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The Brutal Story Behind the Re-Casting of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman

Tim Colceri losing the role of the foul-mouthed Gunnery Sergeant classifies him as one of the most tortured Kubrick actors of all time.
Original Gunnery Sergeant Full Metal Jacket Tim Colceri
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on September 17th, 2020

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.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.