By the time The Shining had been released in theaters, Stanley Kubrick had already decided that for his next project he wanted to make a film that depicted what war was like. A little more than seven years later, he presented Full Metal Jacket to the world. Based on Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short-Timers, the 1987 movie—co-written by Kubrick, Hasford, and Michael Herr—left a lasting impact.
1. THE PHRASE "FULL METAL JACKET" APPEARS NOWHERE IN THE BOOK UPON WHICH THE MOVIE IS BASED.
While Kubrick was “enthralled” with Vietnam veteran Hasford’s The Short-Timers, he was concerned about using the book's title as the movie title as he feared audiences might think that the movie was about people who only did half a day of work. Kubrick discovered the phrase “full metal jacket,” which describes the casing of a bullet, in a gun catalog.
2. VINCENT D’ONOFRIO GAINED 70 POUNDS TO PLAY LEONARD "GOMER PYLE" LAWRENCE.
In addition to the weight gain, D'Onofrio also shaved his head for the role, and was surprised by how much it affected him. ''It changed my life,'' D'Onofrio told The New York Times in 1987. ''Women didn't look at me; most of the time I was looking at their backs as they were running away. People used to say things to me twice, because they thought I was stupid.'' To this day, it's the most weight any actor has ever gained for a movie role.
3. AN ENVIOUS VAL KILMER WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR MATTHEW MODINE GETTING THE ROLE OF PRIVATE JOKER.
While innocently enjoying pancakes at a Sunset Boulevard diner with David Alan Grier, Modine noticed Val Kilmer giving him the stink eye. When Alan Grier introduced the two, Kilmer told Modine: "'Yeah, I know who you are. I’m sick of you,'" Modine recalled to Unframed. "I had been on this run of films—Birdy, Mrs. Soffel, and Vision Quest. And Val says, 'Now you’re doing Kubrick’s film.' When we finished our breakfast I called my manager. He didn’t know anything about it. I knew [Kubrick] was making a film with Warner Bros., so we asked [director] Harold Becker to send a print of Vision Quest, and we asked Alan Parker to send some dailies from Birdy. It turns out that maybe Stanley didn’t know anything about me and Val Kilmer might have been responsible for me getting the part in Full Metal Jacket."
4. ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL WAS OFFERED THE PART OF JOKER.
Kubrick originally offered the part of Joker to Anthony Michael Hall, but an eight-month-long argument about monetary compensation eventually ended the collaboration. "It was a difficult decision," said Hall of his departure from the project. "Because in that eight-month period, I read everything I could about the guy, and I was really fascinated by him. I wanted to be a part of that film, but it didn't work out. But all sorts of stories circulated, like I got on set and I was fired, or I was pissed at him for shooting too long. It's all not true."
5. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER AND BRUCE WILLIS TURNED DOWN ROLES.
Schwarzenegger claimed he was too busy to play Animal Mother (the part that eventually went to Adam Baldwin). Bruce Willis was offered a part two days before he was to start shooting the first six episodes of Moonlighting, so he had to say no, too. Denzel Washington wanted in, but didn’t like that Kubrick didn’t send out a script beforehand to audition.
6. R. LEE ERMEY CAME UP WITH 150 PAGES WORTH OF INSULTS ON HIS OWN.
The former drill instructor started out as the technical adviser for Full Metal Jacket. Tim Colceri, who was originally cast to play Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, tired himself out after 30 minutes of yelling at extras during a videotaped rehearsal. But when Ermey stepped in and took over, his energy never let up. Colceri ended up playing the door gunner instead.
7. THE WHOLE MOVIE WAS FILMED IN ENGLAND.
England was the adopted home for the New York City-born Kubrick, who claimed to have a fear of flying. A British Territorial Army base doubled as the Marine boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina. An abandoned, set-to-be-demolished gas works on the Thames River doubled as Da Nang, Phu Bai, and Huế. To create the necessary jungle-like atmosphere, 200 palm trees were imported from Spain and plastic plants were shipped in from Hong Kong. A Belgian army colonel was such a big fan of Kubrick’s that he lent him four M41 tanks.
8. A NEAR-FATAL INJURY DELAYED FILMING BY FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS.
Late one night halfway through production, R. Lee Ermey broke all of his ribs on one side of his body in a car crash. His injury was part of the reason why it took almost a full year to shoot the movie—August 27, 1985 through August 8, 1986 to be exact.
9. JOKER HAD A NAME.
It was J.T. Davis. In 1961, Specialist James T. Davis was the first recorded American battlefield casualty in Vietnam.
10. MODINE KEPT A DIARY DURING FILMING.
It was to help him get into the mindspace of a reporter, like his character. Kubrick would occasionally tell Modine to read his diary out loud to everyone on set. In 2005, Modine published his Full Metal Jacket Diary.
11. THE ACTORS UNDERWENT REALISTIC BOOT CAMP TRAINING.
Ermey yelled at the actors set to play Marines in the film for up to 10 hours a day. They also had their heads shaved once a week.
12. MODINE AND KUBRICK HAD A STANDOFF AFTER KUBRICK INSISTED THAT MODINE NOT BE THERE FOR THE BIRTH OF HIS OWN SON.
When Kubrick insisted to dad-to-be Modine that he would just get in the way of the doctors, Modine took out his pocket knife and threatened to cut his hand open in order to get permission to go to the hospital. It worked.
13. STANLEY KUBRICK’S DAUGHTER WAS IN THE MOVIE.
Under the alias Abigail Mead, Vivian Kubrick was the woman holding a camera shooting the open casket. She also scored the film, shot a bunch of documentary footage which mostly never saw the light of day, and co-produced the mash-up "Full Metal Jacket (I Wanna Be Your Drill Instructor)."
14. KUBRICK HAD NEVER HEARD THE ROLLING STONES BEFORE FILMING.
He finally got around to listening to the legendary rockers when researching the top 100 Billboard hits from 1962 through 1968, and chose “Paint It Black” for the end credits.
15. A SCENE WHERE ANIMAL MOTHER DECAPITATES THE SNIPER WAS CUT.
Adam Baldwin, the actor who portrayed Animal Mother, was upset about that.
16. LT. JOKER WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO DIE.
At first, Full Metal Jacket was set to begin with Joker’s funeral in a flashback, but Kubrick felt it was wrong. Yet Kubrick continued to consider killing Joker off throughout filming, and kept asking Modine if he thought it was right for his character to die. Modine angrily told Kubrick that surviving the war and having to remember all of the horror for the rest of his days would be the most fitting ending of all for Joker and the movie. Once again, Kubrick backed off.