Ronald Lee Ermey served for 10 years in the US Marine Corps between 1961 and 1971 and held a rank of Staff Sergeant during his later active years in the Corps. His first hand experience with the US Marine Corps and the Vietnam War was a crucial part for his first movie roles (Sidney J. Furie’s war drama The Boys in Company C (1978) and Francis Ford Coppola’s war epic Apocalypse Now (1979)). From then on, Ermey has appeared in numerous war movies – and often cast as a drill instructor – but he quickly managed to convince film makers that he can do other stuff too and has subsequently appeared in dozens of television shows and films spanning a wide range of genres and roles.
His commanding presence landed him his probably best known role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987). Legend has it that Kubrick hired him as an advisor and not as an actor but on the set he was so damn convincing that Kubrick ended up manning the role with him. Kudos to Kubrick for his decision to cast Ermey. Ermey’s role in Full Metal Jacket is pretty damned strong even by today’s standards and his character’s mean-spirited, demeaning, misogynistic, anticommunist, hate-filled ranting is nowadays not only remembered but has a left a permanent mark in popular culture.
Illustrated here is Ronald Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Kubrick’s raw war movie Full Metal Jacket.