Ermey has often played the roles of authority figures, such as his breakout performance as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, Mayor Tilman in the Alan Parker film Mississippi Burning, Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine, Sheriff Hoyt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, and plastic army men leader Sarge in the Toy Story saga.
He has hosted two militainment programs on the History Channel: Mail Call, in which he answered viewers' questions about various militaria both modern and historic; and Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which focuses specifically on the development of different types of weapons.
Early life and military career
Born in Emporia, Kansas, Ermey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1961. Ermey was a drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, and Parris Island, South Carolina from 1965 to 1967. In 1968, Ermey arrived in Vietnam where he served for 14 months with the Marine Wing Support Group 17. He then served two tours of duty in Okinawa, Japan, during which he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-6) and was medically retired in 1972 for several injuries incurred during his tours.
Ermey was cast in his first movie while attending the University of Manila in the Philippines, using his G.I. Bill benefits. He first played a Marine drill instructor (SSgt Loyce) in the 1978 Vietnam-era film The Boys in Company "C", which brought Ermey to the attention of Stanley Kubrick in later years. Ermey then played an Air Cavalry Officer in Apocalypse Now, doubling as a technical advisor to director Francis Ford Coppola on that film. He also served as Louis Gossett's technical advisor for the film An Officer and a Gentleman. For the next few years, Ermey played a series of minor film roles until 1987, when he was cast as tough drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket; Ermey also served as the technical advisor on the film. Initially, he was only intended to be the technical advisor, but Kubrick changed his mind after Ermey put together an instructional tape to convince Kubrick he was the right person for the role, in which Ermey went on an extended hair-raising drill instructor tirade towards several Royal Marines cast as extras, all the while being pelted by oranges and tennis balls, and managing to do so without repeating himself, stopping, or even flinching. Seeking absolute military authenticity for the film, Kubrick allowed Ermey to write or edit his own dialogue and improvise on the set (including an obscene observation about how buddies should treat each other), a noted rarity in a Kubrick film. Kubrick later indicated that Ermey was an excellent performer, often needing just two or three takes per scene, also a noted rarity for a Kubrick film. Ermey's performance won critical raves and he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Supporting Actor. He would subsequently play a tough drill instructor in the pilot episode of Space: Above and Beyond and ghost of a drill instructor in the film The Frighteners, both similar to his character in Full Metal Jacket.
He has since appeared in approximately sixty films, including Mississippi Burning, Dead Man Walking, Se7en, Fletch Lives, Leaving Las Vegas, Prefontaine, Saving Silverman, On Deadly Ground, Life, Man of the House, Toy Soldiers, as well as the remakes of Willard and as an evil sadist in the two 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 appears in a commanding military role, for shows such as Kim Possible, The Simpsons, Family Guy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Miami Vice, House, Scrubs, My Life as a Teenage Robot and Invader Zim, in addition to hosting the documentary series Mail Call and "Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey".
On May 17, 2002, he 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, a rank consistent with Ermey's character as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.
He has also conducted morale tours visiting U.S. troops in locations such as Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, in which he filmed parts for his television show Mail Call. While at Bagram Air Base 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, in 2003.
On Mail Call, Ermey discusses weaponry, tactical matters, and military history. Mail Call's subject matter is dictated by viewer emails; one episode may focus on an M1A1 Battle Tank, while another may involve World War II secrets, while a third might focus on elements of Medieval warfare. The set consists of a military tent, other military gear and weapons, and Ermey's personal jeep armed with his own 30 cal. M1919 Browning machine gun. Commercial breaks are signaled with typical Drill Instructor type language, such as, "Goin' to the can? I don't think so. Keep your butt parked on that couch!" or "Get that sandwich outa your pie-hole and listen up, maggots!"
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 is the 341st person to fly in the B-2 Stealth Bomber.
Ermey also made guest appearances on the hit TV drama House, playing the role of Dr. Gregory House's father, who was a decorated pilot of the USMC ("Birthmarks", "Daddy's Boy"), and the sitcom Scrubs, playing the Janitor's father. He has also voiced Wildcat in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Erney voiced Colonel Leslie Hap Hapablap.
