R. Lee Ermey, Star of Full Metal Jacket, Dies at 74

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R. Lee Ermey, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and actor best known for his role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, has passed away. He was 74-years old. Ermey’s death was announced on his social media platforms by his long-time manager, Bill Rogin, who wrote a tribute to his late friend. Ermey, or Gunny as friends and family called him, reportedly passed away earlier this morning due to complications with pneumonia.

Bill Rogin first announced R. Lee Ermey’s death through his official Twitter page and then later took to Facebook to post a tribute to the late actor and military veteran. It isn’t clear how long Ermey was in the hospital. Rogin had this to say.

“It is with deep 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. Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed.”

Rogin continued to say that R. Lee Ermey will be missed and also added that nobody was prepared for his death. Additionally, Rogin talked about how selfless Ermey was in his life. He explains.

“He will be greatly missed by all of us. It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for. He has meant so much to so many people. And, it is extremely difficult to truly quantify all of the great things this man has selflessly done for, and on behalf of, our many men and women in uniform. He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of Full Metal Jacket fame was a hard and principled man. The real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him. And, he especially cared deeply for others in need. There are many Gunny’s, but this one was ours. And, we will honor his memory with hope and kindness. Please support your men and women in uniform. That’s what he wanted most of all.”

R. Lee Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas, on March 24th, 1944 and grew up with five older brothers on a farm outside of Kansas City, Kansas. When Ermey was 14, he and his family left Kansas and moved to Toppenish, Washington where, as a teenager, Ermey would often get into trouble with the law and was well known by the local authorities. Ermey was arrested twice by the age 17, and after his second and final arrest, the judge gave him a choice between joining the military or being sent to jail. Ermey had this to say about his decision to join the military.

“Basically, a silver-haired judge, a kindly old judge, looked down at me and said, This is the second time I’ve seen you up here and it looks like we’re going to have to do something about this. He gave me a choice. He said I could either go into the military – any branch I wanted to go to – or he was going to send me where the sun never shines. And I love sunshine, I don’t know about you.”

At the age of 17, R. Lee Ermey joined the United States Marine Corps and went through training in San Diego, California in 1961. Ermey first served in the aviation support field before becoming a drill instructor in India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, which he was assigned to from 1965 to 1967 in San Diego. Afterwards, he served at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan before getting shipped off to Vietnam in 1968. Ermey spent 14 months in Vietnam and was later discharged due to medical injuries suffered.

R. Lee Ermey was cast in his first movie while he was attending the University of Manila in the Philippines. He portrayed a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now, while also serving as a technical advisor to Francis Ford Coppola. Ermey then was cast as a Marine drill instructor in The Boys In Company C and then in 1987, he was cast as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Ermey wasn’t originally going to act in the movie, he was hired on as a consultant, but a training video that he made convinced Kubrick to cast him in one of the most iconic roles in movie history.

We absolutely have to mention Ermey’s work as the creepy sheriff in the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie successfully took a horror classic and remade it with precision, creating a whole new generation of Texas Chainsaw fans. Not an easy feat, considering most horror remakes are terrible and far inferior compared to the original they spawned from. R. Lee Ermey elevated the film and brought some very distinct legitimacy to the movie which helped make it a success.

R. Lee Ermey went on to star in over 60 movies over the years, but he is still best-known for his role in Full Metal Jacket. The actor starred in TV shows and more recently did voice work in commercials and video games. Ermey was a staunch conservative, but admitted to voting for Barack Obama. He was later fired from his Geico commercials for saying that Obama was destroying the country. R. Lee Ermey lived an amazing life and did more in it than most. Rest in Peace, R. Lee Ermey. You can read what his manager, Bill Rogin had to say below, thanks to the R. Lee Ermey Twitter account.


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