On the set of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, actor R. Lee Ermey famously kept himself apart from most of the cast during filming, given that his drill instructor character, Sgt. Hartman, wouldn't actually have a chummy relationship with the recruits he was training. One thing you may not know, however, is that Ermey spent a good portion of that alone time writing dirty poetry -- and what's more, one poem in particular almost found its way into the film. Sitting down with stars Vincent D'Onofrio and Matthew Modine recently, they told me,
I had the immense pleasure of interviewing Vincent D'Onofrio, Matthew Modine, and Stanley Kubrick's assistant/casting director Leon Vitale this past weekend during a special 30th anniversary press day for Full Metal Jacket -- and it was then that I learned about this special bit of R. Lee Ermey trivia. While discussing the experience making the film, I turned the conversation to their working relationship with Ermey, and it was then that they told me about the actor's exercises in the written word.
But they didn't stop there. Matthew Modine then proceeded to actually tell me what the entire poem was about, and I won't be ruining the punchline for you here. You'll just have to read it below:
I've now had a couple of days to reflect on hearing this story, and as funny as it is, it's also not particularly hard to understand why Stanley Kubrick didn't ultimately include it in Full Metal Jacket. The scene with the "You're not a writer; you're a killer" dialogue that Matthew Modine referred to is from the sequence where the recruits were graduating from boot camp -- which means that the recital of the poetry would have been featured almost immediately before Modine's Pvt. Joker finds D'Onofrio's Pvt. Pyle in the latrine ready to kill both Hartman and himself. It not only would have been a serious tonal shift for the classic movie, but also would have had the effect of completely changing the way audiences look at R. Lee Ermey's character.
Full Metal Jacket's 30th anniversary is exactly one week from today, as the film was released back on July 10, 1987. And this story goes to show you that as much as you think you know about a movie, there is always more to learn!
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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