Born March 24, 1944, in Emporia, Kansas, Ermey was a drill instructor in the Marines and also a staff sergeant. He served 14 months in Vietnam, completed two tours in Japan, and had spent 11 years in the military before he retired and ventured out to Hollywood.
After taking some acting classes, one of Ermey’s first roles was playing a helicopter pilot in the 1979 classic Apocalypse Now. He eventually went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for his memorable performance as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in 1987’s Full Metal Jacket, as well as a best supporting actor award from the Boston Society of Film Critics.
Actor R. Lee Ermey, best known for his role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, died Sunday from complications of pneumonia. He was 74.
“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,” Ermey’s longtime manager, Bill Rogin, wrote on the star’s official Twitter account. “He will be greatly missed by all of us. Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed.”