guffey still receives fan mail today, and says he’s always been one to send autographs for free when asked. Though he’s had his taste of the limelight, he remembers fondly the smaller, friendly campus where he got his MBA.

“I’m so grateful to JSU,” Guffey says. “I can’t emphasize enough how important JSU has been to me as a person. It’s a great university, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

For more information on this story, please contact Julie Skinner in Jacksonville State University’s Office of Public Relations at 256-782-5636.
© 2012