American actor R Lee Ermey, known for playing Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, has died at the age of 74.
His manager said he died on Sunday morning from pneumonia-related complications.
The Kansas native was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his memorable performance in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, in which he immortalised lines such as: “What is your major malfunction?”
Born Ronald Lee Ermey in 1944, Ermey served 11 years in the Marine Corps and spent 14 months in Vietnam and then in Okinawa, Japan, where he became staff sergeant. His first film credit was as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which was quickly followed by a part in The Boys in Company C as a drill instructor.
He raked in more than 60 credits in film and television across his long career in the industry, often playing authority figures in everything from Se7en to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.
The part he would become most well-known for, in Full Metal Jacket, was not originally his. Ermey had been brought on as a technical consultant for the film, but he had his eyes on the role of the brutal gunnery sergeant and filmed his own audition tape of him yelling out insults while tennis balls flew at him. An impressed Kubrick gave him the role.
Kubrick told Rolling Stone that 50% of Ermey’s dialogue in the film was his own.
“In the course of hiring the marine recruits, we interviewed hundreds of guys,” he said.
“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.”
Ermey would also go on to voice the little green army man Sarge in the Toy Story films. He also played track and field coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine, General Kramer in Toy Soldiers and Mayor Tilman in Mississippi Burning.
Ermey also hosted the History Channel series Mail Call and Lock N’ Load with R Lee Ermey.
“He will be greatly missed by all of us,” said his manager Bill Rogin. “It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for.”