Happy Birthday R. Lee Ermey: Remembering the Iconic Late Actor

by Keeli Parkey
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During his Hollywood career, character actor Ronald (R.) Lee Ermey was famous for his roles as stern, tough, and strong characters. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – the actor also had also those qualities in real life. He was a military man, after all.

According to IMDb.com, Ermey was born on March 24, 1944, in Emporia, Kansas. He died of pneumonia on April 15, 2018, in Santa Monica, California. It should also come as no surprise to anyone who has ever seen one of R. Lee Ermy’s performances that he spent 11 years serving in the United States Marine Corps. That service included 14 months serving in Vietnam. The future actor also served for two tours in Japan. He was stationed in Okinawa during this part of his service.

R. Lee Ermey ended his military career due to injuries, according to IMDb.com. After this retirement, he lived in the Philippines. While living in that southeast Asian country, he chose to study drama and criminology while he studied at the University of Manila.

Interestingly, his acting career started with roles in films made by filmmakers in the Philippines. Ermey got his first big break in American film when he was given the role in “Apocalypse Now.” The film was released in 1979 and he played a helicopter pilot in the famous Francis Ford Coppola war movie, according to IMDb.com. In addition to working as an actor on “Apocalypse Now,” Ermey also served as a technical adviser. He was given this job due to the time he spent in Vietnam.

R. Lee Ermey Famously Played Sergeant in ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Another military role really lifted R. Lee Ermey to fame. That was the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the classic film “Full Metal Jacket.” This famous war movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick and was released in 1987, according to IMDb.com. His work in the film earned Ermey a Golden Globe Nomination, as well as The Boston Society of Film Critics’ best supporting actor award.

You can watch Ermey in action as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman below. He’s scary and tough and will definitely make you stand at attention.

Thanks to his memorable performance in “Full Metal Jacket,” other roles soon followed for R. Lee Ermey. Among these was the role of Mayor Tilman in the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning.” Here’s a clip from his work in that film.

The famous character also shared his voice and persona with Disney and Pixar on the popular “Toy Story” films. And, it should come as no surprise that he voiced a military character in the famous cartoons. Here’s a few clips from those movies.

R. Lee Ermey spoofed much of his acting work during a pretty hilarious Geico commercial. In it, he channels his drill sergeant character to great comedic effect. Check that out below. It’s great for a laugh.

Later in his career, R. Lee Ermey spent some of his time making television shows. These included “Mail Call” and “Lock n’ Load with R. Lee Ermey.” Both shows aired on the History Channel.

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