R. Lee Ermey

R. Lee Ermey
Born Ronald Lee Ermey
(1944-03-24) March 24, 1944
Emporia, Kansas, United States
Occupation Actor
Years active 1978–present
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Nila Ermey (m. 1975)
Children 4

Military career

Nickname(s) "The Gunny"
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1961–1972
Rank SSgt
GySgt (Honorary)
Unit India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion
Marine Wing Support Group 17
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Combat Action Ribbon
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross

Ronald Lee Ermey (born March 24, 1944), known professionally as R. Lee Ermey, is an American 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 is a former United States Marine Corps staff sergeant and an honorary gunnery sergeant; during his tenure in the U.S. Marine Corps, he served as a drill instructor.

Ermey has often been typecast in authority figure roles, such as Mayor Tilman in the film Mississippi Burning, Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine, Sheriff Hoyt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Jimmy Lee Farnsworth in Fletch Lives, a police captain in Seven, plastic army men leader Sarge in the Toy Story films, Lt. "Tice" Ryan in Rocket Power, the warden in SpongeBob SquarePants, and John House, Gregory House's father in House.

Ermey has hosted two programs on the History Channel: Mail Call, in which he answered viewers' questions about various military issues both modern and historic; and Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey, which concerned the development of different types of weapons. He also hosted Gunny Time on the Outdoor channel.

Early life

Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas, on March 24, 1944, and was raised with his five brothers on a farm outside of Kansas City, Kansas.[1] In 1958, when Ermey was 14, his family and he left Kansas and moved to Toppenish, Washington.[1] As a teenager, Ermey often got in trouble with the local authorities, and had been arrested twice for criminal mischief by age 17.[1] After his second arrest, a judge gave him a choice between joining the military or being sent to jail; Ermey chose the former.

Military career

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.[1] 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.[1] In 1968, he was ordered to Vietnam with MWSG-17, and spent 14 months in country. The remainder of his service was in Okinawa where he was advanced to staff sergeant (E-6). He was medically discharged in 1972 because of several injuries incurred during his service.[2]

On May 17, 2002, he received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant (E-7) by Commandant James L. Jones, becoming the first retiree in the history of the Marines to be promoted.[3]

Acting career


Ermey was cast in his first film while attending the University of Manila in the Philippines, using his G.I. Bill benefits. He played a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now,[4] doubling as a technical advisor to director Francis Ford Coppola. Ermey then was cast as a Marine drill instructor in Sidney Furie's The Boys In Company C. For the next few years, Ermey played a series of minor film roles until 1987 when he was cast as drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.[4]

Initially, he was intended to be only the technical advisor.[4] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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 the ghost of a drill instructor in the film The Frighteners, both similar to his character in Full Metal Jacket.

Ermey has since appeared in about 60 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, and 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 and X-Men 3. 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.

Ermey loading ammo for the Bofors 40 mm gun aboard a Lockheed AC-130H "Spectre" Gunship in 2006


On December 14, 1994, in Tales From The Crypt, season six, episode nine, "Staired In Horror", Ermey is the sheriff.[6]

On Mail Call, Ermey discussed weaponry, tactical matters, and military history. Mail Call's subject matter was dictated by viewer emails; one episode focused on an M1 Abrams tank, while others involved World War II secrets, and others 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 TV drama House, playing the role of Dr. Gregory House's father, who was a decorated naval aviator while serving in the Marine Corps ("Birthmarks", "Daddy's Boy"), and 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 history of various weapons used by militaries of today.

In late 2010, Ermey starred in a GEICO commercial as a drill-instructor-turned-therapist who insults a client, in a parody of some of his iconic characters.[4] 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, a recruitable companion is 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 is a character named "Lieutenant Emry" that speaks some of Ermey's signature lines from Full Metal Jacket. In Half-Life: Opposing Force, the drill sergeant from the initial boot camp stage had dialogue and mannerism very similar to Ermey's character in Full Metal Jacket. In 2014, he did voice-over work for the popular game Call of Duty: Ghosts.