In 2009, Ermey began hosting a second History Channel show entitled Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which discussed the developmental history of various weapons used by militaries of today. Ermey's closing line of each episode is: "Semper fi and keep your powder dry and your eye on the target . . this is R. Lee Ermey for the History Channel."
Ermey has lent his distinctive 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 retail real-time strategy computer game based on the official Joint Chiefs of Staff training game.
Ermey is an official spokesman for Glock firearms, Tupperware, Hoover, SOG Specialty Knives, and the Young Marines, and has also appeared in commercials for Coors Light, Dick's Sporting Goods and GEICO. He can also be seen giving a service announcement for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, demanding that viewers be quiet during the film.
- Meritorious Unit Commendation
- Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with two bronze Service Stars
- National Defense Service Medal
- Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze service star
- Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
- Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Rifle Expert Badge
- Pistol Sharpshooter Badge
After retirement, R. Lee Ermey was also retroactively awarded the Drill Instructor Ribbon due to his prior service as a Marine Corps Basic Training Instructor as well as the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation for unit activities during the Vietnam War.
|1978||The Boys in Company "C"||Staff Sergeant Loyce (Drill Instructor, Co. 163)|
|1979||Apocalypse Now||Eagle Thrust Seven helicopter pilot||uncredited|
|1987||Full Metal Jacket||Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann||One of the rare performances Stanley Kubrick ever allowed to be improvised|
|Miami Vice||Detective Sergeant Ernest Haskell||guest star|
"Rising Sun of Death"
Episode 9, Season 4
|1988||Mississippi Burning||Mayor Tilman|
|1989||The Siege of Firebase Gloria||Sergeant Major Bill Hafner/Narrator||Uncredited screenwriter|
|Fletch Lives||Jimmy Lee Farnsworth|
|Demonstone||Colonel Joe Haines|
|1990||The Take||Weller||television movie|
|I'm Dangerous Tonight||Lieutenant Ackman||television movie|
|83 Hours 'Til Dawn||Glen Fairling||television movie|
|The Terror Within II||Von Demming|
|The Rift aka Endless Descent||Captain Phillips|
|1991||Toy Soldiers||General Kramer|
|True Identity||Houston's Boss||uncredited|
|Body Snatchers||General Platt|
|Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.||Marshal Brisco County Senior|
|Double Switch (Video Game)||Lyle (the handyman)||Credited as R. Lee Emrey in the Sega CD version|
|1994||French Silk||Chief Crowder||television movie|
|On Deadly Ground||Stone|
|Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story||Mr. Byrd||uncredited; television movie|
|Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult||Mess Hall Guard||uncredited|
|Chain of Command||Benjamin Brewster|
|Love Is a Gun||Frank Deacon|
|1995||Murder in the First||Judge Clawson|
|Leaving Las Vegas||Conventioneer|
|The X-Files||Reverend Findley||episode "Revelations"|
|The Simpsons||Colonel Leslie Hapablap||voice only|
episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming"
|Toy Story||Sarge "Sergeant"||voice only|
|Under the Hula Moon||Lt. Col. J. P. McIntire|
|Dead Man Walking||Clyde Percy|
|Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back||Preacher Brian||uncredited|
|1996||Space: Above and Beyond||Sergeant Major Bougus||television movie|
|The Frighteners||The late Master Sergeant Hiles|
|Soul of the Game||Wilkie||television movie|
|1997||Dead Men Can't Dance||Sen. Pullman T. Fowler|
|The Angry Beavers||Sergeant Goonther||voice only|
episode "Fancy Prance/H2Whoa!"
