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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© 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.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Aretha Franklin With Week-Long Exhibition

Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA
Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA

With the passing of Aretha Franklin on August 16, 2018, the world has lost one of its most distinctive voices—and personalities. As celebrities and fans share their memories of the Queen of Soul and what her music meant to them, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will pay tribute to the legendary songstress's life with a week-long exhibition of her portrait.

Throughout her career, Franklin earned some of the music industry's highest accolades, including 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly 30 years later, in 2015, the National Portrait Gallery fêted Franklin with the Portrait of a Nation Prize, which recognizes "the accomplishments of notable contemporary Americans whose portraits reside in the National Portrait Gallery collection." (Madeline Albright, Spike Lee, and Rita Moreno are among some of its recent recipients.)

Milton Glaser's lithograph of Aretha Franklin, which is displayed at The National Portrait Gallery
© Milton Glaser

Franklin's portrait was the creation of noted graphic designer Milton Glaser, who employed "his characteristic kaleidoscope palette and innovative geometric forms to convey the creative energy of Franklin's performances," according to the Gallery. The colorful lithographic was created in 1968, the very same year that the National Portrait Gallery opened.

Glaser's image will be installed in the "In Memoriam" section of the museum, which is located on the first floor, on Friday, August 17 and will remain on display to the public through August 22, 2018. The Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and admission is free.

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