Ermey is an official spokesman for Black Book (National Auto Research), Glock firearms, TRU-SPEC apparel, Tupperware, Victory Motorcycles, Hoover, SOG Specialty Knives, WD-40, and the Young Marines, and has appeared in commercials for Coors Light, Dick's Sporting Goods, GEICO, and pistachio nuts. He has provided the introduction for the Professional Bull Riders.[7] He can be seen giving a service announcement for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, demanding that viewers be quiet during the film.[8] He is a board member for the National Rifle Association.[9]

Business ventures

Ermey is the co-founder of the Bravery Brewery in Lancaster, California.[10]

Political views

Ermey, an outspoken Republican, said in an interview earlier in 2015 that he supports Texas Senator Ted Cruz for President. He said, "You know what, I just watched Ted Cruz I mean, what a tough act to follow. I'm not going to tell you who I'm going to vote for, but I'm going to let you guess [...] and the first two guesses don't count!"[11]

Toys for Tots speech

On December 10, 2010, Ermey criticized the Obama administration's economic policies while speaking at a Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots rally, stating that it was difficult to raise money for the charity because "the economy sucks". He went on to say:

We should all rise up, and we should stop this administration from what they're doing because they're destroying this country. They're driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us, and that's exactly what they're doing, and I'm sick and damn tired of it and I know you are too.[12]

In January 2011, Ermey posted an apology on his website, saying:

I regret that I delivered a monologue that was inappropriately critical of the President. My comments were misguided and emotionally biased, and for that I am truly sorry.[13]

In spite of his apology, Ermey later told TMZ that he was "fired" by GEICO, which is owned by noted Obama supporter Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, with whom he made the above-mentioned 2010 "Drill Sergeant" commercial because of his political beliefs.[14] The insurance giant also removed Ermey's commercial from their official YouTube channel.

Military appearances

On May 17, 2002, Ermey received an honorary post-service promotion to gunnery sergeant (E-7) from the Commandant of the Marine Corps General James L. Jones in recognition of his continuing support to Americans in military service.

He has also conducted morale tours visiting United States troops in locations such as Al Kut, Iraq, and Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in which he filmed parts for his television show Mail Call. While at Bagram Airfield, he held a USO-type show in which he portrayed GySgt Hartman and conducted a comedy routine. He also did the same at Doha, Qatar and Camp Doha, Kuwait City, Kuwait, in 2003.

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". He is also the official celebrity spokesperson of the youth organization, Young Marines.

Military awards

Ermey was retroactively awarded the Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon after he retired from the military due to his prior service as a Marine Corps recruit training instructor. Ermey's military awards include:[15]

Bronze star
Bronze star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Ribbon
Silver star
Combat Action Ribbon Meritorious Unit Commendation Good Conduct Medal w/ two 316" bronze stars
National Defense Service Medal Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal w/ one 316" silver star
Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960- Device
Rifle Marksman Badge Pistol Sharpshooter Badge

