Military Movies & Video Games

Returning to 'Full Metal Jacket'

Actor Matthew Modine's first-hand account of his days on the set of director Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" proved enormously popular, but a promise to fans means only 20,000 copies of the print edition exist.

Modine, who portrayed Marine Pvt. J.T. "Joker" Davis in the classic war drama, wanted to share his story with more enthusiasts. In 2012, he released "Full Metal Jacket Diary" as an iPad app. More recently, Modine and his producer turned it into an audiobook, recognizing that not all fans could access the app.

"R. Lee Ermey ran my butt through months of Marine Corps boot camp training, so I know that we don't leave anyone behind," Modine said.

Modine narrates the notes he jotted down nearly three decades ago, recording the minutia of filmmaking, personal life highlights, and his interactions with the cast and crew. But much of the narrative focuses on Modine's developing relationship with Kubrick, then already famous.

Modine spoke with Military Times about the audiobook and where he sees "Full Metal Jacket" in the pantheon of war movies. Questions and answers have been edited for space and clarity.

Q. We're approaching the 30th anniversary of "Full Metal Jacket." Do you think younger generations are taking new lessons from the popular film?

A. Part of the genius of Stanley Kubrick is that his films remain timeless. "Full Metal Jacket" is as relevant today as it was upon its release. I know the film will remain popular because anyone who goes through any kind of boot camp or rigorous training will relate their personal experience to the opening of the film. Firemen, policemen, Coast Guard, Navy, SEAL teams, Army and even young high school wrestlers relate to the rigorous training presented at the start of the film.

Q. There have been a few watershed films about war since "Full Metal Jacket" hit theaters. Do you consider any of them close in message and tone to "Full Metal Jacket"?

A. Yes, there have been some imitators. There have also been some wonderful and powerful war films made in the last 20 years. "Saving Private Ryan" and its opening battle sequence is one of the best I have ever experienced. "The Hurt Locker" is a very good film. Last year, Clint Eastwood directed one of the best war films I've ever seen, "American Sniper." And Bradley Cooper is just terrific.

Q. What's it like to narrate an audiobook?

A. This is the third of four audiobooks I've done: John Knowles' "A Separate Peace," Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and Robert J. Donovan's "PT 109."

I enjoy the process of recording books. It's a challenge because you record for like eight hours a day for several days until the recording of the book is complete. The thing is, nobody talks that much in a day. By the second day, your tongue and jaw are exhausted from jabbering. But as you know, I went through boot camp with Gunny Hartman, so I am born-again hard!

Q. How close was the experience of being on the set of "Full Metal Jacket" to what real troops go through?

A. It's ridiculous to compare any film to the actual circumstances of war or the experience that a real Marine or soldier would be put through. And what I have learned through working with groups like the Wounded Warrior Project is that the scars of war, the deepest ones, are the ones that we don't see, the ones that cut deep into the psyche and stay with a person who has been through combat. Those scars stay with them for the rest of their life.

Q. Did you learn anything new about yourself revisiting "Full Metal Jacket Diary"?

A. One of the difficult things in life is to be yourself, create your own opinions and use your intelligence. All too often we rely on the opinions of others to shape our personality and express our opinions, and it's important to know why you say "yes" to something or why you say "no." Sometimes we're not allowed to have an opinion because we are in service to our nation or taking orders from commanding officers, but we mustn't ever become automatons that just take orders without questioning authority.


After recently finishing horror and suspense film "Altar," Modine is working on the television show "Proof," which delves into the search for life after death. Modine plays a terminally ill billionaire pouring his money into the quest.

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