|Weapons of Mass Distraction||Billy Paxton||television movie|
|Rough Riders||Secretary of State John Hay|
|Cracker||Lieutenant Fry||TV series|
|Switchback||Sheriff Buck Olmstead|
|The Sender||Colonel Rosewater|
|1999||You Know My Name||Nix||television movie|
|Life||Older Sheriff Pike|
|Megiddo: The Omega Code 2||President Richard Benson|
|SpongeBob SquarePants||Prison Warden|| voice only |
episode "The Inmates of Summer"
To Save a Squirrel"
|Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot||General Thorton||TV series|
|The Apartment Complex||Frank Stanton|
|Toy Story 2||Sarge "Sergeant"||voice only|
|2000||The Chaos Factor||Col. Ben Wilder|
|Skipped Parts||Caspar Callahan|
|Roughnecks: STC||Sky Marshall Sanchez|
|Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins||Sarge||voice only|
animated direct-to-video film
|2001||Saving Silverman||Coach Norton|
|Recess: School's Out||Colonel O'Malley||voice only|
|Family Guy||Coach||voice only|
episode "Mr. Saturday Knight"
|Taking Sides||General Wallace|
|Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel||General Barnaky||voice only|
|Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex||Wa-Wa the Water Elemental||voice only|
|On the Borderline||Captain Elias|
|Real War: Air, Land, Sea||voice only|
|Real War: Rogue States||voice only|
|2002||Run Ronnie Run!||Lead Kidnapper|
|The Salton Sea||Verne Plummer|
|Invader Zim||Sergeant Hobo 678||voice only|
|History Channel's Mail Call||Gunny (Himself)||TV series|
|Frank McKlusky, C.I.||Jockey Master||uncredited|
|A.K.A. Birdseye||Sheriff Gathers|
|Scrubs||"A Man"||guest star|
episode "My Old Man"
|The Texas Chainsaw Massacre||Sheriff Hoyt|
|2004||The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy||Drill Sergeant||voice only|
|Father of the Pride||Sergeant Bunny||voice only|
episode "One Man's Meat Is Another Man's Girlfriend"
|2005||House||John House||Appeared in the episode "Daddy's Boy"|
|Man of the House||Captain Nichols|
|2006||X-Men: The Last Stand||Sergeant||voice only|
|The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning||Charlie Hewitt/Sheriff Hoyt|
|2007||SpongeBob SquarePants||Unnamed drill sergeant (the Inmates of Summer)||voice only|
|House||John House|| Appeared in the episode "Birthmarks"|
|Eleventh Hour||Bob Henson (Farmer)|| Appeared in the episode "Agro"|
|2009||Batman: The Brave and the Bold||Wildcat||animated series|
|History Channel's Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey||Gunny (Himself)||TV series|
|2010||Toy Story 3||Sarge "Sergeant"||voice only|
Samples of Ermey from Full Metal Jacket are used in several albums:
- Fear Factory's album Soul of a New Machine on the track "Suffer Age".
- Ministry's album The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste, on the track "Thieves". Contrary to some reports[who?], the voice credited as "Sgt. Major" on the same band's Rio Grande Blood is not Ermey.
- Front Line Assembly's track "Millennium"
- Grendel's track "Soilbleed V.3"
- Combichrist's track "This Is My Rifle"
- Killarmy's track "War Face"
- Terre Thaemlitz's release "Soil", on the track "Yer Ass is Grass"
- Quotes of Ermey saying, "Now go home and snuff that bitch!" "Here you are all equally worthless." "Get on your knees, scumbag!" "Who's the slimy little communist shit, twinkle-toed cocksucker down here who just signed his own death warrant?" and others appear on multiple songs by the band Killwhitneydead.
- Samples of the line "Here you are all equally worthless" from Full Metal Jacket are repeated throughout the song "Never Get Caught" by American Head Charge.
- Provided the voice for a speaking "motivational action figure" depicting him in USMC drill instructor uniform with pre-programmed voice messages activated by pressing a button on the figure. The figures' dialogue comes in two versions, one with (somewhat) family-friendly language and one with "Extra-Salty" dialogue which includes profanity, the latter of which is packaged with an R rating as a warning to consumers. One of these figurines also appears on occasion on Mail Call, wherein it is often referred to as 'Mini-Lee' by the host, sometimes seen berating a G.I. Joe figurine.
- In the early 1990s, appeared as a Martian pilot in a training video for Virtual World Entertainment's game "Red Planet", alongside other actors such as Cheech Marin, Nora Dunn, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Joan Severance, and Judge Reinhold.
- ↑ Script error
Script error Script error
- Official website for R. Lee Ermey
- Official website for Gunny Ermey's Mail Call Forum
- Official website for Mail Call
- REDIRECT Template:IMDb name