Creator / R. Lee Ermey

That's Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey to you, maggot!

Gunnery Sergeant Ronald Lee Ermey (born March 24, 1944) is a former United States Marine Corps drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran turned actor/media personality.

Having appeared in the film The Boys in Company C (playing — what else? — a Marine drill instructor) and served as a technical advisor to Francis Ford Coppola for Apocalypse Now, Ermey became a pop culture icon with his role in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, which had him play a foul-mouthed drill instructor whose sadistic training methods end up driving one recruit insane and lead to his death. Incidentally, his scenes are one of the few times Kubrick ever allowed improvisation in any of his films.

The role made him the poster child for the trope Drill Sergeant Nasty and landed him work in other films (most notably Se7en, where he ironically plays against type as a rather mellowed out police captain), as well as a slew of voice-over work due to his distinct gruff voice (such as Sarge, the leader of the Army Men in Toy Story), and ultimately a hosting job for several History Channel military-themed shows (Mail Call and Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey). He's also guest-starred as the abusive ex-Drill Sergeant Nasty father of the title character of House.

He actually retired from the Marines as a Staff Sergeant. In 2002, he was the first person in Marine Corps history to be promoted after retirement when the Commandant of the Marine Corps ordered an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant "in recognition of his continuing support to Americans in military service, and of his service as an unofficial ambassador for the Marine Corps."


  • Adam Westing: In Saving Silverman.
    • Also, his Geico commercial.
  • Ascended Extra: Originally brought on to Full Metal Jacket for accuracy advice, his demonstrations of how to do a Drill Sergeant Nasty were so good that he was cast in his famed role.
    • Said demonstration was unflinchingly chewing out the camera with both tennis balls and rotten oranges being thrown at him, and he continued to chew out the camera for fifteen straight minutes, during which he never once moved, changed his expression, or repeated himself.
    • What really sealed the deal, however, was when he spoke to Stanley Kubrick on the set and said "YOU STAND UP WHEN I TALK TO YOU!!!" and Kubrick found himself doing so automatically.
  • Badass: Ermey was an established U.S. Marine drill instructor at age 21.
  • Badass Biker: Shows off his shooting skills on the back of his bike on Lock 'N Load.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Just look at 'em!
  • Cast the Expert: How he got his most famous role.
  • Defictionalization: Being cast as a Gunnery Sergeant (E-7) in his iconic role despite having retired as a Staff Sergeant (E-6) always caused a bit of awkwardness when people would inevitably refer to him as the former. 15 years later the Marine Corps graciously offered to remedy the situation with an unprecedented post-retirement promotion to Gunnery Sergeant due to his continued service promoting the Corps and its values.
  • The Determinator: Was once in a car accident which knocked him off the road. He flashed his lights for hours until someone found him.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: He is the consummate master of this trope.
  • Large Ham: Screaming profanities is practically his trademark.
  • Mean Character Nice Actor: He can be downright mellow and soft-spoken when he's not in Drill Sergeant Nasty mode. Stanley Kubrick initially thought Ermey was too nice to play Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, prior to his aforementioned audition. For that matter, in the bloopers that showed after Mail Call, he often came across as a bumbling old dad type when he flubbed his lines, albeit a bumbling old dad with a very salty mouth.
    • Incidentally, this is fairly typical of mainy Drill Sergeant Nasty types in Real Life. The military typically tries to find well-balanced soldiers who can pretend to be deranged sadists in order to properly motivate and train recruits without actually harming them. It can be disconcerting to meet an instructor after training and find that they're actually a jolly, cheerful person when not wearing the campaign hat.
  • No Indoor Voice: His roles tend to run on this.
  • Semper Fi: He was once a Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps. It shows.
  • Throw It In: A good bit of the lines from Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, in Full Metal Jacket, were adlibbed by Ermey, who was one of the few actors that Kubrick allowed to go off-script when shooting scenes.
    • Note: He had to explain what a "reach around" was to Kubrick, who stopped filming the scene early to ask what it was, after Ermey ad-libbed the line. After it was explained, Kubrick laughed and said that he was going to keep it in the movie.
  • Trope Codifier: Most Drill Sergeant Nasty characters take a page from his book (if they aren't played by him in the first place).
  • Type Casting: Perhaps the Ur-Example. Seriously, if he's not playing a drill instructor, he's playing someone who acts like a drill instructor.
    • A minor Against Type role was that of a phony televangelist in Fletch Lives.
    • Another Against Type role was the mellow, soft-spoken police captain in Se7en.
  • Younger Than They Look: He was only 42 when he filmed Full Metal Jacket. He looks almost the same from then as in his Geico commercial...over 20 years later.


  • Bullet Time: What did you expect with all of the guns on Lock n' Load?
  • The Cameo: On the Artillery episode of Lock and Load, the hwacha, an ancient Korean multiple rocket launcher, is mentioned and shown being fired. It's the exact same one that the MythBusters Build Team constructed, as shown by the mismatched wheels, though this fact is not mentioned in the show.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Mail Call has the host note that watermelons are his "sworn enemy", and hence uses them as target practice. This gets carried over to Lock n' Load.
    • However, Ermey actually plays with the trope in an episode of Lock and Load. "Some people think I don't like watermelons. Well, that's not true - I just believe you gotta kill it before you eat it."
      • In another episode, he comments that he has nothing against watermelons, it's just that heads are so much more expensive.
      • Maybe a shout out to FMJ, since the one thing Private Snowball wouldn't like was that (in addition to fried chicken) watermelon isn't served on a daily basis in his mess hall.
    • Another episode of Lock n' Load had Ermey mow down several jars of gumballs with an uzi, prefacing the destruction by saying "I HATE Gumballs, they cause tooth decay!!"
  • Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: The main point of Mail Call.
  • More Dakka: Look, Lock And Load is about firearms. What do you expect? (Taken to its logical extent with episodes devoted solely to machine guns, from the original hand-cranked Gatling onwards.)
  • Not So Stoic: In a Lock and Load episode, when the host fires a .44 Magnum and gets knocked down in the process, he promptly does not want to fire it again.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Ermey addresses this in an episode of Mail Call, pointing out how doing this is a good way to lose teeth.

"Semper Fi." (salutes) Carry on.

Alternative Title(s): R Lee Ermey