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‘Full Metal Jacket’ Actor R. Lee Ermey Passes at the Age of 74

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Suffering from pneumonia-related complications, R. Lee Ermey, the famous Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of “Full Metal Jacket” has passed away at the age of 74. A former Marine himself, Ermey made a Hollywood career of playing hard-nosed characters, such as the Hatman role in Stanley Kubrick’s film, which brought him fame and a nomination for a Golden Globe Award.

Ermey was known for his immortal line, “What is your major malfunction?” His “Full Metal Jacket” co-stars Vincent D’Onofrio and Matthew Modine posted their condolences to social media on Sunday night. Quoting a poem by Dylan Thomas, 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.” D’Onofrio noted, “Ermey was the real deal. The knowledge of him passing brings back wonderful memories of our time together.”

‘Full Metal Jacket’ Actor R. Lee Ermey Passes at the Age of 74

Photo: Facebook/Great American Outdoor Show

Born in 1944, Ermey served in the Marine Corps for 11 years, spending 14 months in Vietnam, then on to Okinawa, Japan, where he was promoted to staff sergeant. He earned his acting chops by starting out in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” in which he played a helicopter pilot. The part was followed up with a role as a drill instructor in the movie “The Boys in Company C.”

Having over 60 film and TV credits over the course of his long career, he was recognized for playing authority figures in everything from “Se7en,” starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” filmed in 2006. However, his most famous role of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman hadn’t been planned for Ermey. Originally intended to be a technical consultant for the film, he recorded his own audition for the role, impressing Kubrick in the process and landing him the part. In an interview on the film, Kubrick identified that half of Ermey’s dialogue in the movie was his own. “In the course of hiring the marine recruits, we interviewed hundreds of guys. We lined them all up and did an improvisation of the first meeting with the drill instructor. They didn’t know what he was going to say, and we could see how they reacted. Lee came up with, I don’t know, 150 pages of insults,” Kubrick explained.

‘Full Metal Jacket’ Actor R. Lee Ermey Passes at the Age of 74

Photo: Facebook/GLOCK

Ermey was also known as the voice of the little green army guy called Sarge in the Pixar “Toy Story” series of films. He was recognized in “Prefontaine” as Bill Bowerman – track coach and Nike co-founder. He also played Mayor Tilman in “Mississippi Burning” and General Kramer in “Toy Soldiers,” and hosted two television shows on the History Channel. In possibly his best role, Ermey was a family man, as well as a gentle and kind soul who was always in support of the men and women who serve.