16 Hardcore Facts About Full Metal Jacket

© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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.

© 1987 - Warner Bros. Entertainment

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. 

R.
LEE ERMEY CAME UP WITH 150 PAGES WORTH OF INSULTS ON HIS OWN. - See
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R.
LEE ERMEY CAME UP WITH 150 PAGES WORTH OF INSULTS ON HIS OWN. - See
more at:
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© 1987 - Warner Bros. Entertainment

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.

© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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15 Moving Facts About Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987).
Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987).
Paramount Pictures

Steve Martin and John Candy starred in the holiday movie classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles, writer/director John Hughes’s first big foray away from writing about teenage angst. Martin played Neal Page, a marketing executive who is desperate to get back home to Chicago to see his wife and kids for Thanksgiving, but along the way is thoroughly aggravated by shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith (Candy) and the many, many, many mishaps that befall the two throughout their travels. Here are some facts about the film that are not pillows.

1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles was inspired by John Hughes’s own hellish trip trying to get from New York City To Chicago.

Before he became a screenwriter, Hughes used to work as a copywriter for the Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago. One day he had an 11 a.m. presentation scheduled in New York City on a Wednesday, and planned to return home on a 5 p.m. flight. Winter winds forced all flights to Chicago to be canceled that night, so he stayed in a hotel. A snowstorm in Chicago the next day continued the delays. The plane he eventually got on ended up being diverted to Denver. Then Phoenix. Hughes didn’t make it back until Monday. Experiencing such a hellish trip might explain how Hughes managed to write the first 60 pages of Planes, Trains and Automobiles in just six hours.

2. Howard Deutch was originally supposed to direct Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Deutch directed Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful for Hughes. Hughes decided to direct himself after Steve Martin signed on. Deutch got to direct The Great Outdoors instead.

3. Steve Martin thought the script for Planes, Trains and Automobiles was too long.

The comedian, who had written his own screenplays, thought the 145-page length of the script was a lot for a comedy. When Martin asked Hughes where he thought they might cut scenes, Hughes was confused by the question. Martin later claimed that the first cut of Planes, Trains and Automobiles was four and a half hours long.

4. John Hughes acted out the entire movie to a publicist hoping to work on Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Reid Rosefelt went in to meet Hughes for the unit publicist position. Rosefelt recalled in his blog that he found it strange, but admirable, that Hughes did not allow Rosefelt to see the script to the movie he would potentially work on and promote beforehand. After the two grew more comfortable with one another at their meeting, Rosefelt asked what the movie was about—he only knew Steve Martin and John Candy were starring and it was called Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Hughes then performed the entire movie for him. Rosefelt didn’t get the job.

5. John Candy arrived to shoot Planes, Trains and Automobiles with exercise equipment in tow.

On the first day of shooting, the crew brought in treadmills, weights, and other exercise equipment for Candy to use in his hotel suite. Martin said Candy didn’t use any of it.

6. The entirety of Planes, Trains and Automobiles was meant to be shot in Chicago, but there wasn’t enough snow.

Some exterior scenes were filmed in Buffalo, New York. Martin said that the cast and crew pretty much lived the plot of the movie. “As we would shoot, we were hopping planes, trains, and automobiles, trying to find snow.”

7. The constant delays on production on Planes, Trains and Automobiles were very beneficial to one actor.

In John Hughes: A Life in Film, Kirk Honeycutt wrote that one actor, who played a truck driver, was only supposed to have one line and work for one day. Hughes chose to keep him on standby. The actor ended up working enough days while the crew waited for the snow to come that he was able to make a down payment on a house. It’s very possible this was Troy Evans, who was uncredited, as the shy truck driver in the movie. He went on to appear, credited, on ER for the show’s final five seasons as Frank Martin.

8. Edie Mcclurg’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles improvisations impressed John Hughes.

McClurg, probably best known as Grace, Principal Rooney’s secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, played the St. Louis car rental employee upon whom Neal dropped 18 F-bombs. For the first few takes, McClurg simply raised her finger and had a standard phone conversation with a customer. Then Hughes told her to improvise talking on the phone about Thanksgiving. She then came up with the stuff about needing roasted marshmallows and taking care of the crescent rolls because she can’t cook based on her own life. When she finished, Hughes asked her how she came up with those details so quickly. When McClurg explained she just got it from her own life just like he does with his scripts, he said, “Oh yeah!” She claims people to this day ask her to tell them they’re f*cked.

9. Steve Martin and Edie McClurg's F-bomb-filled exchange earned Planes, Trains and Automobiles an R rating.

That sweary tirade between Martin and McClurg is reportedly one of the scenes that made Martin want to make the movie. Its overuse of the word f*ck is also apparently what pushed the movie's rating from PG-13 to R.

10. In one scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Susan Page is watching She’s Having A Baby—another John Hughes movie.

In the scene that goes back and forth between Neal trying to sleep next to Del clearing his sinuses and Neal’s wife (Laila Robins) watching TV alone in their bed, she is somehow watching She’s Having a Baby, which wouldn’t be released in theaters until February of the following year. Kevin Bacon stars in that movie, and made a cameo in Planes as the guy who out-hustles Neal in getting a cab. Some people believe Bacon—who was officially listed in the credits as “Taxi Racer”—was playing his She’s Having a Baby character, Jake, in that scene.

11. A scene in a strip club was cut from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

After their car blew up, Neal and Del went inside a strip club to use a phone, where Del got distracted by the dancers. Actress Debra Lamb didn’t know that her scene was cut until she went to a screening.

12. Jeri Ryan was cut from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but her scene wasn’t.

It was the actress’s first role. She was one of the passengers on the bus ride and couldn’t help but laugh at Martin and Candy’s antics. They re-shot the scenes without her.

13. Elton John wrote a song for Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Carlo Allegri, Getty Images

Elton John and lyricist Gary Osborne were almost finished writing the theme song when Paramount insisted on ownership of the recording master, which John’s record company would not allow. The song has never been released.

14. In the original ending of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Del followed Neal all the way home.

Hughes decided during the editing process that instead, John Candy’s character would be “a noble person” and finally take the hint from Martin’s character, and let Neal return home alone, before Neal has a change of heart and finds Del again.

15. In the scene where Neal thinks about Del on the train in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Steve Martin didn’t know the camera was on.

In order to get the new ending he wanted, Hughes and editor Paul Hirsch went back to look for footage they previously didn’t think would be used. Hughes had kept the cameras rolling in between takes on the Chicago train, without his lead’s knowledge, while Martin was thinking about his next lines. Hughes thought Martin had a “beautiful expression” on his face in that unguarded moment.