Selected TV and filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1978 The Boys in Company C Staff Sergeant Loyce (Drill Instructor, Platoon 163)
1979 Apocalypse Now Eagle Thrust Seven helicopter pilot uncredited
1979 Up from the Depths Lee
1984 Purple Hearts Gunny
1987 Full Metal Jacket Gunnery Sergeant Hartman One of the rare performances Stanley Kubrick ever allowed to be improvised
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Miami Vice Detective Sergeant Ernest Haskell guest star
"Rising Sun of Death"
Episode 9, season 4
TV series
1988 Mississippi Burning Mayor Tilman
1989 The Siege of Firebase Gloria Sergeant Major Bill Hafner/Narrator Uncredited screenwriter
Fletch Lives Jimmy Lee Farnsworth
Demonstone Colonel Joe Haines
1990 The Take Weller television film
I'm Dangerous Tonight Lieutenant Ackman television film
83 Hours 'Til Dawn Glen Fairling television film
The Terror Within II Von Demming
The Rift or Endless Descent Captain Phillips
1991 Toy Soldiers General Kramer
True Identity Houston's Boss uncredited
Kid Luke
1993 Hexed Detective Ferguson
Sommersby Dick Mead
Body Snatchers General Platt
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Marshal Brisco County Senior
Double Switch (video game) Lyle (the handyman) Credited as R. Lee Emrey in the Mega-CD/Sega CD version
1994 French Silk Chief Crowder television film
On Deadly Ground Stone
Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story Mr. Byrd uncredited; television film
Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult Mess Hall Guard uncredited
Chain of Command Benjamin Brewster
Savate Benedict uncredited
Love Is a Gun Frank Deacon
1995 Murder in the First Judge Clawson
Leaving Las Vegas Conventioneer
Seven Police Captain
The X-Files Reverend Findley episode "Revelations"
TV series
The Simpsons Colonel Leslie Hapablap voice only
episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming"
animated series
Under the Hula Moon Lt. Col. J. P. McIntire
Dead Man Walking Clyde Percy
Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back Preacher Brian uncredited
Toy Story Sarge voice only
animated film
1996 Space: Above and Beyond Sergeant Major Bougus television film
The Frighteners The late Master Sergeant Hiles
Soul of the Game Wilkie television film
1997 Dead Men Can't Dance Sen. Pullman T. Fowler
The Angry Beavers Sergeant Goonther voice only
episode "Fancy Prance/H2Whoa!"
animated series
Weapons of Mass Distraction Billy Paxton television film
Rough Riders Secretary of State John Hay
Prefontaine Bill Bowerman
Cracker Lieutenant Fry TV series
Switchback Sheriff Buck Olmstead
Starship Troopers News Announcer uncredited
1998 Gunshy Jerry
1999 You Know My Name Nix television film
Life Older Sheriff Pike
Avalanche Gary
Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 President Richard Benson
Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot General Thorton TV series
The Apartment Complex Frank Stanton
Toy Story 2 Sarge voice only
animated film
2000 The Chaos Factor Col. Ben Wilder
Skipped Parts Caspar Callahan
Roughnecks: STC Sky Marshall Sanchez
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins Sarge voice only
animated direct-to-video film
Jericho Marshall
2001 Saving Silverman Coach Norton
Recess: School's Out Colonel O'Malley voice only
animated film
Family Guy Coach voice only
episode "Mr. Saturday Knight"
animated series
Taking Sides General Wallace
Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel General Barnaky voice only
video game
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex Wa-Wa the Water Elemental voice only
video game, credited as R. Lee Ermy
On the Borderline Captain Elias
Real War: Air, Land, Sea voice only
video game]
Real War: Rogue States
2002 Run Ronnie Run! Lead Kidnapper
Invader Zim Sergeant Hobo 678 voice only
animated series
History Channel's Mail Call Gunny (himself) TV series
Frank McKlusky, C.I. Jockey Master uncredited
A.K.A. Birdseye Sheriff Gathers
Scrubs Janitor's father guest star
episode "My Old Man"
TV series
Y.M.I. John
Fillmore! Colonel Thrift guest star, voice only
episode "South of Friendship, North of Honor"
animated series
Kim PossibleGeneral Sims voice only
animated series
2003 Willard Frank Martin
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Sheriff Hoyt Nominated – Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actor
2004 The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Drill Sergeant voice only
animated series
Father of the Pride Sergeant Bunny voice only
animated series
episode "One Man's Meat Is Another Man's Girlfriend"
2005 House John House Appeared in the episode "Daddy's Boy"
TV series
Man of the House Captain Nichols
2006 X-Men: The Last Stand Sergeant voice only
Shark Bait Jack voice only
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning Charlie Hewitt/Sheriff Hoyt
2007 SpongeBob SquarePants Prison Warden Voice only
Episode: "The Inmates of Summer"
2008 Solstice Leonard
House John House Appeared in the episode "Birthmarks"
TV series
Eleventh Hour Bob Henson (Farmer) Appeared in the episode "Agro"
TV series
2009 Batman: The Brave and the Bold Wildcat animated series
History Channel's Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey Gunny (himself) TV series
2010 Toy Story 3 Sarge voice only
animated film
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Walter Burlock Appeared in the episode "Trophy"
TV series
2011 Family Guy Drill Sergeant with Alzheimers Disease Appeared in the Episode "Grumpy Old Man"
TV series
2012 The Watch Grumpy rural neighbor Alien victim
Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness General Tsin (The Most Dangerous Po) voice only
2015 GunnyTime Gunny (himself) TV series

Other media

See also


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