R. Lee Ermey, Harsh Drill Instructor in ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ Dies at 74

Much of the torrent of vicious language he unleashed in “Full Metal Jacket” was recalled from his days in boot camp and his 30 months as a Marine Corps drill instructor during the Vietnam War.

The clever, if obscene, tirades were of his own invention, Mr. Ermey told The New York Times in 1987.

“It was terrifying to those actors,” he said of the invective he spewed. “My objective was intimidation.”


Mr. Ermey in Hoover, Ala., in 2012. Credit Joe Songer/AL.com, via Associated Press

Mr. Ermey’s 11-year career as a Marine was ended “by a rocket” in 1969, he said, but he would not talk about the war for the Times article, saying: “If a person’s wife and children were killed in a terrible automobile accident, 20 years later it will bother him to talk about it.”

With shrapnel still lodged in his back and arm, Mr. Ermey spent four months in a hospital. He eventually moved to the Philippines, where he married, attended college briefly and acted in television commercials.

He is survived by his wife, Marianila Ermey; his brothers Jack Ermey and Terry Ermey; his children Kim Bolt, Rhonda Chilton, Anna Liza Cruz, Betty Ermey, Evonne Ermey and Clinton Ermey; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

By the late 1970s, Mr. Ermey had landed one of his first movie roles, as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” He also served as a military adviser for the film.

He told The Times that he had given up “a good job and more money” — a supervisory role at a nuclear power plant that was under construction — for the part in “Full Metal Jacket” a few years later.

“I love being in front of the camera,” he said. “I get to play cowboy.”

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