In his 30 years on the big screen, Matthew Modine has worked with some of the most talented and revered directors, including Robert Altman, Oliver Stone, and most recently, Christopher Nolan. But there remains one director and one production experience that people never fail to ask him about. “What was Stanley like?” says Modine. “You can see it coming out of people’s mouths before they say it.”
Stanley, of course, is the incomparable Stanley Kubrick, and their collaboration, Full Metal Jacket, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week with a new special edition Blu-ray. The 1987 Vietnam epic was essentially two interlocking films — the grooming of young American Marines at Parris Island, and the upside-down world they encounter when unleashed on the chaos of Vietnam. Like the war it portrayed, the production famously turned into a quagmire — no one knew how the film should end, R. Lee Ermey’s car accident and other difficulties delayed shooting.
The two-year odyssey made a profound impression on the young Modine, who accepted Kubrick’s assignment to keep a production diary as part of his research of playing the role of a Stars & Stripes war reporter. In 2005, he published the magnificent limited-edition Full Metal Jacket Diary, which revisited his journal entries documenting the personal and professional drama that occurred behind the scenes. Today, that rare collectible becomes more widely available, making the digital leap as a stunning iPad app that brings you face to face with Kubrick’s genius, Lee Ermey’s rage, and Modine’s hopes and fears.
The film’s star, now 53 and currently starring in The Dark Knight Rises, recently chatted with EW about that defining episode of his life.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first hear whispers that Stanley Kubrick was looking for actors to star in his Vietnam movie?
MATTHEW MODINE: I was doing Vision Quest when I heard about the movie. I didn’t know anything about him. I mean, I knew 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I really loved Spartacus, but I didn’t know his full filmography. I just knew that he was respected filmmaker, but I was only 23 or 24 when I heard about the film. You saw my story in the book about Val Kilmer? READ FULL STORY