When most people hear the name R. Lee Ermey, this is what they remember him for (warning, graphic language).
That is from Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 masterpiece Full Metal Jacket. R. Lee Ermey was hired as a technical advisor for the basic training portion of the movie and wound up cast as the senior drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. It garnered him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. It was also one of the very rare occasions where Kubrick allowed an actor to improvise their own dialogue. Ermey was a natural for the role, having served as a real Marine Corps drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
R. Lee Ermey left the Marine Corps in 1967. Years later while attending the University of Manila using his G.I. Bill benefits, he was cast in two films. In 1978’s The Boys in Company C, he played drill instructor “Staff Sergeant Loyce.”
A year later he appeared briefly as a helicopter pilot in another classic film about the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now.
He went on to minor roles in Mississippi Burning, Fletch Lives and The Rift. In 1994’s On Deadly Ground, he played a “contractor” hired by Michael Caine to hunt down and eliminate Steven Seagal. Spoiler Alert: His character was saved from being tortured by Seagal’s original 11 minute monologue that concluded the film by dying an ignominious death in an earlier scene.
1995 saw him in Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas, Se7en and our favorite of his movie appearances that year, the underrated Murder in the First as a judge.
Two years later Ermey played legendary track coach and co-founder of Nike, Inc in Prefontaine a bio-pic about iconic middle-distance runner Steve Prefontaine.
Ermey proved his range as an actor by generating a lot of laughs in 2001’s Saving Silverman.
2003 saw him in the “non-remake remake” of Willard and in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
TailSlate also enjoyed him in Man of the House where he portrayed a Texas Ranger captain, and in his one-off appearance on the television series Law & Order SVU. He hosted Lock N’ Load on the History Channel, a show that examined the history of military weapons.
He visited military bases to boost the morale of the troops so much that in 2002 the Commandant of the Marine Corps gave him a post-service promotion to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant.