Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores the re-casting of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.
Whenever I think about directors who traumatize their actors for the sake of eliciting a performance, I think about the apocryphal comment of Sr. Laurence Olivier, who, after witnessing the self-destructive method acting of Dustin Hoffman during the shoot for Marathon Man, is said to have remarked, “My dear boy, why don’t you try ACTING? It’s so much easier.”
There is, of course, a big difference between method actors and “method directors.” Namely, that the latter careens dangerously into the uncomfortable territory of a workplace violation. From William Friedkin slapping a priest on the set of The Exorcist to Francis Ford Coppola assuming the role of a maniacal dictator on Apocalypse Now, some directors play mind games in the interest of getting what they want.
There is, perhaps, no better example of this than Stanley Kubrick, a director famous for playing 3-D chess with actors in an effort to tease out intense displays of distress, suspicion, and paralyzing fear. He pushed Shelley Duvall over the edge on the set of The Shining to the point that her hair fell out. He forbid Tom Cruise from any knowledge of then-wife Nicole Kidman’s extramarital love scene in Eyes Wide Shut. The anecdotes abound.
But, as the following video essay argues, one of the most brutal things Kubrick has ever done to an actor was the abrupt re-casting of Full Metal Jacket‘s Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. The role of the foul-mouthed Sergeant originally belonged to Tim Colceri. But there was a hiccup. Namely: the conviction of R. Lee Ermey that he was a better fit. Colceri lost the battle — and was re-cast as the unnervingly enthusiastic door gunner. But even if you know how the story ends, the way it all went down is hard to believe:
Watch “How One of the Most Tortured Kubrick Actors Lost his Starring Role“:
Who made this?
Brooklyn-based CinemaTyler has been providing some of the most in-depth analysis of auteur-driven cinema on YouTube for some time now. The channel is devoted to understanding filmmaking through in-depth analysis, and you can check out their YouTube account here. CinemaTyler’s scholarship on Stanley Kubrick, particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey, is noteworthy, and absolutely worth seeking out.
More Videos Like This
- Now, for the story of the man who did get the part: “How R. Lee Ermey Made a Gunnery Sergeant an Icon“
- CinemaTyler is YouTube’s foremost Kubrick scholar. Here’s a link to a playlist with all of the video essayist’s Kubrick content
- You can glimpse some of Kubrick’s tumultuous methods on The Shining in this clip, bookended by Duvall describing his abuse as “a game”
- Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise divorced shortly after playing a troubled married couple in Eyes Wide Shut. This supposedly did not contribute to their separation (though it is fun to imagine it did). Here’s the pair discussing their relationship to the film and to Kubrick