Ermey was best known for playing the Parris Island drill instructor in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic.
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But did you know the actor served as a real-life US Marine drill instructor during the Vietnam War?
Originally Ermey, who died from complications of pneumonia on Saturday, was hired as a technical advisor on 1987’s Full Metal Jacket.
However director Stanley Kubrick asked him to audition for Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, having seen him play a drill instructor in 1978’s The Boys in Company C.
So Kubrick had him improvise insults with some real marines being considered as extras.
The director watched tapes of the session and concluded Ermey “was a genius for this part.”
Kubrick later estimated that the actor wrote around half of his entire dialogue through ad libbing.
While rehearsing Ermey would have a production assistant throw tennis balls and oranges at him, having to catch them and throw them back as soon as possible while saying his dialogue as quickly as he could.
If he made a mistake he would start all over again until 20 runs of lines –without any errors – were accomplished.
Following Full Metal Jacket’s success Ermey earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
He also appeared in a host of films, including Leaving Las Vegas, Se7en, Dead Man Walking and Saving Silverman.
Following his death at the weekend, a statement was released by his longtime manger, Bill Rogin.
His manager stated: ““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. It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for.
“He has meant so much to so many people 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.
“He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever.”