R. Lee Ermey, who made an acting career out of his ability to bring stern military careerists to life, has died at age 74. His death was announced on Twitter by his manager, Bill Rogin.
Ermey was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor his role as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, but that was only one of his many military roles. Owning to his background as a former Marine Corps. staff sergeant and drill instructor, Ermey was able to project authority and resolute leadership in a number of roles.
Among his many film roles was Mayor Tilman in Mississippi Burning; Bill Bowerman in Prefontaine; Sheriff Hoyt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, plastic army leader Sarge in the Toy Story films, and Lt. “Tice” Ryan in Rocket Power.
He also hosted the History Channel programs Mail Call, answering questions about military issues; and Lock N Load with R. Lee Ermey, which focused on weapons. He also hosted Gunny Time on the Outdoor Channel.
Born in Emporia, Kansas in 1944 as Ronald Lee Ermey, he grew up as a bit of a hell-raiser. Having been arrested for criminal mischief twice by age 17, he was given a choice of jail time or the military. He chose the Marine Corps. and served as a drill instructor in San Diego in the mid 1960s. He was eventually sent to Vietnam and served 14 months in that country. He was later a staff sergeant in Okinawa, but was medically discharged in 1972 because of injuries during his service. He later received an honorary promotion to gunnery sergeant by the Marines.
While in the Philippines attending college, Ermey got his first taste of show business, playing a chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now while serving as a technical advisor on the film to director Francis Ford Coppola. He later appeared as a Marine drill instructor in the film The Boys in Company C before landing his role in 1987 in Stanley Kubricks Full Metal Jacket as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Kubrick was impressed with Ermey, allowing him to make up his own dialogue on the set.
That performance, plus his Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor, led to a bit of typecasting, but steady work for Ermey. He appeared in more than 55 films and was used as a voice actor in many others, including Roughnecks and X-men 3. He also appeared in video games and numerous TV commercials.
No immediate information on survivors or a memorial service was available.
‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.