“Every character I’ve ever played, I always try to take him right to the edge and not allow him to fall over, but directors have a tendency to pull me back a little bit.” – R. Lee Ermey (via IMDB)
Actor and Marine R. Lee Ermey passed away this Sunday due to complications of pneumonia. The news of this has hit all of the major social networks, but as I’m not online as much lately, I found out from my best friend and avid motorcycle rider. This kind of threw me for a loop, as Ermey was always fun to watch. Along with his work in movies, “Gunny” (as he was often referred to) was also a spokesperson for Polaris’ Victory Motorcycles. My friend and I would often go to the New York Motorcycle shows to see to the newest lines of bikes before actually purchasing our own. Ermey was on hand in some shows to profile the latest cycle, the Victory Gunner.
Ermey served with the Marines for nearly 10 years, was deployed to Vietnam and although he ended his duty there as a Staff Sergeant in the early 70s, he received an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant in 2002.
From a film standpoint, Ermey had a number of accredited roles, though he’ll be remembered most for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket as the hard as nails Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Legend has it that Kubrick allowed Ermey to improve most of his lines for them, which resulted in a Golden Globe Nomination. Ermey was basically brought in as an advisor (much like Captain Dale Dye, USMC (Ret.) was for Saving Private Ryan). Ermey impressed Kubrick so much that he ended up in front of the camera and into Cinema History. Film Aficionados will also recall one of his earlier roles in Apocalypse Now as a Helicopter Pilot.
Ermey would go on to similar roles in Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story and Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. As the Captain in David Fincher’s Seven, we saw a more relaxed role. I could have easily seen him play a police detective like Columbo, given the chance. Horror fans will recall seeing the actor in Marcus Nispel’s dark remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and it’s prequel), where Ermey’s sheriff came off a both sinister and creepy.
Ermey will be missed. We thank him for his service as a solider and as an actor. In paying our respects, the Incident Clock is returned to Zero.