As my colleague Mr. Last mentioned, we were graced yesterday by the presence of Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey who told us about Unmet Needs, a very worthy cause. But after all was said and done, I couldn't resist asking two questions. One, considering the various rumors surrounding his landing the role of the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, what exactly is the truth behind his getting cast?
"I was a technical adviser on the set," said Ermey, who in fact wanted the role for himself, despite director Stanley Kubrick already having someone else in mind for the part of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. And so Ermey waged a behind-the-scenes campaign of auditioning and interviewing until it came to Kubrick's attention. The director relented, gave Ermey a shot, and was easily won over. (Ermey does not reveal who was the original actor cast for the role.)
As for the dialogue, Ermey wrote most of it himself, "taking lines I used when I was a drill sergeant in San Diego and taking a few other lines from other drill sergeants as well." It was all written down ahead of time, he explains, except for the "reacharound" line. "I don't know where that came from," he admits sheepishly, "and it sort of threw me off, but Stanley liked it and kept it in."
Ermey had argued forcefully with Kubrick over the instances of Hartman striking a recruit. "That would never happen," he insists, except for the occasional subtle jab in the solar plexus.
Now at 62, Ermey is still lean at around 6-feet tall. He came to our office wearing fatigues and boots and has visited Iraq and Afghanistan three times. He looks pretty much the same as he did when he starred in Full Metal, though his eyebrows have gone wild.
My second question was how much he benched. "At my age, I stick to mostly lightweights and work on repetitions, nothing too heavy. I bench about 125."
23 minutes ago