R. Lee Ermey, 'Full Metal Jacket' Star, Dies at 74

R. Lee Ermey, the real-life Marine Corps veteran who became a movie star thanks to his role in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and later voiced the Little Green Army Men in Toy Story, died on Sunday at age 74.

Ermey's representatives announced his death after a bout of pneumonia on Twitter.

"It is with deep sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey ("The Gunny") passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us," his manager, Bill Rogin, wrote. "Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed."

Ermey, whose full name was Ronald Lee Ermey, served as a drill instructor in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. He came into the film industry through his work as a technical advisor and chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now (1979).

He played several minor roles for almost a decade before Kubrick asked him to work as a technical advisor on Full Metal Jacket (1987). Ermey impressed the director with his improvised insults towards extras. Kubrick ultimately decided to use him in the final film, which earned Ermey a Golden Globe nomination.

The performance turned Ermey into a surprising star and he wound up appearing in more than 60 movies. Some of his other films include Se7en, Dead Man Walking, Mississippi Burning, On Deadly Ground and the remakes of Willard and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Ermey also became a prolific voice actor, voicing the Little Green Army Men's leader Sarge in the Toy Story movies.

He later went on to host two shows for the History Channel - Mail Call, in which he answered viewers' military questions, and Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey.

Ermey spent much of his later life supporting veterans and advocating for better care of them once they arrive home.

"There’s a few things I think we need to stand up to," Ermey told USNI News in 2015. "I think we can’t just ignore terrorism, we cant just turn our back on it and expect it to go away. I mean, somebody around here seems to think if you treat them nice they’ll like you and they’ll leave you alone, but that’s not the case. But our guys are in good shape, we’re ready to go any time. Matter of fact, call me back, I’m ready to go."


Ermey was married to his wife, Nila, for 43 years. He is also survived by four children.

Photo credit: Twitter/R. Lee Ermey