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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 a character actor and media personality. Probably one of the most iconic examples of Cast the Expert, as he drew on his military experience for his acting roles.

After appearing in The Boys in Company C (playing — what else? — a Marine drill instructor) and serving 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 through his role in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, a foul-mouthed drill instructor whose sadistic training methods end up driving one recruit insane and leading to both of their deaths. Incidentally, his scenes are one of the few times Kubrick ever allowed improvisation in any of his films. Notably, Ermey had only signed on as a technical advisor, but the instructional tape he put together (that featured him yelling for 15 minutes while being pelted with rotten produce) convinced Kubrick to just make him the sergeant instead.

Ermey's performance 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:

Notable video game credits:

Notable western animation credits:

Tropes found in R. Lee Ermey's work:

  • Author Catchphrase: In any work that features him that isn't rated R or TV-17, the character he plays can be expected to be heard saying, "Egads!"
  • 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!"
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The role he's most often typecasted as. While being a drill sergeant in real life often meant he had to take up this front, he was more often than not A Father to His Men.
  • 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.