R. Lee Ermey was a one-of-a-kind soul. He served his country in the Marine Corps and went on to have a successful career in Hollywood, where he worked with top directors Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher.
While many loved him for his work as an actor and his promotion of veterans and veteran-related issues, R. Lee Ermey was most respected for his view on life. In his later years, he hosted a handful of reality programs (“Mail Bag,” “Locked and Loaded,” “GunnyTime”) all based on his personality and his unique experiences in both the military and Tinseltown.
He was a man who knew exactly who he was and what he thought; he had a refreshing directness that few stars of today possess.
Here is a look at five great quotes from R. Lee Ermey.
1.) “Marines don’t just say, ‘Oh,’ and give up. We continue to march, and we attack until we achieve our goal and we accomplish our mission.” While one might think Ermey was referring to an experience in Vietnam or to training young Marines as a drill instructor, he was actually describing to DoD News in 2009 the way he landed his unforgettable role in “Full Metal Jacket.”
Originally hired as a technical consultant on the film, Ermey had his eyes set on the role of the film’s Marine drill sergeant from the beginning. To accomplish his goal, he had some of the extras line up like a platoon. He then berated them on camera as if he were still in the Marines. The tape was shown to director Stanley Kubrick — and Kubrick offered Ermey the role.
Yet Ermey wasn’t satisfied with merely taking the role. He also wanted to rewrite most of the dialogue to make the drill sergeant sound more true to life. While Kubrick was known for being a control freak, he actually allowed Ermey the freedom to write his own dialogue — which means most of those famous insults people like to quote came straight from the man himself.
2.) “I’m a firm believer that the greatest instructors in the Marine Corps today and of yesteryear have always been just damn near stand-up comedians.” If you’ve ever been through basic training in the military, you know part of the challenge when dealing with drill sergeants has to do with demeanor — and trying not to crack a smile. Just as in the opening scene of “Full Metal Jacket,” their insults are cruel and direct, but they’re also wildly original and creative. This quote came from an interview Ermey gave to the History Channel in 2001 when he discussed his experiences in training young Marines for the Vietnam War.
3.) “If you’re a conservative in this town, you better watch out.” Ermey’s acting career slowed later in life, and he was open about the reasons why: He said that after he shared some conservative viewpoints, the offers slowed down.
He even alleged to TMZ in 2012 that Geico had dropped him as a spokesperson after he criticized the Obama administration and its negative effect on the American economy.
4.) “Everybody wants to blame guns. I haven’t seen a gun yet that could hurt somebody.” Ermey was a big supporter of the Second Amendment. He was on the board of directors of the NRA, and he said he never once missed a meeting.
He told The American Militia YouTube channel last year that he was against gun control because a gun by itself is harmless. It was that type of directness that endeared this man to those who knew him.
5.) “I could have a private who can do nine pull-ups and damn it, when I’m through talking to him, he can do 12. Why? Because I’ve intimidated this private so severely that I’ve convinced him that he can do 12 or he’s going to die. That’s why.”
This quote, too, came from an interview Ermey gave to the History Channel about his time as a Marine drill sergeant. This sort of toughness and old-school machismo made Ermey a truly unique figure in the public eye. He will be missed, but his mark on the world won’t soon be forgotten.