R. Lee Ermey
Ronald Lee Ermey
March 24, 1944
Emporia, Kansas, U.S.
|Died||April 15, 2018 (aged 74)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Service/||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1961-1972|
Ronald Lee Ermey (March 24, 1944 - April 15, 2018) was an American actor and Marine drill instructor. He achieved fame for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Ermey was also a United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and an honorary gunnery sergeant.
Ermey was often typecast in authority figure roles, such as Mayor Tilman in the film Mississippi Burning, Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine, Sheriff Hoyt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Jimmy Lee Farnsworth in Fletch Lives, a police captain in Se7en, plastic army men leader Sarge in the Toy Story films, Lt. "Tice" Ryan in Rocket Power, a prison warden in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, and John House in House.
On television, Ermey hosted two programs on the History Channel: Mail Call, in which he answered viewers' questions about various military issues both modern and historic; and Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which concerned the development of different types of weapons. He also hosted GunnyTime on the Outdoor Channel.
Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas, on March 24, 1944 to John Edward and Betty Ermey. He grew up with five brothers on a farm outside Kansas City, Kansas. In 1958, when Ermey was 14, he and his family moved to Zillah, Washington. As a teenager, Ermey often got into trouble with the authorities, and he was arrested twice for criminal mischief by the age of 17. After his second arrest, a judge gave him a choice between the military and jail; Ermey chose the military.
In 1961, at age 17, Ermey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went through recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in San Diego, California. He served in the aviation support field for a few years before becoming a drill instructor in India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where he was assigned from 1965 to 1967.
Ermey then served in Marine Wing Support Group 17 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan. In 1968, he was ordered to South Vietnam with MWSG-17, and spent 14 months in-country. The remainder of his service was on Okinawa, where he was advanced to staff sergeant (E-6). He was medically retired in 1972 because of several injuries. On May 17, 2002, he received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant (E-7) by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James L. Jones.
Ermey continued to visit Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in San Diego, California and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in Beaufort, South Carolina to visit with and speak with recruits. Ermey filmed an episode of Mail Call at Parris Island.
Ermey was cast in his first film while attending the University of Manila in the Philippines, using his G.I. Bill benefits. He played a First Air Cavalry helicopter pilot in Apocalypse Now, and doubled as a technical advisor to director Francis Ford Coppola. Ermey then was cast as a Marine drill instructor in Sidney J. Furie's The Boys in Company C.
For the next few years, Ermey played a series of minor film roles until 1987, when he was cast as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. Initially, he was intended to be only the technical advisor. Kubrick changed his mind after Ermey put together an instructional tape, in which he went on an extended tirade at several extras, convincing Kubrick he was the right man for the role. Breaking his word to original actor Tim Colceri, Kubrick gave Colceri's part to R. Lee Ermey. Seeking authenticity for the film, Kubrick allowed Ermey to write or edit his own dialogue and improvise on the set, a notable rarity in a Kubrick film. Kubrick later indicated that Ermey was an excellent performer, often needing just two or three takes per scene, also unusual for a Kubrick film. Ermey's performance won critical raves and he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Supporting Actor.
Ermey later played a drill instructor in the pilot episode of Space: Above and Beyond and the ghost of a drill instructor in the film The Frighteners, both similar to his character in Full Metal Jacket. Ermey subsequently appeared in about 60 films, including Purple Hearts, Mississippi Burning, The Siege of Firebase Gloria, Dead Man Walking, Se7en, Fletch Lives, Leaving Las Vegas, Prefontaine, Saving Silverman, On Deadly Ground, Sommersby, Life, Man of the House, Toy Soldiers, and The Salton Sea, as well as the remake of Willard, and as an evil sadist in two of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films.
Ermey also lent his voice to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3, as well as Roughnecks and X-Men 3. He usually appeared in a commanding military role, for shows such as Kim Possible, The Simpsons, Family Guy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Rocket Power, Angry Beavers, Fillmore!, Miami Vice, House, Scrubs, My Life as a Teenage Robot, and Invader Zim. His voice was also briefly heard through a voice disguise machine in Recess: School's Out. In addition he hosted the documentary series Mail Call and Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey.
