R. Lee Ermey, better known as “The Gunny”, had a very impressive film and television career following his 11 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, before his death in 2018. The former drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran acted in numerous films, hosted television shows, and was also an author. Of course, the Gunny is best known for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic film “Full Metal Jacket,” a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
If you scour his body of work closely, Ermey offers some tips that can serve as a guide to living a successful life. Here are some of them:
A decade before Ermey played a drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket,” Gunny donned the brim hat in the 1978 movie “The Boys in Company C.” During the boot camp scenes, Ermey’s character Staff Sgt. Loyce challenges one of the recruits named “Washington” to step up his game and become a leader. Loyce tells Washington he needs him to be the type of leader that fellow Marines can trust and count on in combat. His also stresses the importance of supporting his fellow comrades, not being selfish, and working as a team. He inspires the character to seek his potential as a leader.
Ermey lent his voice to the “Toy Story” animated trilogy playing “Sarge,” a leader of plastic Army men. In the first movie, Woody tells Sarge to perform a reconnaissance mission during Andy’s birthday. Woody and his fellow toys fear they will be replaced when Andy gets new toys as birthday presents. Like a loyal team player, Sarge leads his men to scope out the party and report back to Woody. When one of his fellow army men gets stepped on by Andy’s mom, Sarge refuses to leave the man behind and carries the minesweeper to safety saying “a good soldier never leaves a man behind.”
In the 2001 comedy “Saving Silverman,” Gunny played a no-nonsense football coach who gives his players pieces of advice throughout the film. During the locker room scene, he stresses the importance of sportsmanship. He also said some other things that may not suitable for younger audiences.
4. Life-long Commitment
In his 2013 self-help book Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine, Ermey talked about being a ‘life-long’ Marine even after retiring for medical injures while in service. In the book, he said, “The Marine Corps had retired me, but I kept showing up for work.”
Ermey talked about using his celebrity status to serve his beloved Corps and his desire to contribute any chance he got. In 2002, his life-long service was recognized by the Marine Corps, and he was given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.
5. Don’t give up
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to have a list about Ermey’s career without talking about “Full Metal Jacket.” However, Ermey was not originally cast to be Gunny Sgt. Hartman. During a 2009 interview, the actor talked about serving as a technical advisor for the film. He took the job to get his foot in the door in hopes to convince director Stanley Kubrick that he should be given the role. After lobbying for the job and impressing Kubrick’s ‘right-hand’ man during an interview session with movie extras where he played the Hartman character, he was offered the role.
In the interview, he said, “They had already hired another actor to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, but Marines don’t just say ‘Oh’ and give up. We continue to march and we attack until we achieve our goal, and we accomplish our mission.”
6. Embrace your talent
The former Marine was definitely a typecast actor playing similar authority figures in films. Whether he is the police captain in “Seven“ or a mean boss in the horror film “Willard,” Gunny used his acting chops, quick wit and background to make each character unique. Like Ermey, it’s important to embrace what you’re good at.
7. Don’t forget your roots
Despite working beside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and actresses, Ermey remained humble and never forgot where he came from.
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