The World Has Lost an Unforgettable Actor and Former Marine
As we remember and celebrate the life of 'Full Metal Jacket' star and Vietnam vet R. Lee Ermey, here's a look at his five best performances
R. Lee Ermey truly had a one-of-a-kind career in Hollywood.
The former Marine drill instructor went from being a technical adviser on war films such as “Apocalypse Now” to a breakout role in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” — to later being one of the entertainment industry’s most interesting personalities, someone who could jump from genre to genre with ease.
He elevated every project he worked on, and he always put forth a positive image of the military and our servicemen and women.
The announcement came on Sunday night that Ermey had passed away due to complications of pneumonia at age 74.
Fellow artists who worked with Ermey took to Twitter to share their condolences over the loss of the star.
#SemperFidelis Always faithful. Always loyal.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) April 15, 2018
— Vincent D'Onofrio (@vincentdonofrio) April 16, 2018
Though he had a prolific career, acting jobs for him had slowed in recent years; he felt it was due to Hollywood’s move further and further Left and the industry’s discovery of his own right-leaning views.
“I’ve had a very fruitful career. I’ve done over 70 feature films,” he told Fox News in 2016. “I’ve done over 200 episodes of [the Outdoor Channel series ‘GunnyTime’] … and then [Hollywood] found out that I’m a conservative.”
He added, “I’m an Independent, but I said something bad about the president [Obama]. I had something unsavory to say about the president’s administration, and even though I did vote for him the first time around, I was blackballed.”
“I had something unsavory to say about [President Obama’s] administration, and even though I did vote for him the first time around, I was blackballed.”
Ermey said his association with the NRA — he was a member — combined with his criticism of the former president kept him off the screen later in life.
“Do you realize I have not done a movie in five to six years? Why? Because I was totally blackballed by the … liberals in Hollywood,” he said. “They can destroy you. They’re hateful people [who] don’t just not like you — they want to take away your livelihood … That’s why I live up in the desert on a dirt road … I don’t have to put up with their crap.”
Though his career slowed in recent years, Ermey will forever be part of some of cinema’s most memorable performances.
And if his acting career wasn’t impressive enough, Ermey was also a Vietnam veteran who was discharged from of the Marine Corps as a staff sergeant. He was later made an honorary gunnery sergeant.
In celebration of both Ermey’s service to his country and his contributions to the entertainment industry, here is a look at five of his best performances.
1.) “Full Metal Jacket” (1987). Ermey’s work in this film is without a doubt one of the greatest performances in cinematic history. From the moment he steps onto the screen, you can’t take your eyes off this man. You can’t believe what he’s saying. It takes mere seconds for the viewer to believe that when he’s yelling — he’s yelling at you.
Ermey was appropriately playing a Marine drill instructor and director Stanley Kubrick revealed later that Ermey molded his character and developed much of the unforgettable dialogue.
“In the course of hiring the Marine recruits, we interviewed hundreds of guys. We lined them all up and did an improvisation of the first meeting with the drill instructor. They didn’t know what he was going to say, and we could see how they reacted. Lee came up with — I don’t know, 150 pages of insults,” Kubrick told Rolling Stone.
2.) “Toy Story” — the first three films (1995, 1999, 2010). Ermey had a distinct and unforgettable voice, which is why he was such a natural at voice work. His best in that category came from the “Toy Story” franchise, in which he played the Army sergeant toy.
It’s hard not to think of Ermey saying things like, “Go! Go! Go!” when you see those classic little green plastic soldiers.
3.) “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003). The best decision the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake made was casting R. Lee Ermey.
The film was brutal and definitely not for everybody, in keeping with the spirit of the original — but anyone would be hard-pressed not to be entertained by Ermey’s performance. He was a madman posing as a sheriff who was somehow scarier than the actual chainsaw-wielding killer in the film.
Ermey infused the performance with madness and humor and became the most memorable and original thing about this 2003 reboot.
4.) “Action” (1999-2000). Ermey could be hard as nails in some films, but he also had a wickedly funny side. One of his best comedic roles was as the recurring character of Titus Scroad, an eccentric director, in the short-lived but cult classic show “Action.”
Ermey’s personality fit perfectly in the program, which had the goal of spoofing and poking fun at everything about Hollywood. As a man who had spent years in the military (and outside of the entertainment industry), it was likely easy for Ermey to see a lot of the pretentiousness and emptiness about the town.
5.) “GunnyTime” (2015-2017). Ermey’s most successful role was as himself. He brought an element of his personality to every role he took on, but in this one, he was just being himself with a camera pointed at him.
“GunnyTime” was the perfect opportunity for Ermey to let loose and show off his experience and thirst for knowledge. He had a ball using some of the world’s unique weapons and discovering the history around them.
The series aired on the Outdoor Channel and was a treat to watch. The weapons were cool — but they were icing on the cake compared to the humor and experience Ermey brought to the series.