The actor and former marine R Lee Ermey has died. He made a career in acting portraying hard-nosed military types like Gunnery Sgt Hartman in the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket.
It was announced by Ermey’s manager, Bill Rogin, that the actor passed away on Sunday morning following pneunomia-related complications. He was 74.
The actor and marine was born in Kansas and was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his portrayal of Gunner Sgt Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, memorable for uttering lines such as “What is your major malfunction?”
Friends and those who worked with Ermey have taken to Twitter to express their condolences. Matthew Modine, who played Private Joker alongside Ermey in Full Metal Jacket tweeted: “#SemperFidelis Always faithful. Always loyal. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” Modine wrote, quoting the Dylan Thomas poem. “RIP amigo. PVT. Joker.”
Vincent D’Onofrio, who played Private Leonard Lawrence wrote: “Ermey was the real deal. The knowledge of him passing brings back wonderful memories of our time together.” Whilst Adam Baldwin, who played Animal Mother simply tweeted: “R.i.p R. Lee Ermey, ‘The Gunny’,” with a link to Bill Rogin’s statement.
The actor was born Ronald Lee Ermey in Kansas, 1944. Before acting he served 11 years in the US Marine Corps and spent 14 months in Vietman before moving to Okinawa Japan, where he became a staff sergeant. Ermey’s first role in film came when he was credited as playing a helicopter pilot in Frances Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which he quickly followed with a part playing a drill instructor in The Boys in Company C.
Ronald gained over 60 credits in both film and television, often playing tough authority figures in everything from David Fincher’s Se7en, to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.
The actor was only originally employed on Full Metal Jacket as a technical consultant, however he wanted the role of the gunner sergeant and therefore submitted an audition tape of himself yelling out insults while tennis balls flew at him. This impressed Kubrick and he gave him the role.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Kubrick said that 50% of Ermey’s dialogue in the 1987 film was his own. He said: “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.”
The actor is also known for voicing the army man ‘Sarge,’ in the Tory Story films. Other roles included thletics coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine; General Kramer in Toy Soldiers, and Mayor Tilman in Mississippi Burning.
He was a board member for the National Rifle Association, and a spokesman for Glock.
“He will be greatly missed by all of us,” Rogin said. “It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for.”
The manager described Ermey as a family man, and a kind and gentle soul who supported military personnel.