Golden Globe-nominated actor R. Lee Ermey has died at age 74. Although he is probably best known for his role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, Ermey made a career of bringing no-nonsense military personnel to life on the big screen.
One of Ermey’s first roles was as a chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now, during which time he also acted as a technical advisor to Francis Ford Coppola. After some minor film parts, the actor was meant to advise on another movie as well: Full Metal Jacket. However, Stanley Kubrick was so impressed by an instructional tape that Ermey put together that he not only cast him, but even let him improvise much of his own dialogue. This was a rarity for Kubrick, but everything from Ermey’s undeniably original insults to his real life experiences proved to the auteur that he was the only man for the job.
Deadline reports that Ermey’s death was announced on social media by his long time manager, Bill Rogan. In the post, Rogan stated that the cause of death was complications from pneumonia. He went on to pay tribute to the actor stating, “Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of Full Metal Jacket fame was a hard and principled man. The real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him.” Rogan hasn’t been the only friend of Ermey’s with kind words for the late actor. An outpouring of condolences have been posted on social media from Ermey’s former co-stars.
#SemperFidelis Always faithful. Always loyal.— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) April 15, 2018
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
RIP amigo. ✌🏽PVT. Joker #FullMetalJacket @RLeeErmey @StanleyKubrick @vincentdonofrio @ViKu1111 pic.twitter.com/AYbWQmLxy1
There is a reason that Ermey portrayed figures of authority with such authenticity. Ronald Lee Ermey served as a marine for eleven years. As a teenager, he had several run-ins with the law and by seventeen, had been arrested twice for criminal mischief. The judge gave Ermey a simple choice between jail or the military. He chose the latter. Beginning in 1961, Ermey served for about ten years before retiring on a medical disability. His rank at that time was staff sergeant, but years later he was given the honorary rank of gunnery sergeant - the same rank he had in Full Metal Jacket.
Following that film, Ermey became known for playing both military and law enforcement parts. He appeared in Mississippi Burning, Se7en, Leaving Las Vegas, and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, just to name a few of his many film roles. The actor has had several memorable TV roles, including appearances on The X-Files and Tales From the Crypt. He also leant his vocal talents to shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants and The Simpsons. Aside from that, he voiced Sarge in the Toy Story movies. Ermey was immensely talented and his iconic performances will never be forgotten.
Sources: Deadline, Twitter