Full Metal Jacket is many things, an epic movie about the Vietnam War, a chilly Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, a star-making opportunity for Vincent D’Onofrio, and a collection of the wit and wisdom of Marine drill instructor-turned-actor R. Lee Ermey. Over the past quarter-century, the movie has become beloved by many disparate groups of fans, including general moviegoers, Kubrick kultists, military fetishists, and sample-happy rappers. Still, as familiar as the film is, there’s still plenty you may not know about how it was made so enjoy these behind the scenes facts about Full Metal Jacket.
30. The Joker
Private Joker’s shirt on Parris Island reveals that his real name is J.T. Davis. It’s a deliberate reference to Spec. James T. Davis, the first officially recognized U.S. casualty in Vietnam, who was killed in 1961.
29. Where did they find this guy?
R. Lee Ermey had been a real-life Parris Island Marine drill instructor during the war. He’d acted in other Vietnam films, including “The Boys in Company C” and “Apocalypse Now.” Kubrick had hired him as a technical adviser, but Ermey wanted to play Hartman, the Parris Island drill instructor who dominates the first half of the movie. So he made an audition reel in which he generated a spontaneous stream of foul-mouthed insults directed at a group of extras — all while having oranges and tennis balls thrown at him — that ran for 15 minutes. It is also rumoured that Ermey had yelled at Kubrick in Hartman’s character. Not only did this win him the job, Kubrick actually listened to his orders.
28. Other Gunny
Tim Colceri had been Kubrick’s choice to play Hartman before Ermey seized the role from him. But Colceri got a nice consolation prize: a role as the helicopter door gunner and an unforgettable scene where he talks remorselessly about how many women and children he’s killed. His dialogue comes straight from Herr’s “Dispatches.”
27. Pvt. Pyle
A New York theater actor named Vincent D’Onofrio landed his first major film role in “Full Metal Jacket.” To play the husky Private Gomer Pyle, he packed on 70 pounds, ballooning up to 280 pounds. That Method-acting stunt is believed to be the record-holder, exceeding the 60 pounds Robert De Niro gained to play Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull.” The extra weight caused torn ligaments in D’Onofrio’s legs while running the obstacle course that had to be surgically repaired. After filming, it took nine months for him to return to his usual 210-pound physique.
26. This isnt real…right?
Modine wrote that he and the other actors playing Marines underwent realistic boot camp training, which included being yelled at by Ermey for up to 10 hours a day. They also had to have their heads shaved once a week.
25. Hossenfeffer anyone?
During filming, a family of rabbits were accidentally killed. Stanley Kubrick, an animal lover, was so upset that he canceled the rest of the day’s work.
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