On December 14, 1994, Ermey played a sheriff in Tales from the Crypt, season six, episode nine, "Staired in Horror". He also played the role of Reverend Patrick Findley, a minister, on The X-Files season 3, episode 11, "Revelations". On Mail Call, Ermey discussed weaponry, tactical matters, and military history. Mail Calls subject matter was dictated by viewer emails; one episode focused on an M1 Abrams tank, while others involved World War II secrets, and others focused on elements of medieval warfare. The set consisted of a military tent, other military gear and weapons, and a World War II jeep.
He had an uncredited role as Sergeant Major Frank Bougus, USMC in the pilot of Space: Above and Beyond.
Ermey traveled to Kuwait in June 2003 during the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom to film mail distribution by the Defense Department to service personnel for an episode of Mail Call. According to a 2005 episode of Mail Call filmed at Whiteman Air Force Base, he was the 341st person to fly in the B-2 stealth bomber. He also guest-starred in the episode "Second Chance" of Human Target.
Ermey also made guest appearances on the television drama House, playing the role of Dr. Gregory House's father, who was a decorated naval aviator while serving in the Marine Corps ("Birthmarks", "Daddy's Boy"), and the sitcom Scrubs, playing the Janitor's father. He also voiced Wildcat in several episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In two episodes of The Simpsons entitled "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" and "Waiting for Duffman", Ermey voiced Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap.
In the episode of SpongeBob SquarePants "Inmates of Summer", he voiced an irate warden of a maximum-security island prison who demoralized the inmates whenever he could. In the episode of The Angry Beavers "Fancy Prance", he voiced the Lipizzaner stallions' instructor, Drill Sergeant Goonther.
In late 2010, Ermey starred in a GEICO commercial as a drill-instructor-turned-therapist who insults a client, in a parody of some of his iconic characters. Ermey was also featured each week on ESPN's College GameDay. His role was to insult the experts' incorrect picks from the previous week. In that same year, Ermey appeared in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Trophy" as a paroled sex offender.
Ermey lent his voice to several video games, including Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (as General Barnaky) and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (as Wa-Wa). He also made a cameo in Real War: Air, Land, Sea, a real-time strategy video game based on the official Joint Chiefs of Staff training game. In 2014, he did voice-over work for Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Several characters have made references to Ermey and the character of Hartman. In the game Fallout 3, a recruitable companion is named Sergeant RL-3, a modified military robot with a personality very similar to Ermey (the companion's name is a reference to Ermey's initials wherein the 3 is leetspeak for the letter E). In the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion there is a character named "Lieutenant Emry" that speaks some of Ermey's signature lines from Full Metal Jacket. In Half-Life: Opposing Force, the drill sergeant from the initial boot camp stage had dialogue and mannerisms very similar to Ermey's character in Full Metal Jacket.
Ermey was an official spokesman for Black Book (National Auto Research), Glock firearms, TRU-SPEC apparel, Tupperware, Victory Motorcycles, Hoover, SOG Specialty Knives, WD-40, Young Marines, and appeared in commercials for Coors Light, Dick's Sporting Goods, GEICO, and pistachio nuts. He provided the introduction for the Professional Bull Riders. He can be seen giving a service announcement for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, demanding that viewers be quiet during the film. He was a board member for the National Rifle Association.
Ermey married his wife, Nila, in 1975. They had four children.
On May 17, 2002, Ermey received an honorary post-service promotion to gunnery sergeant (E-7) from the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James L. Jones in recognition of his continuing support to Americans in military service.
He conducted morale tours, visiting United States troops in locations such as Al Kut, Iraq, and Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in which he filmed parts for his television show Mail Call. While at Bagram Airfield, he held a USO-type show in which he portrayed GySgt Hartman and conducted a comedy routine. He also did the same at Doha, Qatar and Camp Doha, Kuwait City, Kuwait, in 2003.
