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Ronald Lee Ermey (March 24, 1944 – April 15, 2018) was an American former drill instructor and actor, best known for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He was a retired United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and an honorary gunnery sergeant. During his tenure in the U.S. Marine Corps, Ermey served as a drill instructor. On House, M.D., he portrayed John House in the Season 2 episode "Daddy's Boy" and the Season 5 episode "Birthmarks."

Ermey had often been typecast for roles of authority figures, such as Mayor Tilman in Mississippi Burning, Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine, Sheriff Hoyt in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jimmy Lee Farnsworth in Fletch Lives, a Police Captain in Seven, Sarge in the Toy Story franchise, Lt. "Tice" Ryan in Rocket Power, the Warden in SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Sergeant Bunny in Father of the Pride.

He had hosted two programs on the History Channel: Mail Call, in which he answered viewers' questions about various militaria both modern and historic, and Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which concerned the development of different types of weapons.

Early life and military career[]

Ermey was born Ronald Lee Ermey in Emporia, Kansas on March 24, 1944 and was raised with his five brothers on a farm about 18 miles west of Kansas City, Kansas.

In 1958, when Ermey was 14, he and his family left Kansas and moved to Toppenish, Washington. As a teenager, he often got in trouble with the local authorities and had been arrested twice for criminal mischief by age 17. After his second arrest, a judge gave him a choice between joining the military or being sent to jail; Ermey chose the former.

U.S. Marine Corps[]

In 1961, at age 17, Ermey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went through recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in San Diego, California. For his first few years, he served in the aviation support field, before becoming a drill instructor in India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where he was assigned from 1965 to 1967.

Ermey then served in Marine Wing Support Group 17 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan. In 1968, he was ordered to South Vietnam with MWSG-17, and spent 14 months in country. The remainder of his service was in Okinawa, where he was promoted to staff sergeant. He was medically discharged in 1972 due to several injuries incurred during his service.

On May 17, 2002, he received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant by Commandant James L. Jones, becoming the first retiree in the history of the Marines to be promoted.

Acting career[]


Ermey was cast in his first film while attending the University of Manila in the Philippines, using his G.I. Bill benefits, studying criminology and drama. He first played a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now doubling as a technical advisor to director Francis Ford Coppola. Ermey then was cast as a Marine Drill Instructor in Sidney Fury's "Boys In Company C." For the next few years, Ermey played a series of minor film roles until 1987 when he was cast as austere drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. Initially he was intended to be only the technical advisor. Kubrick changed his mind after Ermey put together an instructional tape, in which he went on an extended tirade towards several extras, convincing Kubrick he was the right man for the role. Seeking absolute military authenticity for the film, Kubrick allowed Ermey to write or edit his own dialogue and improvise on the set, a notable rarity in a Kubrick film. Kubrick later indicated that Ermey was an excellent performer, often needing just two or three takes per scene, also unusual for a Kubrick film. Ermey's performance won critical raves and he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award as Best Supporting Actor. He later played a drill instructor in the pilot episode of Space: Above and Beyond and ghost of a drill instructor in the film The Frighteners, both similar to his character in Full Metal Jacket.

Ermey appeared in approximately sixty films, including Purple Hearts, Mississippi Burning, The Siege of Firebase Gloria, Dead Man Walking, Seven, Fletch Lives, Leaving Las Vegas, Prefontaine, Saving Silverman, On Deadly Ground, Sommersby, Life, Man of the House, Toy Soldiers, The Salton Sea, as well as the remakes of Willard and as an evil sadist in the two The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. Ermey also lent his voice to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3, as well as Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles and '[X-Men: The Last Stand. He usually appears in a commanding military role, for shows such as Kim Possible, The Simpsons, Family Guy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Miami Vice, House, Scrubs, My Life as a Teenage Robot and Invader Zim, in addition to hosting the documentary series Mail Call and Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey.


December 14, 1994. Tales From The Crypt. Season 6 Episode 9. "Staired In Horror", Ermey is the sheriff.

On Mail Call, Ermey discussed weaponry, tactical matters, and military history. Mail Call's subject matter was dictated by viewer emails; one episode may have focused on an M1A1 Battle Tank, while another may have involved World War II secrets, while a third might have been focused on elements of Medieval warfare. The set consisted of a military tent, other military gear and weapons, and Ermey's personal jeep armed with his own 30 cal. M1919 Browning machine gun.

Ermey traveled to Kuwait in June 2003 during the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom to film mail distribution by the Defense Department to service personnel for an episode of Mail Call. According to a 2005 episode of Mail Call filmed at Whiteman Air Force Base, he is the 341st person to fly in the B-2 Stealth Bomber. He also guest-starred in the episode "Second Chance" of Human Target.

Ermey also made guest appearances on the sitcom Scrubs, playing the Janitor's father. He has also voiced Wildcat in several episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Ermey voiced Colonel Leslie "Hap" Hapablap.

In the episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, "Inmates of Summer", he voiced an irate warden of a maximum security island prison who demoralized the inmates whenever he could. In the episode of The Angry Beavers, "Fancy Prance", he voiced the Lipizzaner Stallions' instructor, Drill Sergeant Goonther.

In 2009, Ermey hosted a second History Channel show entitled Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which discussed the developmental history of various weapons used by militaries of today.

In late 2010, Ermey starred in a GEICO commercial as a former-drill-instructor-turned-therapist who insults a client, in parody of some of his iconic characters. Ermey also was featured each week on ESPN's College GameDay. His role was to insult the experts' incorrect picks from the previous week. In that same year, Ermey appeared in the Law and Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Trophy" as a paroled sex offender. In 2011, Ermey starred as a drill instructor on the X-Play special on Bulletstorm. In the "Family Guy" episode "Grumpy Old Man" Ermey guest-starred, again as a drill instructor. Ermey serves as host of GunnyTime, a program that debuted on Outdoor Channel in 2015.

Video games[]

In 1993, Ermey played Lyle The Handyman in the full-motion video game Mega-CD/Sega CD game Double Switch, a game also starring Corey Haim and Deborah Harry.

Ermey lends his voice to several video games, including Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel (as General Barnaky) and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (as Wa-Wa). He also made a cameo in Real War: Air, Land, Sea, a retail real-time strategy computer game based on the official Joint Chiefs of Staff training game. In the game Fallout 3, there is a recruitable companion named Sergeant RL-3, a modified military robot with a personality very similar to Ermey (the companion's name is a reference to Ermey's initials wherein the 3 is leetspeak for the letter 'e'). In the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion there is a character named "Lieutenant Emry" that speaks some of Ermey's signature lines from Full Metal Jacket. In 2014, he did voice over work for the popular game Call of Duty: Ghosts.


Ermey was an official spokesman for Black Book, Glock firearms, TRU-SPEC apparel, Tupperware, Victory Motorcycles, Hoover, SOG Specialty Knives, WD-40, and the Young Marines, and had appeared in commercials for Coors Light, Dick's Sporting Goods, GEICO and pistachio nuts. He provided intro for the PBR. He could be seen giving a service announcement for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, demanding that viewers be quiet during the film. He was a board member for the National Rifle Association.

Personal life[]

Ermey married his wife Nila in 1975. They have four children. In Ermey's television show Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey, he refers to his wife as "Mrs. Gunny."

Ermey died from complications related to pneumonia on the morning of April 15, 2018. He was 74 years old.

Acting Career[]


Notable Roles[]

  • Wildcat on Batman: The Brave and the Bold
  • Sarge in Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3
  • John Hay in Rough Riders
  • Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine
  • Gunnery Sargent Hartman in Full Metal Jacket

External Links[]

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