Ronald Lee Ermey
Ronald Lee Ermey (March 24, 1944 – April 15, 2018) was an American actor and voice actor. Ermey is known for playing Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He is a former United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and an honorary gunnery sergeant; during his tenure in the U.S. Marine Corps, he served as a drill instructor.
Ermey has often been 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, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket, Jimmy Lee Farnsworth in Fletch Lives, a police captain in Se7en, plastic army menleader Sarge in the Toy Story films, Lt. “Tice” Ryan in Rocket Power, the warden in SpongeBob SquarePants, and John House in House.
Ermey has 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 Gunny Time on the Outdoor channel.
- 1Early life
- 2Military career
- 3Acting career
- 5Business ventures
- 6Political views
- 7Military appearances
- 8Personal life
- 10Military awards
- 11Selected TV and filmography
- 12Other media
- 13See also
- 15External links
Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas, on March 24, 1944. He grew up with five brothers on a farm outside of Kansas City, Kansas. In 1958, when Ermey was 14, he and his family left Kansas and moved to Toppenish, Washington.As a teenager, Ermey often got in trouble with the local authorities, and had been arrested twice for criminal mischief by age 17. After his second arrest, a judge gave him a choice between joining the military or being sent to jail; Ermey chose the military.
U.S. Marine Corps
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. For his first few years, he served in the aviation support field 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 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 discharged in 1972 because of several injuries incurred during his service. 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 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 chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now, doubling as a technical advisor to director Francis Ford Coppola. Ermey then was cast as a Marine drill instructor in Sidney 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 towards several extras, convincing Kubrick he was the right man for the role. 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. He 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 has since 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 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 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 (The X-Files). On Mail Call, Ermey discussed weaponry, tactical matters, and military history. Mail Call‘s 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 WW2 jeep.
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. He also guest-starred in the episode “Second Chance” of Human Target.
Ermey also made guest appearances on the TV 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 has also voiced Wildcat in several episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In an episode of The Simpsons entitled “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming“, 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 2009, Ermey hosted a second History Channel show entitled Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey, which discussed the history of various weapons used by militaries of today.
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 also was 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 and Order: Special Victims Unit episode “Trophy” as a paroled sex offender.
Ermey serves as host of GunnyTime, a program that debuted on Outdoor Channel in 2015.
Ermey lends 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 retail real-time strategy computer 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 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 is 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 has appeared in commercials for Coors Light, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GEICO, and pistachio nuts. He has 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 is a board member for the National Rifle Association.
Ermey describes himself as an independent. In 2008, he voted for Barack Obama, but subsequently criticized his policies. Ermey said in an interview earlier in 2015 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!”
Toys for Tots speech
On December 10, 2010, Ermey denounced the Obama administration‘s economic policies while speaking at a Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots rally, stating that it was difficult to raise money for the charity because “the economy sucks”. He went on to say:
|“||We should all rise up, and we should stop this administration from what they’re doing because they’re destroying this country. They’re driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialismon us, and that’s exactly what they’re doing, and I’m sick and damn tired of it and I know you are too.||”|
In January 2011, Ermey posted an apology on his website, saying:
|“||I regret that I delivered a monologue that was inappropriately critical of the President. My comments were misguided and emotionally biased, and for that I am truly sorry.||”|
In spite of his apology, Ermey later told TMZ that he was “fired” by GEICO, which is owned by noted Obama supporter Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway, with whom he made the above-mentioned 2010 “Drill Sergeant” commercial, because of his political beliefs. The insurance giant also removed Ermey’s commercial from their official YouTube channel.
Ermey subsequently stated that his anti-Obama views had caused him to be blackballed by Hollywood, resulting in a lack of new film roles for him.
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 has also 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 married his wife, Nila, in 1975. They have four children. In Ermey’s television show Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey, he refers to his wife as “Mrs. Gunny”. He is also the official celebrity spokesperson of the youth organization, Young Marines.
