Archive for April, 2018

April 17, 2018

#139) Of obstacles and pussy: remembering R. Lee Ermey

“That was great! But what’s a reacharound?”

“Use your imagination, Stanley.”

One of the memorable scenes in the latter part of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” features a helicopter ride in which a machine gunner sits by the door, mowing down everything in sight. “How can you shoot women and children?” he is asked.

“Easy. You just don’t lead ’em so much.”

Often forgotten is the fact that the actor playing the door gunner, Tim Colceri, was originally going to portray the gunnery sergeant who whips the recruits into shape in the first part of the movie. The actors playing the recruits were coached by the film’s technical advisor, a Vietnam veteran from Kansas named Ronald Lee Ermey. As Kubrick watched Ermey work with the recruits, he realized that he might be a better choice to play the drill sergeant. While Colceri was understandably upset with the decision, it would be hard for anyone who has seen “Full Metal Jacket” to imagine anyone except Ermey in the role. For the next three decades, Ermey would enjoy a successful film and television career, usually playing roles directly or loosely inspired by his performance as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman.

For those who don’t mind a little strong language, Ermey’s diatribe in the first part of “Full Metal Jacket” is a quotable treasure trove. Gems such as “I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers; here you are all equally worthless”, “You will give your rifle a girl’s name because this is the only pussy you people are going to get”, “You climb obstacles like old people fuck” and “I will gouge out your eyeballs and skull-fuck you” are just a few of the quotes from Ermey (many of which were improvised) over which fans of the film have bonded. While “The Wolf of Wall Street”, “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Scarface” may surpass “FMJ” in pure volume of profanity, they don’t come close to matching Ermey’s innovative usage.

My favorite is comparatively tame. Ermey berates the out-of-shape, inept “Private Pyle” as he struggles to climb an obstacle during basic training. “I’ll bet you if there was some pussy up there on top of that obstacle, you could get up there,” he hypothesizes. In the years since I first saw the movie, that’s the line that has resonated with me for the longest. When I find myself not motivated to take on a challenge or giving up when the going gets tough, the answer is simple: there’s no pussy on top of the obstacle. When there’s pussy on top of an obstacle, you always find a way up.

And so I say to you Mr. Gunny, thank you for serving our country, for the laughs and the motivation. May Heaven be full of Tiffany cufflinks and heads so sanitary and squared away that the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go there and take a dump. May Heaven be a place where reacharounds are always given. And may Heaven be a place where there is always, without exception, pussy on top of the obstacle.