Cast the Expert: R. Lee Ermey was originally just a technician on the film, there to make a couple of films to advise the actor playing the Drill Sergeant Nasty on how it should be done. Then Kubrick saw his tapes... said tapes were of Ermey performing his Drill Sergeant Nasty speeches while being constantly pelted with rotten oranges for fifteen minutes. He never stopped, flubbed, or repeated himself throughout the whole thing.
Dyeing for Your Art: Vincent D'Onofrio gained so much weight for his role as Pvt. Gomer Pyle, that he tore ligaments in his knees during the obstacle course scene. He surpassed Robert DeNiro's record (for Raging Bull) for most weight gained for a role, over 70 pounds.
Enforced Method Acting: To make the recruits' reactions to Gunnery Sgt. Hartman as realistic as possible, Stanley Kubrick made sure that R. Lee Ermey did not socialize with the actors playing recruits. They also didn't get to meet him prior to filming.
Fake Nationality: The actress who played the Vietnamese hooker is actually of Chinese and French descent. Arguably averted — a mixed-race ethnic Chinese and French bastard could easily have been found in 1960s Vietnam, and would have been a likely candidate for the sex trade in that time and place.
Real-Life Relative: Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivienne Kubrick composed the original music, under the pseudonym Abigail Mead (adapated from the name of the family home, Abbot's Mead).
Throw It In: Many of R. Lee Ermey's lines as Hartman were ad-libbed. He was one of the few actors allowed to go Off the Rails in Kubrick's films, who is known for his meticulous control of every part of the story. When filming the scene where GySgt Hartman is berating new recruits, the "reach-around" comment was tossed in by Ermey, and not originally in the script. Kubrick stopped the filming to ask what that meant. After it was explained, he laughed, and decided to include it in the final film.
Ermey is also a notable subversion. Kubrick disliked improvisation as it usually played hell with his shooting schedules. Ermey, in a major role for the first time and eager to impress, spent so much time with the dialogue coach that he was able to finish his scripted material in very few takes, allowing him the time necessary to throw in his own flourishes —all added to the shooting script and delivered verbatim— with Kubrick's blessing.