R. Lee Ermey passed away this week, for us he was best known for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket. Being a Vietnam Vet himself he was obviously great playing one, his first four out of five films were about Vietnam. That’s not to downplay his ability – he could act. In Full Metal Jacket he was awesome, the real standout of the film. It’s a strange film although one of my favorites, the first act with him in it being the best part. Shockingly, meticulous director Stanley Kubrick allowed Ermey to improvise, especially with the basic training segments. The funny part about Ermey, he preferred doing comedy which he was quite good at and doesn’t get enough credit for. I remember his funny turn as the Janitor’s father in the TV series Scrubs. He also did some voice work too often as a sergeant (Toy Story, The Simpsons, Kung Fu Panda). Later in life, he hosted a couple of cable shows including Mail Call on the History Channel. Here are three of my favorite performances:
The Boys in Company C (1978)
The role that put him on the map. He played Sgt. Loyce, a very similar role to Full Metal Jacket, and he was just as brilliant. An underrated movie that still flies under the radar.
It’s a small role but Ermey makes his presence felt as the nondescript police captain to Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt’s detectives. I love this film and his appearance in the movie just makes it better.
Fletch Lives! (1989)
I know this movie has a bad reputation but for some reason, it cracks me up and seeing Ermey play Televangelist Jimmy Lee Farnsworth is a hoot. You can tell he enjoyed playing this colorful character, another shouter of course.
MG: Nice write-up, DJ. I never realized he was in Fletch Lives! You are right that he was a more versatile actor than he gets credit for. He could do drama, comedy, and even a villain, like his sleazy turn as the racist mayor in Mississippi Burning. I wondered why he didn’t get more parts like his role in Seven. The Boys in Company C is such an underappreciated film, and Ermey was great in it.