"Full Metal Jacket," which opened 25 years ago this week (on June 26, 1987), is many things: a surreal (or hyperreal) movie about the Vietnam War, a compactly chilly Stanley Kubrick masterpiece (aside from "Dr. Strangelove," it's the only movie he directed during his final 40 years that ran under two hours), a starmaking opportunity for Vincent D'Onofrio, and a collection of the wit and wisdom of Marine drill sergeant-turned-actor R. Lee Ermey. ("Your rifle is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills" is one of his few non-profane maxims.)
Over the past quarter-century, the movie has become beloved by many disparate groups of fans, including general moviegoers, Kubrick kultists, military fetishists, and sample-happy rappers. Still, as familiar as the film is, there's still plenty you may not know about how it was made -- which Brat Packer nearly landed the lead role that ultimately went to Matthew Modine, how Kubrick meticulously recreated Vietnam in the English countryside, how the author of the source novel infiltrated the set after a falling-out with Kubrick, the record-breaking weight gain D'Onofrio underwent in the service of his art, and just how long Ermey can keep unspooling a spontaneous tirade of profane insults.
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