Ermey described himself as an independent. In the 2008 presidential election, Ermey voted for Barack Obama, but subsequently criticized his economic policies, accusing him of attempting to "impose socialism" on the American people and "destroying the country." Ermey said in a 2015 interview that he supported Texas Senator Ted Cruz for president. He said, "You know what, I just watched Ted Cruz - I mean, what a tough act to follow. I'm not going to tell you who I'm going to vote for, but I'm going to let you guess [...] and the first two guesses don't count!" He would later endorse presidential candidate Donald Trump. Ermey was a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and a board member of the National Rifle Association.
Ermey died at a hospital in Santa Monica, California, from complications related to pneumonia on the morning of April 15, 2018, three weeks after his 74th birthday. His funeral was held in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, January 18, 2019, where his ashes are buried.
Ermey was retroactively awarded the Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon after he retired from the military due to his prior service as a Marine Corps recruit training instructor. Ermey's military awards included:
|1st row||Meritorious Unit Commendation||Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ two bronze stars||National Defense Service Medal|
|2nd row||Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal||Vietnam Service Medal w/ one silver star||Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon|
|3rd row||South Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm||South Vietnamese Presidential Unit Citation||South Vietnamese Campaign Medal|
|Badges||Rifle Marksmanship Badge||Pistol Sharpshooter Badge|
|1978||The Boys in Company C||Staff Sergeant Loyce||Credited as Lee Ermey|
|1979||Apocalypse Now||Eagle Thrust Seven helicopter pilot||Uncredited|
|Up from the Depths||Lee|
|1987||Full Metal Jacket||Gunnery Sergeant Hartman||Credited as "Lee Ermey"|
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
|Miami Vice||Detective Sergeant Ernest Haskell||Episode: "Rising Sun of Death"|
|1988||Mississippi Burning||Mayor Tilman|
|1989||The Siege of Firebase Gloria||Sergeant Major Bill Hafner / Narrator||Uncredited screenwriter|
|Fletch Lives||Jimmy Lee Farnsworth|
|1990||Demonstone||Colonel Joe Haines|
|The Rift||Captain Phillips|
|The Take||Weller||TV movie|
|I'm Dangerous Tonight||Lieutenant Ackman||TV movie|
|83 Hours 'Til Dawn||Glen Fairling||TV movie|
|1991||The Terror Within II||Von Demming|
|Toy Soldiers||General Kramer|
|True Identity||Houston's Boss||Uncredited|
|Body Snatchers||General Platt|
|The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.||Marshal Brisco County Senior||2 episodes|
|Double Switch||Lyle (the handyman)||Video Game|
|1994||French Silk||Chief Crowder||TV movie|
|Chain of Command||Benjamin Brewster|
|On Deadly Ground||Stone|
|Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story||Mr. Byrd||Uncredited|
|Naked Gun 33+1⁄3: The Final Insult||Mess Hall Guard||Uncredited cameo|
|Love Is a Gun||Frank Deacon|
|Tales from the Crypt||Sheriff||Episode: "Staired in Horror"|
|1995||Murder in the First||Judge Clawson|
|Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back||Preacher Brian||Uncredited|
|Leaving Las Vegas||Conventioneer|
|Space: Above and Beyond||Sergeant Major Bougus||TV Series|
|Under the Hula Moon||Lt. Col. J. P. McIntire|
|The X-Files||Reverend Findley||Episode: "Revelations"|
|Dead Man Walking||Clyde Percy|
|The Simpsons||Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap||Voice|
Episode: "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming"
|1996||Soul of the Game||Wilkie||TV movie|
|The Frighteners||The late Master Sergeant Hiles|
|Dead Men Can't Dance||Sen. Pullman T. Fowler|
|Weapons of Mass Distraction||Billy Paxton||TV movie|
|Switchback||Sheriff Buck Olmstead|
|The Angry Beavers||Sergeant Goonther||Voice|
Episode: "Fancy Prance/H2Whoa!"
