The common story is that R. Lee Ermey approached director Stanley Kubrick while consulting on the set of "Full Metal Jacket." Ermey was not impressed by the actor performing the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, the tough-as-nails drill instructor. Ermey asked to give the role a shot, and given his experience as a Marine during the Vietnam War, he excelled.

This role in the critically-acclaimed film is probably Ermey's best known work. It has already been brought up numerous times in eulogies to the late actor, who died sometime last night due to complications from pneumonia. Ermey was 74-years-old. The news was broken by manager Bill Rogin, who wrote a touching tribute to his long-time friend on Twitter.

Besides "Full Metal Jacket," Ermey also starred in other films about the Vietnam War, such as "Apocalypse Now" and "The Boys in Company C." The former Marine had plenty of range too, for the old leatherneck starred as unhinged psychopaths in the horror films "Willard" and the 2003 remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." He even took comedic turns in films like "Saving Silverman" and "Fletch Lives."

A full life

Ronald Lee Ermey was born in Emporia, Kansas on March 24, 1944. As a youngster, Ermey grew up on a farm outside of Kansas City, Kansas and in the town of Zillah, Washington. By his own account, Ermey was a troublemaker who had several run-ins with the law. At age seventeen, he decided on joining the Marines in order to turn his life around.

Ermey served eleven years in the Marine Corps, from 1961 until 1972.

During that time, Ermey had a fourteen-month deployment to Vietnam in 1968 as a member of the Marine Wing Support Group 17. When he was discharged in 1972 due to medical issues, Ermey had attained the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-6). The Marines would later make him an honorary Gunnery Sergeant in 2002.

One reason why Ermey made such a convincing drill instructor in "Full Metal Jacket" is probably related to the fact that he had actually served as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego between 1965 and 1967.

An actor and a warrior

Ermey's path to Hollywood actually began in the city of Manila. Using his GI Bill, Ermey took acting courses at the University of Manila in the mid 1970s. From there, Ermey used his real-life experiences as a Marine in order to work as a military consultant on numerous war films.

Besides acting on the big screen, Ermey starred in numerous television shows, including several for The History Channel. Ermey was active in military veterans organizations until his death, plus he was a board member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Ermey was married to a woman named Nina, and the couple had four children together.