R. Lee Ermey, who was best known for playing the terrifying gunnery sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” has passed away at age 74 from complications of pneumonia. The actor’s longtime manager Bill Rogin shared the news on Ermey’s Facebook page, calling it “a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for” and noting that “the real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, a kind and gentle soul.”
Here’s Rogin’s full statement:
“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. He will be greatly missed by all of us. It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for. He has meant so much to so many people. And, it is extremely difficult to truly quantify all of the great things this man has selflessly done for, and on behalf of, our many men and women in uniform. He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of Full Metal Jacket fame was a hard and principled man. The real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him. And, he especially cared deeply for others in need.
“There is a quote made famous in Full Metal Jacket. It’s actually the Riflemen’s Creed. ‘This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.’
“There are many Gunny’s, but this one was OURS. And, we will honor his memory with hope and kindness. Please support your men and women in uniform. That’s what he wanted most of all.
“Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed.”
Born on March 24, 1944 in Emporia, Kansas, Ermey was a United States Marine Corps staff sergeant before making his acting debut in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now”; he also served as a technical advisor on the Vietnam War drama. His role in “Full Metal Jacket” proved to be his breakout, earning him a Golden Globe nomination and leading to a long career in which he frequently played domineering authority figures.
Ermey is survived by his wife of 43 years, Nila, and their four children.