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Actor Best Remembered for His Performance in 'Full Metal Jacket', Passed Away at Age 74

Ronald Lee Ermey, known by his stage name R. Lee Ermey, passed away on Sunday in a hospital in Santa Monica, California from complications related to pneumonia. The 74-year-old actor was survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Nila, and their four children.

Ermey was born in Kansas and grew up on a farm with five brothers. His family moved to Washington when he was a teenager and the young man began getting into trouble with authorities immediately. By the time he was 17 years old, he had been arrested twice for criminal mischief.

A judge at one of his hearings gave Ermey a choice: go to jail, or go into the military. Ermey chose to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He served from 1961 through 1972, achieving the rank of Sergeant.

With his G.I. Bill benefits, Ermey enrolled in the University of Manila. It was there that he was cast as a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in the war film 'Apocalypse Now'. He also lent his expertise as a technical advisor to legendary director Francis Ford Coppola. This launched the former Marine into a film career, in which he often was typecast in roles as tough authority figures.

After playing a handful of minor roles over the next few years, Stanley Kubrick cast Ermey in the role that made him famous: drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman.

At first, Kubrick had intended to use Ermey only as a technical advisor. In an instructional tape in which the former Marine made for the extras. He went into a tough tirade, and Kubrick realized the military man would lend a wonderful authenticity to the screen role.

Kubrick is known for being extremely controlling and a perfectionist, but he was so taken by Ermey's nature that he allowed the actor to improvise, edit and even write his own dialogue. Kubrick is also known for doing multiple takes in scenes, but shot Ermey's scenes in just two or three takes.

Ermey's performance got rave reviews. He was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor. His line “What is your major malfunction?” became famous.

Ermey appeared in a number of films over the next few decades, such as 'Mississippi Burning' (1988), 'Toy Soldiers' (1991), 'The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.' (1993), 'Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult', (1994), 'Leaving Las Vegas' (1995), and 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (2003).

Ermey also had an impressive list of voice acting credits on his resume. He was the voice of 'Sarge', the little green army man leader, in the 'Toy Story' franchise, his portrayed characters on such popular shows as 'The Simpsons' and 'Family Guy', as well as a number of video games.

The actor also made guest appearances on a number of popular television shows, including 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit', 'Scrubs', 'The X-Files', and he played the role of the father of Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) on the show 'House'.

"It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for. He has meant so much to so many people," wrote Ermey's manager, Bill Rogin, on Facebook on Sunday. "And, it is extremely difficult to truly quantify all of the great things this man has selflessly done for, and on behalf of, our many men and women in uniform."

Rogin added, "The real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him. And, he especially cared deeply for others in need."

“#SemperFidelis Always faithful. Always loyal. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” tweeted Emrey's 'Full Metal Jacket' co-star Matthew Modine.

“Ermey was the real deal. The knowledge of him passing brings back wonderful memories of our time together," wrote Vincent D'Onofrio, another co-star from the film.

Source: Daily Mail
Photos: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick M. Johnson-Campbell, US Army

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