Full Metal Jacket’s R. Lee Ermey Dies at 74

Marine Corps drill instructor R. Lee Ermey ad-libbed his dialogue in Kubrick Classic.

R. Lee Ermey, who rose to fame as the Marine Corps drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket died from complications of pneumonia on Sunday morning at the age of 74, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“He will be greatly missed by all of us,” Ermey’s longtime manager Bill Rogin announced on on Twitter. “Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed.”

Lee Ermey, whose nickname was “The Gunny,” was a real-life Parris Island Marine drill sergeant during the Vietnam War. Kubrick hired him as a technical adviser before he cast him as the drill instructor. Ermey previously played a drill sergeant  in The Boys in Company C, and had a role in Apocalypse Now. Ermey auditioned for Kubrick with a 15 minute tape of him improvising insults while being pelted with oranges and tennis balls. Kubrick let Ermey write his own lines and he came up with about 150 pages of insults. Kubrick gave the new actor carte blanch to improvise the sadistic dialog that gave birth to a military madman. Ermey was nominated for a Golden Globe award for the role.

Ronald Lee Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas, on March 24, 1944. Twice busted for criminal mischief twice by the he was 17, the court told him to choose between jail or the military. Ermey joined the Marine Corps. and was stationed in San Diego as a drill instructor. He served 14 months in Vietnam, and became a staff sergeant in Okinawa, before he was medically discharged in 1972 due to injuries.

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After the service, Ermy studied criminology and drama at the University of Manila before he got the git in Apocalypse Now. He appeared in more than 55 films, including Roughnecks, X-men 3, Se7en, Mississippi Burning and a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  He was featured on television shows, usually typecast in military roles.  He also hosted military documentary shows like the History Channel’s Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey, and GunnyTime on the Outdoor Channel. He was also a voice actor who contributed to SpongeBob SquarePants, and did the soldier’s voice in the Toy Story movies, and in video games and numerous TV commercials.