Actor R. Lee Ermey, who died at 74 of pneumonia Sunday morning, was Exhibit A in the New Hollywood Blacklist. After criticizing Barack Obama in 2010, Ermey’s thriving film career immediately dried up. Even after apologizing, he was ostracized, fired by GEICO insurance and never did another commercial. After disappearing completely for a few years, he managed to appear in a couple of C-grade reality shows in the last few years of his life.
Iconic and talented, Ermey was a walking-talking example of left-wing Hollywood’s intolerance toward those they condemn as thought criminals.
Ermey, who was known to his friends as “Gunny,” enlisted in the Marines in 1961 when he was only 17, and spent 14 months in Vietnam before earning a honorable discharge after 11 years of service.
His screen career began in 1978 with a small role as a drill instructor in The Boys In Company C. He also appeared as a helicopter pilot in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). Some lean years followed, but Ermey’s career exploded in 1987 with Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket where Ermey was unforgettable (to say the least) as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, a drill instructor who pushes a recruit (Vincent D’ Onfrio) too far.
Ermey was only supposed to be a technical advisor for Kubrick, but he asked for an audition and not only nailed the role, the famously finicky and precise director went so far as to allow Ermey to improvise.
Inside Kubrick’s intentionally sterile and hypnotic world that is the first half of Full Metal Jacket, Ermey’s masterpiece of a performance is not only a harbinger of the hell to come in the second half, but the first half’s humanity — in ways both good and bad, funny and menacing, father figure and monster.
Ermey says he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but in 2010 he was blacklisted in Hollywood (no one disputes this) for souring on and then publicly criticizing the president. Over his personal political opinion, he was also fired as a commercial spokesman for GEICO insurance.
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