Ronald Lee Ermey, born on March 24, 1944 and died on April 15, 2018, was an American actor, voice actor, and U.S. Marine. He achieved fame when he played Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket, which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Take a look below for 27 more fun and interesting facts about R. Lee Ermey.
1. Ermey was a United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and an honorary gunnery sergeant. During his tenure in the U.S. Marine Corps, he served as a drill instructor.
2. He was often typecast in authority figure roles, such as Mayor Tilman in the movie Mississippi Burning, Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine, Sheriff Hoyt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Jimmy Lee Farnsworth in Fletch Lives, a police captain in Se7en, plastic army men leader Sarge, in Toy Story movies, Lt. “Tice” Ryan in Rocket Power, the warden in SpongeBob SquarePants, and John House in House.
3. Ermey hosted two programs on the History Channel: Mail Call, in which he answered viewers questions about various military issues both modern and historic; and Lock n’ Load with R. Lee Ermey, which looked at the development of different types of weapons.
4. He hosted Gunny Time on the Outdoor Channel.
5. He was born in Emporia, Kansas, on March 24, 1944, to John Edward and Betty Ermey.
6. Ermey grew up with five brothers on a farm outside of Kansas City, Kansas.
7. In 1958, when Ermey was 14 years old, he and his family left Kansas and moved to Zillah, Washington.
8. As a teenager, Ermey often got in trouble with the local authorities, and was arrested twice for criminal mischief by the age of 17.
9. After his second arrest, a judge Ermey a choice between joining the military or being sent to jail; Ermey chose the military.
10. Ermey wasn’t intended to be in Full Metal Jacket. He was hired as a technical advisor for the actor who was to play the drill instructor, but he did such a good job at it that Ermey himself was hired for the part.
11. Although he retired from the United States Marine Corps in 1971, Ermey was later awarded the Honorary rank of Gunnery Sergeant.
12. His United States Marine Corps awards and decorations include: Meritorious Unit Commendation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, with bronze service star, Vietnam Campaign Medal, with 60 Device, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, with Palm, Good Conduct Medal, with two bronze service stars, Marksman Badge, with Rifle Bar, and Sharpshooter Badge, with Pistol Bar.
13. After injuries forced him to retire from the military, he moved to the Philippines and enrolled in the University of Manila, where he studied Criminology and Drama.
14. He used the same line, “You’re not afraid of a little blood, are you?”, in two consecutive movies, Willard and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Both movies were released in 2003 and both movies just happened to be remakes as well.
15. He was chosen as the first celebrity spokesperson for Glock firearms and products in 2004.
16. Ermey parodied his famous role from Full Metal Jacket as a Ghost in the comedy movie The Frighteners.
17. Ermey has four children with wife Nila and two daughters from a previous marriage. He has nine grandchildren.
18. In 1987, he was involved in a jeep accident during the making of Full Metal Jacket. At 1 AM one morning, he skidded off the road, breaking all the ribs on his left side. HE refused to pass out and kept flashing his car lights until a motorist stopped. In some scenes in the movie, he doesn’t move his left arm at all.
19. In 2010, he was chosen as the new spokesman for SOG Specialty Knives & Tools. SOG’s new “Gunny Approved” advertising campaign included a special edition line of knives and tools developed in conjunction with Ermey.
20. Ermey was one of the few people ever allowed to improvise for notorious perfectionist Stanley Kubrick. A lot of his dialogue lines in Full Metal Jacket were improvised.
21. He was seriously considered for the role of J. Jonah Jameson in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, before J.K. Simmons was cast.
22. In January, 2014, he outraged animal rights activists by posting pictures of himself on Facebook posing with dead lions he had shot in Africa. He also boasted of killing, cape buffalo, lions, lionesses and wildebeests, on previous trip to Africa.
23. He appeared in three movies that were nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award: Apocalypse Now, Mississippi Burning, and Toy Story 3.
24. Ermey was stationed at the USMC Recruit Depot in San Diego from 1965 to 1967.
25. Ermey was a co-founder of Bravery Brewing in Lancaster, California.
26. He conducted morale tours with the U.S. military, visiting troops in locations such as Al Kut, Iraq, and Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in which he filmed parts for his television show Mail Call.
27. He died at a hospital in Santa Monica, California from complications related to pneumonia on the morning of April 15, 2018. He was 74 years old.