Lee Ermey interview

R. Lee Ermey interview

Acclaimed character actor R. Lee Ermey has granted an interview to the Pit shortly before the release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. You thought his "Sgt. Hartman" from Full Metal Jacket was a hard-case? Witness Sheriff Hoyt in his ass-kicking prime in this masterful buzz-churning opus. And in the meantime, check out the interview which the friendly Mr. Ermey afforded John Gray and Paul Salfen.

How are you sir?
Everything is beautiful. Couldn’t be better.

You are quite a busy man these days…
I work seven days a week and only go home to pack a clean bag.

So let’s talk about The Beginning a little…
It’s really hard hitting, it’s violent and it kicks serious ass. The show really shines. It makes every horror film pale in comparison. If you’re a horror fan and you like the shit scared out of you, this is the movie to see. Sheriff Hoyt makes Freddy Kreuger look like a damn kindergarten teacher. There are no punches pulled. Bring your barf bags! I don’t know how many gallons of blood we used in this one. There are some shocking moments in this film that startled me. I went, “Whoo. Holy shit!”

R. Lee Ermey as Sheriff Hoyt.

So you were able to rewrite a lot of your lines in the film?
Every morning when I came to work I had my notes. I spent every waking hour pouring over the script – trying this, trying that and the producers, director and actors we’d have a roundtable and hash it out and if we could improve it, we did. I think it’s a better movie for it. We’d sit down and spend about 45 minutes a scene and everybody would bring a little something to the table. That’s a great way to make a movie as far as I’m concerned. By the time we said “Action” and make it happen, the scenes were much better.

Was there anything cut from the film?
The greatest line, in my opinion, got cut: Mama and I are in the kitchen she’s butchering the biker we just killed and we’re having a little heart to heart and I say, “You know, since Tommy (Leatherface) got that chainsaw, it’s done great things for his self-esteem.” I was just distraught.

I think this one is much better than the remake. It explains a lot of things that took place in the remake. It explains “Where in the hell did Leatherface come from? Did a vulture shit him out on a rock and just kind of hatch him?” It explains how the hell this guy becomes a sheriff. I love playing this character, Sheriff Hoyt. He’s a piece of work. I hate directors saying, “Take it down a little bit. You’re too over the top”. This guy is a sexually perverted, homicidal maniac. There is no over the fucking top, you know? Never one time did I hear those words.

This role really allowed you to take it to a new level, didn’t it?
Trust me; you will see this character in full color. I love doing this character. Every character I do I push it to the limits far as I dare to go and for a director to say, “Lee, bring it down just a little bit.”, it bothers me. I do the research; I know what I can get away with. I’ve done over 70 feature films and hundreds of television shows. I like to push my character to the limit. It’s fun. There is no limit with this character so it’s that much more fun. They let me go bezerk.

You got hurt on the set a couple of times, didn’t you?
Well, I’ve been beating some people. A lot of them. I got a little carried away and beat a little too hard and popped a little spur of calcium loose in there and the whole back of my hand swelled up. You’ll experience that when you get a little older. I had to take it kind of easy there for a couple of days. I got banged on the head a little hard on the concrete. We got a little carried away there and banged it a little hard, and about four months later I got out of bed, I threw my legs over the side of the bed and fell into a heap on the floor. I thought I was paralyzed. The left side was totally paralyzed. I called my daughter and she got me down to the emergency room and they did some x-rays on my coconut and epidural hematoma, which was caused my clotting. And there was about a fourth of a cup of coffee worth of clot accumulating over a couple of months. I had noticed my hand had been dropping things a lot, but when I fell down, I knew there was something wrong. They cut my coconut open and flushed it out. I’m as good as gold now. They were concerned I was going to be a while with the paralysis, but I work out. I got busy. We didn’t hold anything back. You’ve got to take this shit seriously and we do. It had to look like he’s severely beating my head into the concrete. I had a headache for a week and a half after that. Thank God we got enough in the first few takes and we didn’t have to do more takes of it. I didn’t want to have to do it more than a couple of times. Shit happens, you know? There’s not a profession that I would want to do that there’s not some amount of risk. As long as they can pop open my coconut and get it squared away and I can get back on my feet and be psychologically, mentally and physically OK, no problem.

What would you think about coming back for a sequel?
If they ask me, I’ll come back. If there’s a way to connect the prequel, sequel and a new part, I’d entertain it. I love this character. I can just get by with fucking murder and that’s the way I like it. It’s fun to do. Most actors will tell you that the bad guys are fun to play. If you’re the good guy, you have to try to get the audience on your side, to like you, love you and care for you and if you’re the bad guy, it’s like, “Fuck the audience” You don’t have to worry about it. It’s easy to make people dislike you. It’s hard to be a nice guy. If you’re a nasty bastard, people love to hate you. I can’t wait to see what the writers come back with. This one is going to be hard to top.

Anything coming up you want to talk about?
Solstice. It takes places down in Louisiana. This is a totally different character. He’s sympathetic. He was fun to play. You know, if you’re going to hire me, at least have the confidence to let me do the fucking character. I’m not a puppet. I don’t mind direction, but when they start getting too involved with the personality of the character…fuck those guys. Those are the directors I don’t have fun working with.


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