|Starship Troopers||News Announcer||Voice, Uncredited|
|Rough Riders||Secretary of State John Hay||2 episodes|
|1997-1998||Cracker||Lieutenant Fry||16 episodes|
|1998||The Sender||Colonel Rosewater|
|All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series||Sergeant Yorkie||Voice|
|1999||You Know My Name||Nix||TV movie|
|Life||Older Sheriff Pike|
|Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot||General Thorton||Voice|
|The Apartment Complex||Frank Stanton||TV movie|
|Toy Story 2||Sarge||Voice|
|1999-2000||Roughnecks: STC||Sky Marshall Sanchez||Voice|
|2000||The Chaos Factor||Col. Ben Wilder|
|Skipped Parts||Caspar Callahan|
|Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins||Sarge||Voice|
|2001||Saving Silverman||Coach Norton|
|Recess: School's Out||Colonel O'Malley||Voice|
|Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel||General Barnaky||Voice|
|Real War: Rogue States||Briefings||Voice|
|Real War: Air, Land, Sea|
|Megiddo: The Omega Code 2||President Richard Benson|
|Scenes of the Crime||Mr. Parker|
Episode: "Mr. Saturday Knight"
|Taking Sides||General Wallace|
|On the Borderline||Captain Elias|
|Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex||Wa-Wa||Voice|
Credited as R. Lee Ermy
|2002||Run Ronnie Run!||Lead Kidnapper||Cameo|
|The Salton Sea||Verne Plummer|
|Scrubs||Janitor's father||Episode: "My Old Man"|
|Frank McKlusky, C.I.||Jockey Master||Uncredited cameo|
|Invader Zim||Sergeant Hobo 678||Voice|
Episode: "HOBO 13/Walk for Your Lives"
|A.K.A. Birdseye||Sheriff Gathers|
|2003||Toy Story: Buzz Lightyear's Blast Up Together||Sarge||Voice|
Episode: "South of Friendship, North of Honor"
|The Texas Chainsaw Massacre||Sheriff Hoyt||Nominated - Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|Kim Possible||General Sims||Voice|
Episode: Saving Lt. Ryan
|The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy||Drill Sergeant||Voice|
Episode: "Bully Boogie/Here Thar Be Dwarves"
|Father of the Pride||Sergeant Bunny||Voice|
Episode: "One Man's Meat Is Another Man's Girlfriend"
|2005||My Life as a Teenage Robot||Sarge||Voice
Episode: "Last Action Zero"
|Man of the House||Captain Nichols|
|2005-2008||House||John House||2 episodes|
|2006||X-Men: The Last Stand||Sergeant||Voice cameo|
|The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning||Charlie Hewitt / Sheriff Hoyt|
|2007||SpongeBob SquarePants||Prison Warden||Voice|
Episode: "The Inmates of Summer"
|Eleventh Hour||Bob Henson||Episode: "Agro"|
|2009||Lock n' Load with R. Lee Ermey||Himself (host)||13 episodes|
|2009-2011||Batman: The Brave and the Bold||Wildcat||Voice|
|2010||Toy Story 3||Sarge||Voice|
|Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Walter Burlock||Episode: "Trophy"|
|An Okay Place to Eat||Sergeant Cereal||Voice|
|2011||Family Guy||Drill Sergeant with Alzheimer's Disease||Voice|
Episode: "Grumpy Old Man"
|2012||The Watch||Manfred||Final film role|
|2012||Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness||General Tsin||Voice|
|2013||Call of Duty: Ghosts||Drill Instructor DLC||Voice|
|2015||The Simpsons||Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap||Voice|
Episode: "Waiting for Duffman"
|2015-2017||GunnyTime||Himself (host)||31 episodes|
|2016||Military Makeover||Himself (host)|||