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
more at:
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/65427/16-hardcore-facts-about-full-metal-jacket#sthash.QLcGZtBF.dpuf
R.
LEE ERMEY CAME UP WITH 150 PAGES WORTH OF INSULTS ON HIS OWN. - See
more at:
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/65427/16-hardcore-facts-about-full-metal-jacket#sthash.QLcGZtBF.dpuf


© 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.

When Mississippi Once Banned Sesame Street

Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images
Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images

Since it began airing in the fall of 1969, Sesame Street has become an indelible part of millions of children's formative years. Using a cast of colorful characters like Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch, along with a curriculum vetted by Sesame Workshop's child psychologists and other experts, the series is able to impart life lessons and illustrate educational tools that a viewer can use throughout their adolescence. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone—even Oscar—who would take issue with the show’s approach or its mission statement.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in early 1970, when a board of educational consultants in Mississippi gathered, polled one another, and decided that Sesame Street was too controversial for television.

The series had only been on the air for a few months when the newly formed Mississippi Authority for Educational Television (also known as the State Commission for Educational Television) held a regularly scheduled meeting in January 1970. The board had been created by the state legislature with appointees named by Governor John Bell Williams to evaluate shows that were set to air on the state’s Educational Television, or ETV, station. The five-member panel consisted of educators and private citizens, including a teacher and a principal, and was headed up by James McKay, a banker in Jackson, Mississippi.

McKay’s presence was notable for the fact that his father-in-law, Allen Thompson, had just retired after spending 20 years as mayor of Jackson. Highly resistant to integration in the city during his tenure in office, Thompson was also the founder of Freedom of Choice in the United States, or FOCUS, an activist group that promoted what they dubbed “freedom of choice” in public schools—a thinly veiled reference to segregation. Mississippi, long the most incendiary state in the nation when it came to civil rights, was still struggling with the racial tension of the 1960s. Systemic racism was an issue.

Entering this climate was Sesame Street, the show pioneered by Joan Ganz Cooney, a former journalist and television producer who became the executive director of the Children’s Television Workshop. On the series, the human cast was integrated, with black performers Matt Robinson and Loretta Long as Gordon and Susan, respectively, appearing alongside white actors Jada Rowland and Bob McGrath. The children of Sesame Street were also ethnically diverse.

Zoe (L) and Cookie Monster (R) are pictured in New York City in November 2009
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images

This appeared to be too much for the Authority, which discussed how lawmakers with control over ETV’s budget—which had just been set at $5,367,441—might find the mixed-race assembly offensive. The panel's participants were all white.

The board pushed the discussion aside until April 17, 1970, when they took an informal poll and decided, by a margin of three votes against two, to prohibit ETV from airing Sesame Street—a show that came free of charge to all public television stations. (The decision affected mainly viewers in and around Jackson, as the station had not yet expanded across the state and was not expected to do so until the fall of 1970.)

The members who were outvoted were plainly unhappy with the outcome and leaked the decision to The New York Times, which published a notice of the prohibition days later along with a quote from one of the board members.

“Some of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” the person, who did not wish to be named, said. “Mainly the commission members felt that Mississippi was not yet ready for it.”

The reaction to such a transparent concession to racism was swift and predictably negative, both in and out of Mississippi. Board members who spoke with press, usually anonymously, claimed the decision was a simple “postponing” of the show, not an outright ban. The fear, they said, was that legislators who viewed ETV as having progressive values might shut down the project before it had a chance to get off the ground. It was still possible for opponents to suffocate it before it became part of the fabric of the state’s television offerings.

The concern was not entirely without merit. State representative Tullius Brady of Brookhaven said that ETV exerted “a subtle influence” on the minds of children and that the Ford Foundation, which funded educational programming, could use its influence for “evil purposes.” Other lawmakers had previously argued against shows that promoted integration.

Grover is pictured at AOL Studios in New York City in May 2015
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images

Regardless of how the decision was justified, many took issue with it. In an anonymous editorial for the Delta Democrat-Times, a critic wrote:

“But Mississippi’s ETV commission won’t be showing it for the time being because of one fatal defect, as measured by Mississippi’s political leadership. Sesame Street is integrated. Some of its leading cast members are black, including the man who does much of the overt ‘teaching.’ The neighborhood of the ‘street’ is a mixed one. And all that, of course, goes against the Mississippi grain.”

Joan Ganz Cooney called the decision a “tragedy” for young people.

Fortunately, it was a tragedy with a short shelf life. The following month, the board reconvened and reversed its own informal poll result, approving of Sesame Street and agreeing that ETV could air it as soon as they received tapes of the program. Thanks to feeds from Memphis, New Orleans, and Alabama, Sesame Street could already be seen in parts of Mississippi. And thanks to the deluge of negative responses, it seemed pointless to try to placate politicians who still favored segregation.

In the fall of 1970, the Sesame Street cast appeared in person in Jackson and was met by representatives from the board, which helped to sponsor the live performance, though it’s not clear any apology was forthcoming.

Sesame Street would go on to win numerous awards and accolades over the proceeding 50 years, though it would not be the only children’s show to experience censorship on public television. In May 2019, ETV networks in Alabama and Arkansas refused to air an episode of the PBS animated series Arthur in which a rat and aardvark are depicted as a same-sex couple getting married.

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can get your copy from Amazon now for $20.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER