On September 22, 1988, not long after the release of the film Full Metal Jacket, I sat down in a Los Angeles recording studio with actor R. Lee Ermey. Lee had graciously agreed to record voiceover elements that could be used in videos I was producing for Marine Corps birthday celebrations.
I had first met Lee in 1984. My boss and I, both Marine officers, were stationed in Hollywood, assigned the mission of encouraging positive portryals of the Marine Corps in movies and on TV. We were fans of Lee’s performance in the 1978 film Boys in Company C, and, when he would drop by our office for coffee, we would share intelligence about movies and TV shows that could use “the Marine treatment.” When we heard that Stanley Kubrick would be creating a film based on Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short Timers, we encouraged his production company to audition Lee for the role he would eventually own— the character Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. They refused. Eventually we convinced them to fly Lee to England (where the movie was filmed) for “one or two week’s work” teaching other actors in the film to march. Once they saw his drill instructor persona fully displayed, their casting decision was made easy.
After seeing news of Lee’s death April 15, I headed down to my basement, rummaged through dusty boxes of old film and tapes, and found this: