TV & FILM
brian-mcgee - June 26, 2017
The Vietnam War has been the subject of many great films from The Deer Hunter to Platoon to Apocalypse Now, but there's only been one film to capture the horrors not just of the war itself, but the process of destroying any shred of humanity in our young American men during that time: Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. 30 years ago today, Kubrick's penultimate masterpiece was released in theaters and forever changed the way war movies were made. Take a quick walk down memory lane as we look at some of the most memorable moments from a film full of them...
There's almost no point in denying that the first hour of Full Metal Jacket is better than the second, and that is thanks almost exclusively to R. Lee Ermey's performance as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. Unbelievably he wasn't even cast in the role when filming began. Ermey was on-set as a technical advisor, there just to help the actor originally cast as Hartman sound credible. After a few weeks of pre-production, Ermey realized that the actor was never going to get up to snuff and famously demanded that Kubrick give him the role instead. Kubrick rejected the idea out of hand and Ermey gave him a thorough dressing-down which led to Kubrick changing his mind.
This of course not only made the movie better, but launched Ermey's acting career. He was a Marine since the age of 17, eventually attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. He would go on to play roles very similar to this throughout his career, but never again attained the level of genius he displayed in FMJ. His most understated work as an actor came in 1995's Seven, where he played Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt's boss and proved that he was more than just the guy who was good at yelling insults at top volume.
Whether it was Director of Photography Douglas Milsome or Kubrick himself who came up with the idea, Full Metal Jacket was the first film to experiment with an out of sync shutter on the camera during the combat sequences to make them feel much more immediate. 11 years later, everyone would fawn all over Steven Spielberg and his DP Janusz Kaminski for essentially doing the same exact thing during the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan. They admittedly took it one step further, using handheld for that "shaky cam" look that's so popular these days, but Kubrick and Milsome were the first to use the technique to visually convey the notion that war is hell.
Easily the most pitiable character in the entire film is Vincent D'Onofrio's Private Pyle, and the actor went the extra mile for the role. D'Onofrio, a relative unknown at the time, gained 70 pounds—besting Robert DeNiro's 60 pound weight gain for Raging Bull—to give his character the slubbish look that was called for. Though he's known for his formidable size nowadays in roles on Daredevil and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, D'Onofrio was quite svelte in his youth and even played the hunky mechanic mistaken for Thor in Adventures in Babysitting, a role he filmed just after finishing his work on FMJ...
If you hung out on the internet roundabout 2006, chances are you saw this god awful audition tape made by a man named Brian Atene for Kubrick's consideration for a role in FMJ. It's embarrassing as all get out and still lives in internet infamy to this day. While it obviously didn't help Atene land a role in FMJ, it did help him secure a spot on Tosh.0, which in turn led to a brief speaking role on Cougar Town. If nothing else, this video was proof positive that Full Metal Jacket will always work its way back into the cultural zeitgeist, sometimes in the strangest way imaginable.
What are some of your favorite Full Metal Jacket moments? Let us know in the comments section below!