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R. Lee Ermey, famous for his tough-guy role in 'Full Metal Jacket,' dies at 74

Sunday - 15/04/2018 21:49
The actor was known for playing military and law-enforcement figures.
(Photo: FERNANDO LEON/GETTY IMAGES)
(Photo: FERNANDO LEON/GETTY IMAGES)

R. Lee Ermey, the character actor famous for his bristling, Golden Globe-nominated role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, has died at age 74.

Ronald Lee Ermey was himself a Marine for 11 years (who retired in 1971), a staff sergeant who served in Vietnam and Okinawa, Japan, and was later awarded the honorary rank of gunnery sergeant.

The actor was known for playing military and law-enforcement figures, including the voice of Sarge, the leader of the little green army men in the Toy Story movies; Sheriff Hoyt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake franchise; and a police captain in Se7en (1995).

His manager, Bill Rogin, shared the news of Ermey's death on social media Sunday night, and said the actor died from complications of pneumonia.

"It is extremely difficult to truly quantify all of the great things this man has selflessly done for, and on behalf of, our many men and women in uniform," Rogin wrote. "He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever.

"Please support your men and women in uniform. That's what he wanted most of all. Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed."

Ermey studied criminology and drama at the University of Manila after his time in the military, and launched his acting career as a Marine in 1978's The Boys in Company C. Francis Ford Coppola hired him for an uncredited role as a helicopter pilot in 1979's Apocalypse Now.

His big breakthrough came with Full Metal Jacket, for which he was initially hired to train the actor cast as the drill sergeant before being given the role himself. 

"I had a family and had to make a living. But every time I quit (acting), I'd get invited back to do something else," he told USA TODAY in 2006. "Life is just (expletive) beautiful. I couldn't have written a better script."

He went on to make more than 60 movies and scores of TV spots, including voice roles on The Simpsons (as Colonel Leslie Hapablap) and Family Guy.

"I'm not like the characters I play — my wife wouldn't allow me through the door if I was," Ermey told USA TODAY. "But there's no misconception. There's not a politically correct bone in my body. I pretty much call a spade a spade."

Matthew Modine, his Full Metal Jacket co-star, quoted poet Dylan Thomas as he remembered the actor.

 Key: R Lee Ermey

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