R. Lee Ermey, who called upon his own experiences as a Marine Corps drill instructor for his famed role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the movie “Full Metal Jacket,” died Sunday morning from pneumonia-related complications at 74.
Ermey was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor for his performance as the intense Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film. His many other acting credits include a police captain in “Se7en,” the voice of Sarge in the “Toy Story” movies, and Sheriff Hoyt in the 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
His co-stars from “Full Metal Jacket,” Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio, were among those who tweeted their condolences after Ermey’s death.
Modine wrote, “#SemperFidelis Always faithful. Always loyal. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. RIP amigo. PVT. Joker.”
“Ermey was the real deal. The knowledge of him passing brings back wonderful memories of our time together,” D’Onofrio wrote.
Ronald Lee Ermey was born March 24, 1944, in Emporia, Kan. His family moved to Washington when he was 14, and he joined the Marines after graduating high school. He received a medical discharge in 1971 due to injuries, and used the GI Bill to enroll at the University of Manila in the Philippines where he studied drama.
Ermey appeared in an uncredited role as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” which was filmed in the Philippines. He was initially hired as a technical consultant for “Full Metal Jacket,” but filmed his own audition tape for the role of Hartman and impressed Kubrick enough to earn the role.
In May 2014, The American Legion Magazine asked its readers, website visitors and social media followers to select from a list of 100 beloved U.S. veterans; Ermey was 44th. An American Legion life member, Ermey was also profiled in the October 2003 edition of the magazine.
Ermey is survived by his wife, Nila, and four children.