Full Metal Jacket Cast: The Faces Behind The Stanley Kubrick Classic

Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Adam Baldwin, and Vincent D’Onofrio were a major part of the Full Metal Jacket cast, considered to be one of Stanley Kubrick's greatest films.

By Erika Hanson | Updated

In 1987, beloved Shining and Eyes Wide Shut director Stanley Kubrick would release his final, and arguably the best film of his career during his lifetime. This award-winning film was none other than his war (or anti-war) drama, Full Metal Jacket. The cast of the Vietnam story helped throttle the film to success, with both famous faces and ones you might recognize but aren’t quite sure from where. 

Full Metal Jacket tells the story of a group of newly recruited U.S. Marines and their journey from grueling basic training all the way to the Vietnam War. When advertising a casting search for the film, Kubrick allegedly received more than 3,000 acting submissions. From real-life drill sergeants to newcomers that would find more work after their brilliant portrayals in the Full Metal Jacket cast, let’s take a look at the faces seen throughout the film. 

Warning: There are some Full Metal Jacket spoilers within, if you haven’t seen the film yet, there are some major giveaways ahead.


Matthew Modine – Private/ Sargeant J.T. “Joker” Davis

full metal jacket cast

Private J.T. Davis, best known as Joker because of his witty remarks and wisecracks, was played by Matthew Modine. Modine got his start with small parts in largely unknown films like Baby It’s You at the beginning of the 80s. But with success within the Full Metal Jacket cast with a leading role, he landed plenty of preceding parts, his recent and possibly most famous being cast as the Stranger Things villain, Dr. Martin Brenner. 

Private Joker serves as the main character in the film. He also is the narrator of the movie, detailing the arduous tasks the platoon undergoes during basic training, along with on the front lines in Vietnam. As a sergeant during the war, he is faced with the tough reality of war, as he finds himself faced with the dilemma of having to assassinate a young girl.

Adam Baldwin – Sergeant Animal Mother

After Arnold Schwarzenegger turned down the role of Animal Mother, it was Adam Baldwin that would join the Full Metal Jacket cast for the part. Baldwin may be best known for his role in the beloved sci-fi series, Firefly. With various successes in both film and TV, he eventually became reunited with one of his old Firefly co-stars, Nathan Fillion, when he took a small cameo role on Castle.

As the squad’s M-60 machine gunner, Animal Mother is extreme and lethal. In charge during the movie’s second half across the world in Vietnam, he often challenges Joker. In the end, it is Baldwin’s character that orders Joker to kill the young female Vietnamese sniper.

Arliss Howard – Sergeant Cowboy Evans

full metal jacket cast

When Arliss Howard joined the Full Metal Jacket cast as Joker’s best friend, his name was largely unknown. Today, that still holds true for many. However, he has quite the resume in Hollywood and TV, with roles in films like The Time Traveler’s Wife, Moneyball, and TV shows such as True Blood and the recent Manhunt: Deadly Games

Dorian Harewood – Eightball

Dorian Harewood found success playing the titular character on the made-for-TV film, The Jesse Owens Story before landing the role of corporal EIghtball with the Full Metal Jacket cast. In the movie, he is a member of the Vietnam squad and a friend of Animal Mother. Often lending his voice to animated series, he has appeared in Gargoyles, Spider-Man, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

Tim Colceri – Door Gunner

full metal jacket cast

Like Ermey, Colceri also joined the Full Metal Jacket cast with real-world military experience as a former marine. As a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam, he coined some of the film’s favorite lines, like the two-word simple phrase, “Get some!” After the film, Colceri landed roles in TV series like The Secret World of Alex Mack and Weeds


R. Lee Ermey – Gunnery Sergeant Hartman

Ermey was perfectly typecasted as the harsh Gunnery Sergeant Hartman for the Full Metal Jacket Cast. Before landing the role, he was a real-life U.S. Marine drill instructor. Before that, he was a pilot in Apocalypse Now and has countless other military roles including the famous voice behind the Toy Story franchise’s Sarge. 

Ruthless and cruel, Sergeant Hartman gave the film some of its most quotable lines. As the platoon’s trainer, he often punishes the entire company of soldiers for one marine, Gordon Pyle’s, shortcomings as a heavy recruit. Taking his experience as a real-life drill sergeant to heart, the role would land Ermey a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes.

Vincent D’Onofrio – Private Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence

full metal jacket cast

Joining the Full Metal Jacket cast would lead a young Vincent D’Onofrio to his breakthrough Hollywood role. With various supporting roles in film, he eventually moved to television, where he was cast in his longest and possibly most well-known role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. His recent fame came when he joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Wilson Fisk/ Kingpin on Netflix’s Daredevil – a role he recently reprised in the Disney+ Marvel series, Hawkeye and is set to again in the upcoming show, Echo

Playing private Gomer Pyle, D’Onofrio was required to put on a ton of weight. The clumsy recruit quickly becomes the center of attention for Sargeant Hartman to bully. His character, however, takes a shocking but realistic turn of events in the film, as he eventually kills Hartmann, before taking his own life. 


Bruce Willis in Die Hard

There were tons of considerations when Kubrick began planning for the Full Metal Jacket cast. As we mentioned earlier, Arnold Schwarzenneger turned down a role in the film, but he wasn’t the only big-name to do so. Bruce Willis was also offered a part, but he eventually turned it down because filming would interfere with his duties for Moonlighting

Val Kilmer and Anthony Michael Hall were at one point considered for the lead role of Joker. Even one famous lead actor wanted a part in the film but was ultimately left out. Apparently, Denzel Washington showed interest but was never considered. 

The Full Metal Jacket cast helped make the war film one of Stanley Kubrick’s biggest hits, still widely popular today. More than two decades later, fans are still sour over the fact that it received little Oscar attention. However, it would be nearly 14 years later when the American Film Institute would finally realize just how much of a masterpiece the film was, as the film made the list of the 100 most thrilling American films.