R. Lee Ermey, best known for his Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket,” has died. He was 74.
Ermey’s longtime manager announced the news via a tweet to Ermey’s official Twitter account.
“It is with great sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (‘The Gunny’) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us,” the tweet reads.
In addition to his role in Stanley Kubrick’s Oscar-nominated film, which earned him a supporting actor Golden Globe nod, Ermey had several other mostly authority figure roles to his credit, including Sheriff Hoyt in 2003’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a police captain in “Seven,” and the voice of the plastic army men’s leader Sarge in “Toy Story.”
Ermey was a former U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant and honorary gunnery sergeant, and served as a drill instructor during his tenure from 1961-1972. He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, for one year until 1968, when he was moved to Vietnam and spent 14 months in country.
His first film role occurred when he was studying in the Philippines, and he played a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in “Apocalypse Now,” also serving as a technical adviser to Francis Ford Coppola. He had a series of other small roles until his casting in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”
Ermey was originally meant to function only as a technical adviser to Kubrick, but when Kubrick was impressed by an instructional tape Ermey put together in which he went on long rants at extras, he instead cast him in the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Kubrick allowed Ermey to improvise and write or edit his dialogue, and he said Ermey often only needed two or three takes to finish a scene — both unusual for Kubrick films.
All told, Ermey had roles in some 60-plus films, as well as several voice credits, including “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Simpsons,” and “Family Guy.”
On top of his voice acting, he hosted two programs for the History channel: “Mail Call,” in which he provided expertise on military issues, both modern and historic, and “Lock N’ Load With R. Lee Ermey,” which focused on the development of different types of weapons.