He served as a drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Californian and Parris Island, South Carolina for two years from 1965 to 1967.
In the following year, he moved to Vietnam where he worked for almost 14 months with the Marine Wing Support Group 17.
He also served in Okinawa in Japan after which he rose to the rank of Staff sergeant.
He was discharged of his duties in 1972 due to the injuries he sustained during his various duty tours.
Following this, he moved to Philippines where he joined the University of Manila and studied criminology and drama.
Around this time, he played the character of a Marine Drill instructor in 1987 film, ‘The Boys in Company "C"’, which brought him into the limelight.
In the following years, he played a few minor roles including the role of a tough drill instructor in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. The role won him great critical acclaim and a nomination for Golden Globe Award as Best Supporting Actor.
After that, he hardly had to look back and acted in numerous films including Purple Hearts, Mississippi Burning, The Siege of Firebase Gloria and Dead Man Walking.
He also became a part of shows such as ‘Kim Possible’, ‘The Simpsons’, and ‘Family Guy’ and hosted a documentary series ‘Mail Call and Lock N' Load. On the show, he discussed a variety of issues including weaponry, tactical matters, and military history.
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He made a guest appearance in the super hit TV drama, ‘House’. He further worked as a voice actor in plenty of episodes of ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’. In an episode of ‘The Simpsons’ titled "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", he gave his voice to Colonel Leslie’s character.
In an episode (Inmates of Summer) of SpongeBob SquarePants, he contributed by being a voice actor.
He also gave his voice to various video games including for ‘Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel’, ‘Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex’ and so on.
The year 2009 saw him hosting the second History Channel show entitled ‘Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey’, which discussed in detail, the history of various weapons used in the military.
In 2010, he starred in a GEICO commercial and featured in ESPN's College GameDay every week.
In 2011, he donned the role of a drill instructor on the X-Play special of Bulletstorm.
In the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film, ‘Full Metal Jacket’, he won the Boston Society Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor and was also nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture. The film grossed $46,357,676, making it the 23rd highest grossing film of 1987.
He donned the role of General Platt in ‘The Body Snatchers’ (1993). It is a science fiction horror film loosely based on the 1955 novel The Body Snatchers.
Awards & Achievements
He received the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor and also earned a nomination for Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture for his performance in the film, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ by Stanley Kubrick.
On May 17, 2002, an honorary post-service promotion to Gunnery Sergeant (E-7) was bestowed upon him in acknowledgement of his continued support to American military service.
Initially, he was cast as a technical advisor to the actor playing the role of the drill instructor in Stanley Kubrick film, ‘Full Metal Jacket’. However, he impressed the director so much that he himself was hired for the role.
This actor used the same dialogue, "You're not afraid of a little blood, are you?" in his two consecutive movies.