With the recent death of Miloš Forman, this past weekend has been made even sadder by the passing of actor R. Lee Ermey, and director Vittorio Taviani.
R. Lee Ermey (24 March 1944 – 15 April 1987)
A character actor whose career blossomed thanks to his portrayal of Gny Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), Ermey was the epitome of the gruff, no-nonsense soldier he so often portrayed. He was also a much in demand voice actor, lending his easily recognisable tones to the likes of Starship Troopers: The Series (1999-2000), Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2009-2011), and of course, the Toy Story trilogy. Ermey’s military background made him somewhat typecast, but he did have solid supporting roles in movies such as Fletch Lives (1989), Dead Man Walking (1995), and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). His signature role as Hartman, though – one of the few occasions where Kubrick allowed an actor to improvise his dialogue – will always be remembered for its vitriolic intensity, and some of the most inventive insults ever committed to screen: “Private Pyle, your ass looks like about a hundred and fifty pounds of chewed bubblegum!”
Vittorio Taviani (20 September 1929 – 15 April 1987)
With his brother, Paolo, Vittorio Taviani was repsonsible for some of the most impressive Italian movies of the last fifty years, including Under the Sign of Scorpio (1969), the Palme d’Or prize-winning Padre Padrone (1977), The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982), Good Morning, Babylon (1987), and Caesar Must Die (2012). Also a writer, a producer and an editor like his brother, Taviani favoured a poetic, visually arresting style that is both attractive to watch, and an often powerful backdrop for the stories he and his brother told. He began his career as a journalist, but switched to making movies in the Sixties, a decision that allowed him to express his own personal political beliefs through features such as A Man for Burning (1962) (which the brothers co-directed with Valentino Orsini). Inspired to make movies by a chance viewing of Roberto Rossellini’s Paisà (1946), Taviani and his brother have given us a wonderful selection of movies that explore human truths with honesty and sincerity, and which have held up a mirror to the irrepressible nature of Italian culture.