Drop and Give Me 25, Scumbag! Part One - Mania.com


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Drop and Give Me 25, Scumbag! Part One

FULL METAL JACKET's bellowing drill instructor R. Lee Ermey on becoming a 12-inch motivational figure...

By Paul "Sir, YES SIR!" Zimmerman     November 16, 2001

© 2001 Warner Home Video
Early on in Stanley Kubrick's classic 1987 Vietnam film Full Metal Jacket, a grunt gets into a "world of s**t" with his drill sergeant because he can't stop smirking while he's getting yelled at. I must confess I have the same problem while talking with R. Lee Ermey, the actor who played DI Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. You can keep your stand-up comics - after nearly 15 years, the sound of Ermey's voice still has me in stitches.

Best known for his singular, hilarious and profane rant that begins Kubrick's scathing war film, Ermey has the distinction of also serving in other seminal Nam flicks Apocalypse Now (unbilled, as Col. Kilgore's helicopter pilot) and The Boys in Company C (as another DI, natch).

Born in 1944, Ermey

R. Lee Ermey as DI Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in FULL METAL JACKET

was a real life Marine for eleven years and served one and a half tours in Vietnam. After a medical discharge in the mid 1970s, Ermey took his GI benefits and enrolled in acting while still based in the Philippines. Fate and circumstance crossed paths and a year later he found himself in the runaway production of Francis Coppola's Apocalypse Now. With an acting career on its way, Ermey soon carved out a niche - playing tough Marines, with Full Metal Jacket being his defining moment.

With his brusque Kansas tone and in-your face delivery, Ermey has also been memorable as a racist thug (in Mississippi Burning), a grizzled police captain (in Se7en) and over 35 other films, including the voice of Sarge in the animated features Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

So it's no real surprise that this larger than life man would eventually get the highest rank in pop culture: being turned into a talking doll. The new 12-inch talking action figure from Sideshow Toy which spouts out Ermey-isms like "What in the hell is your major malfunction?" and "Wake up and smell the roses, numb nuts, you are the a**hole in charge of your own destiny!" is rated R and rightly so. You won't want this doll toying around with the kiddies' other action figures.

Biting my tongue

The man himself, R. Lee Ermey

and frantically checking my notes, I set the record straight on a number of Ermey legends both cinematic and military, including...

On Stanley Kubrick, Full Metal Jacket and the screenplay...

RLE: Stanley and I got along. You know, I was technical advisor. He and I rewrote that piece of s**t. It was a rag. It was a total rag when I got there and I said, "Stanley we've got to square this boot camp stuff away. This drill instructor is doing crazy things that drill instructors don't do." It's not honorable. And drill instructors are the most honorable creatures I've ever met in my life. They teach honor. They set the example. So anyway, Gustav Hasford, who wrote the novel [that it's based on], The Short Timers, had the drill instructor call the squad leaders in the head, [then] they urinated in the commode and then he stuck Private Pyle's [Vincent D'Onofrio] face down into it. Now there's no reason to do something like that; that's just evil is what that is. So anyway, we cleaned it up and we got it right. We just rewrote the entire dialog that Hartman had to say and I pretty much came up with all of it. Everything I say in the film I've used somewhere in the past pretty much.

On what he thinks about the new expanded version of Apocalypse Now...

RLE: You know, I never got into Apocalypse Now. Took me a couple of sittings to make it all the way through it. I worked on it for a year, and I was less than happy with it. A lot of the Vietnam vets were. Matter of fact, the majority of them.

On what he [IMG4R]thought of the other famous 'Nam film, Platoon...

RLE: I thought Platoon was well done. As a matter of fact, Platoon was released just prior to Full Metal Jacket. And when Platoon came out Stanley called me that evening and told me, "Lee and I went and saw Platoon and it's really a great movie. What did you think about it?" And I told him I thought it was outstanding too, and he actually agreed that it would be really good for Full Metal Jacket. Because it was more or less the icebreaker, I think - the first Vietnam film that really was reputable and honorable. With the exception of course of Green Berets years ago, you know. And who doesn't like Green Berets? After all, it's John Wayne!

Check back soon for part two of CINESCAPE's exclusive interview with R. Lee Ermey.


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