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Creator / R. Lee Ermey

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That's Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey to you, maggot!
"Every character I've ever played, I always try to take him right to the edge and not allow him to fall over, but directors have a tendency to pull me back a little bit."

Gunnery Sergeant Ronald Lee Ermey (March 24, 1944 – April 15, 2018) was a U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran who later found fame as an actor and media personality.

Having appeared in the 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 and Taylor Hackford for An Officer and a Gentleman, 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 both of their deaths. 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 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."

Ermey passed away from pneumonia complications in April of 2018.


Notable film credits:


  • Adam Westing: In Saving Silverman, where he was a football coach version of his Full Metal Jacket role.
    • 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 Biker: Showed off his shooting skills on the back of his bike on Lock 'N Load.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: He had very large eyebrows, which aided in his intimidation factor.
  • 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 was the consummate master of this trope.
  • Gun Nut: This man loved guns so much, he had two shows: Mail Call and Lock and Load—dedicated to answering questions about guns and blasting off with them. That being said, he did show proper safety precautions.
  • Large Ham: Screaming profanities was practically his trademark.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Made his name playing hard as nails military figures, not to mention WAS one in real life. But when he wasn't in "Marine Mode", Ermey was known to be a quiet, gentle and well-mannered man.
  • No Indoor Voice: His roles tended to run on this.
  • Playing Against Type: His role in Dead Man Walking.
  • Semper Fi: He was once a Drill Instructor in the Marine Corps. It shows.
  • Trope Codifier: Most Drill Sergeant Nasty characters take a page from his book (if they aren't played by him in the first place).
  • When He Smiles: This PSA for the Selective Service System. At the end, he actually smiles and makes an authentic, genuine compliment (which can be surprising when you know what he's famous for).
    "You did that already? OUTSTANDING! You've earned my respect! Ooh-Rah!"
  • Younger Than They Look: He was only 42 when he filmed Full Metal Jacket. He looked 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.

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