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 include:
Selected TV and filmography
|1978||The Boys in Company C||Staff Sergeant Loyce (Drill Instructor, Platoon 163)|
|1979||Apocalypse Now||Eagle Thrust Seven helicopter pilot||Uncredited|
|1979||Up from the Depths||Lee|
|1987||Full Metal Jacket||Gunnery Sergeant Hartman||One of the rare performances Stanley Kubrick ever allowed to be improvised
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||Guest star
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|
|Demonstone||Colonel Joe Haines|
|1990||The Take||Weller||Television film|
|I’m Dangerous Tonight||Lieutenant Ackman||Television film|
|83 Hours ‘Til Dawn||Glen Fairling||Television film|
|The Terror Within II||Von Demming|
|The Rift or Endless Descent||Captain Phillips|
|1991||Toy Soldiers||General Kramer|
|True Identity||Houston’s Boss||Uncredited|
|Body Snatchers||General Platt|
|The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.||Marshal Brisco County Senior|
|Double Switch (video game)||Lyle (the handyman)||Credited as R. Lee Emrey in the Mega-CD/Sega CD version|
|1994||French Silk||Chief Crowder||Television film|
|On Deadly Ground||Stone|
|Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story||Mr. Byrd||Television film
|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||TV series
|The Simpsons||Colonel Leslie Hapablap||Voice only
Episode: “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming“
|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|
|Toy Story||Sarge||Voice only
|1996||Space: Above and Beyond||Sergeant Major Bougus||Television film|
|The Frighteners||The late Master Sergeant Hiles|
|Soul of the Game||Wilkie||Television film|
|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 film|
|Rough Riders||Secretary of State John Hay|
|Cracker||Lieutenant Fry||TV series|
|Switchback||Sheriff Buck Olmstead|
|Starship Troopers||News Announcer||Uncredited|
|1999||You Know My Name||Nix||Television film|
|Life||Older Sheriff Pike|
|Megiddo: The Omega Code 2||President Richard Benson|
|Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot||General Thorton||TV series|
|The Apartment Complex||Frank Stanton|
|Toy Story 2||Sarge||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
Video game, credited as R. Lee Ermy
|On the Borderline||Captain Elias|
|Real War: Air, Land, Sea||Voice only
|Real War: Rogue States|
|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||Janitor’s father||Guest star
Episode: “My Old Man“
|Fillmore!||Colonel Thrift||Guest star, voice only
Episode: “South of Friendship, North of Honor”
|Kim Possible||General Sims||Voice only
|The Texas Chainsaw Massacre||Sheriff Hoyt||Nominated – Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|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||TV series
Appeared in the episode “Daddy’s Boy“
|Man of the House||Captain Nichols|
|2006||X-Men: The Last Stand||Sergeant||Voice only|
|Shark Bait||Jack||Voice only|
|The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning||Charlie Hewitt/Sheriff Hoyt|
|2007||SpongeBob SquarePants||Prison Warden||Voice only
Episode: “The Inmates of Summer“
|House||John House||TV series
Appeared in the episode “Birthmarks”
|Eleventh Hour||Bob Henson (Farmer)||TV series
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||Voice only
|Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Walter Burlock||TV series
Appeared in the episode “Trophy“
|2011||Family Guy||Drill Sergeant with Alzheimers Disease||TV series
Appeared in the Episode “Grumpy Old Man”
|2012||The Watch||Grumpy rural neighbor|
|Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness||General Tsin (The Most Dangerous Po)||Voice only|
|2015||GunnyTime||Gunny (Himself)||TV series|
|2016||Military Makeover||Gunny (Himself)||TV Series.|
- He provided the voice for a speaking “motivational action figure” depicting him in USMC drill instructor uniform with 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, he 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.
- In the Green Lantern series of comics published by DC, it is revealed that Green Lantern Kilowog, who trains all new Green Lantern recruits, was himself trained by a Green Lantern named Ermey.
- He had a notable appearance on The Howard Stern Show in October 2002 appearing on the show as Sgt. Hartman.
- He played as voice of the DLC drill instructor in Call of Duty: Ghosts.
He also starred in an instructional training video for Lockheed Martin dealing with the problems caused by Foreign Object Damage in manufacturing military equipment.
- @RLeeErmey (April 15, 2018). “Statement from R. Lee Ermey’s long time manager, Bill Rogin” (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- “R. Lee Ermey, Golden Globe Nominee for ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ Dies at 74”. The Hollywood Reporter. April 15, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
- Gunny R. Lee Ermey Unplugged
- R. Lee Ermey’s Bio
- Clark, Doug (August 31, 2010). “‘Gunny’ has a terrifying bark, but he won’t bite”. The Spokesman-Review. Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
- “The Kubrick Site: The Rolling Stone Interview”. Visual-memory.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
- IMDB – Tales from the Crypt: Season 6, Episode 9 (Staired in Horror)
- Ermy, Allan Join PBR TV Broadcasts Archived 2016-03-08 at the Wayback Machine.
- Drafthouse PSAs Archived 2011-11-21 at the Wayback Machine.
- Echols, Tucker (2012-02-15). “NRA aims to ‘Trigger the Vote’ with voter registration drive”. Washington Business Journal.
- “Bravery Brewing”. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
- R. Lee Ermey on Ted Cruz (TV clip). Sportsman. Apr 16, 2015.
- Full Metal Jacket R Lee Ermey Rips into Obama Oministration Breitbart.tv
- “Famous Drill Instructor Says GEICO Fired Him for Criticizing Obama Admin.” -Jonathon M. Seidl, The Blaze
- http://www.rleeermey.com/about.php Retrieved July 12, 2015
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