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Full Metal Jacket’s Matthew Modine Talks About How Toxic The Filming Location Was

Matthew Modine looking intently with an explosion behind him in Full Metal Jacket.

Full Metal Jacket is a brutal, unflinching and often unnerving look at the Vietnam War. It’s both captivating because of how affecting some of its scenes are and hard to watch because of how few punches are pulled. It’s a lot in all the best ways, and as such, it should probably come as no surprise that it was a lot to film too. Star Matthew Modine stopped by CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast to discuss the film’s 4K release (as well as some Dark Knight stuff), and during the conversation, he talked about how toxic one of the locations was.

Speaking to the hosts, Modine talked about shooting at the old Beckton Gas Works in London. The crew leased the location so they could shoot a series of scenes there, including a lot of Full Metal Jacket’s climax. The location was great for what they needed, but unfortunately, it was also filled with dangerous chemicals and toxins. Here’s a portion of his quote…

We had to get out of Beckton Gas Works, because it was scheduled for demolition. They leased us the property for a period of time. And then we had to get out of there. … That was one of the most toxic places I’ve ever been in my life. If you go to the Wikipedia page for Beckton Gas Works, it’ll illustrate all of the cancerous chemicals, more than a couple dozen cancerous chemicals, that were in [the air]. We'd be having a cup of tea in the morning and a pastry, and the truck would go by, you know, one of the film trucks, and all the dust would fall in. Because we were young and stupid, you didn't think about it. You just drank the tea and ate the pastry, and didn't think too much about the dust. There was asbestos everywhere from the buildings that were knocked down. Asbestos was a miracle building material for a long time. It was fireproof. Nobody thought about it being something that was dangerous.

Full Metal Jacket is far from the only major film or TV show to shoot at Beckton Gas Works. The London plant was the largest gas works in Europe and operated from 1879 to 1970. It began being used as a filming location during the 1960s but following its official closure, it really took off. In addition to Full Metal Jacket, John Wayne’s Brannigan, the Roger Moore James Bond flick For Your Eyes Only (which may be his best 007) and Nineteen Eighty-Four were both shot there, as well. You can check out the whole Matthew Modine interview on ReelBlend below…

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Full Metal Jacket was released in 1987. It was co-written and directed by legend Stanley Kubrick and was popular with both fans and critics upon its release. It has maintained a lot of its relevance in the time since (especially R. Lee Ermey's spectacular performance) and is now revered as one of the best movies about the Vietnam War. If you haven’t checked it out before, this new 4K release is a great time to start.

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.