R Lee Ermey, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ Actor, Dies at 74

Golden Globe-nominated actor passed from complications of pneumonia

R. Lee Ermey Full Metal Jacket

R. Lee Ermey, a veteran character actor who earned Golden Globe nomination for 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket,” died Sunday, his longtime manager Bill Rogin announced on Twitter. He was 74.

The Marine Corps veteran made his film debut in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” and went on to play authority figures in films like “Mississippi Burning,” “Se7en” and even the “Toy Story” films (where he voiced Sarge, leader of the plastic Army men).

“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. Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed,” the tweet reads.


Born Ronald Lee Ermey in Emporia, Kansas, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17 when, after a second arrest for criminal mischief, he was given the choice between jail or the military. He chose the latter.

“Gunny,” as he became to be known, was a drill instructor in the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion in San Diego, where he served in the mid-’60s. He was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in 1968, before being sent to Vietnam for 14 months, at which time he was medically discharged because of injuries. In 2002, he received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant.

While attending the University of Manila in the Philippines, Emery was cast in his first film — Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” playing a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot. Eight years later, he was cast as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” earning a Golden Globe nomination in the process.

Among his 60 other film roles were “Mississippi Burning,” “Dead Man Walking,” Se7en,” ‘Leaving Las Vegas” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Emery also appeared on the small screen in “Miami Vice,” “House” and “The X-Files,” and his commanding voice can be heard in such animated projects as the “Toy Story” film franchise, “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

He went on to host two series on the History Channel, “Mail Call” and “Lock N’ Load With R. Lee Emery,” and “Gunny Time” on the Outdoor channel.

Emery is survived by his wife of 43 years, Nina, and their four children.

For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported Ermey’s age.