RIP R. Lee Ermey…
Sad news: R. Lee Ermey, the former Marine who went from an off-camera Vietnam War Expert to stardom, has died…he will always be remembered as the foul-mouthed Marine Sergeant from Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “Full Metal Jacket”…
“I am Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be “Sir”. Do you maggots understand that?
Recruits: [In unison in a normal speaking tone] Sir, yes Sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Bullshit I can’t hear you. Sound off like you got a pair!
Recruits: [In unison, much louder] SIR, YES SIR!”
Shape Up, Maggots!
Talk about intense! Who can ever forget the vulgar and utterly mesmerizing R. Lee Ermey performance as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket!”
The Actor’s Manager announced his death on Twitter…Ermey was 74 years old, and no cause of death was mentioned.
R. Lee Ermey was in more than 75 films, but he will always be known as the foul-mouthed Sargeant who trains new recruits in Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war masterpiece!
“Full Metal Jacket!”
First, the film itself:
A two-segment look at the effect of the military mindset and war itself on Vietnam era Marines. The first half follows a group of recruits in boot camp under the command of the punishing Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The second half shows one of those recruits, Joker, covering the war as a correspondent for Stars and Stripes, focusing on the Tet offensive.
Marine Training Camp, Kubrick-Style!
“Full Metal Jacket” is Kubrick’s classic anti-war film, showing how young men are turned into killing machines. The first half of the film is anchored by Ermey’s mesmerizing performance as the drill Sergeant who will whip this fresh bunch of new recruits into shape:
“You are nothing but unorganized grabastic pieces of amphibian shit!”
OK, perhaps we are, but what a classic way to put it! The film is filled with hilariously profane instructions from the Sergeant, like this:
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: “If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that day you are pukes. You are the lowest form of life on Earth. You are not even human fucking beings. You are nothing but unorganized grabastic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me. But the more you hate me, the more you will learn. I am hard but I am fair. There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corps. Do you maggots understand that?”
Sgt. Hartman Speaks!
Thanks to the terrific genre magazine “VideoScope” for a great interview with the Actor, who shared many anecdotes about “Full Metal Jacket” as well as other films he has appeared in – “VideoSCope” is always full of great interviews that celebrate unique aspects of the world of film…
Here is some great trivia: Did you know that R. Lee Ermey was a technical advisor on another classic anti-war film “Apocalypse Now?” As he explained to VideoScope:
“I was hired as a background extra. Once we started shooting they found out I was a Vietnam veteran and I ended up being the number two technical advisor on the movie.”
Ermey’s performance in “Full Metal Jacket” is infused with his unique history as a drill instructor, leading to a nonstop series of monologues like this:
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Tonight, you pukes will sleep with your rifles. You will give your rifle a girl’s name because this is the only pussy you people are going to get. Your days of finger-banging ol’ Mary-Jane Rottencrotch through her pretty pink panties are over! You’re married to this piece. This weapon of iron and wood. And you will be faithful. Port, hut!”
Ermey Meets Kubrick!
Ermey was originally hired by Kubrick to be a technical advisor, but of course, things ended up differently. It all began with Ermey decided to train the extras AS Gunnery Sgt. Hartman:
“I approached them as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman would approach a platoon and I delivered the first scene. Then I dropped them down for push-ups. I had them choking themselves.”
The material was videotaped for Kubrick to see how they were being trained, and when the Director saw the material he called Ermey into his office and gave him the role!
All Ermey’s, But No Ad-libs!
It is a common misconception that most of R. Lee Ermey’s dialogue during the training sequence was improvised. In several interviews Ermey stated that he worked closely with Kubrick to help mold the script so that it was more believable, all while retaining certain dialogue crucial to Kubrick’s vision.
While filming the opening scene, where he disciplines Pvt. Cowboy, he says Cowboy is the type of guy who would have sex with another guy “and not even have the goddamned common courtesy to give him a reach-around”. Stanley Kubrick immediately yelled cut and went over to Ermey and asked, “What the hell is a reach-around?” Ermey politely explained what it meant. Kubrick laughed and re-shot the scene, telling Ermey to keep the line!
According to Ermey, he was allowed to write almost all of the material himself, but it was all written down – nothing was improvised on the set!
To keep the recruits’ reactions as convincing as possible, Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, and the other actors never met R. Lee Ermey prior to filming. Stanley Kubrick also saw to it that Ermey didn’t fraternize with the actors between takes – as if they would want to!
And one final piece of trivia: did you know that the Motion Picture Association refused to allow this poster for the film?
They decided that the line “in Vietnam the wind doesn’t blow it sucks” was inappropriate to be seen on a movie poster!
I can only imagine what Sergeant Hartman would have said about that! Kudos to R. Lee Ermey for creating one of the most memorable film characters in movie history!
As I said, he also advised many films and TV shows, including “Apocalypse Now”, and he discusses that in this terrific documentary about filming in the Philippines…
This is a great documentary, and he is really candid about working with Coppola on the classic anti-war film…see my story here…
RIP to R. Lee Ermey…
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