Professional tough guy R. Lee Ermey parlayed his time in the Marine Corps into various uniformed roles in "Full Metal Jacket," "Apocalypse Now," and as a drill sergeant-turned-therapist in a popular TV spot for Geico. But in a recent interview with TMZ, Ermey claimed that he was fired from his Geico gig after publicly criticizing President Obama in his trademark trash-talking, chest-pounding style.
"We're having a big problem this year. The economy really sucks. Now I hate to point fingers at anybody, but the president's administration probably has a lot to do with that," Ermey announced to the crowd at a videotaped Christmas Toys 4 Tots benefit in 2010. He went on to say that President Barack Obama's White House was "destroying the country" and "driving us into bankruptcy so that they can impose socialism on us...." He advised the American people to "rise up."
Less than a month later, Ermey backtracked on his comments on his website, claiming that he was simply upset by the weak economy, which had dampened the charity toy drive. "I regret that I delivered a monologue that was inappropriately critical of the President. I was trying to be entertaining and simply went too far in this instance," he wrote. "... My comments were misguided, emotionally based, and for that I am truly sorry."
But Ermey claims that he was pink-slipped him for the speech, anyway. "If you're a conservative in this town, you better watch out," he told TMZ in a recent interview.
Geico flatly denied Ermey's charge in a statement to Fox News, saying that the actor wasn't fired, but rather that their talent agreement simply expired and they decided to move on with a different campaign.
Ermey's conservative politics make him a relatively rare species in Hollywood, a town known for its splashy Democratic fundraisers and zealous support for same-sex marriage, among other progressive causes. "I don't have anything in common with Hollyweird," he told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., a couple of years back.
But Ermey's road to Tinseltown was also unusual. After serving over a decade in the Marines and first being cast while studying in the Philippines on the G.I. Bill, his role in a Vietnam-era movie caught the attention of Stanley Kubrick, and Ermey's been happily typecast ever since.
As the rumor mill has it, other actors have been blackballed for straying from liberal orthodoxy. In a lengthy profile of Gary Oldman for GQ, Chris Heath wrote that it was "plausible" that the Oscars snubbed the actor for his performance in "The Contender" because of his politics. Oldman also told Heath that he once received a call from Dustin Hoffman, urging him to be "careful," because Hoffman once said some "stuff" to a powerful person a while back, who made sure Hoffman didn't work for a long while.
But Ermey has already found other work to fill the Geico void, including a role in an X-Play special describing the weapons used by players in the first-person shooter video game, "Bulletstorm." As an outspoken gun-rights advocate and National Rifle Association board member, Ermey likely had no issue for this gig mixing his politics and his work.
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