Private Pyle was the central character of the first half of Stanley Kubrick
classic Full Metal Jacket
, and was played by Vincent D'Onofrio
Pyle was a new recruit into the United States Marine Corps, drafted
into the Vietnam War. The movie opens with Pyle and other recruits
arriving at Parris Island, the Marines main basic training facility.
While his real name was Leonard Lawrence, he was immediately given the
nickname of Private Pyle by his drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant
Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), due to his stupidity and easygoing demeanor--a
reference to the 1960s television show Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (itself a
spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show).
SPOILERS AHOY! (Jet-Poop got mad at me.)
Singled out because of his dimwittedness and obesity, Pyle is mercilessly
abused--mentally and physically--by Hartman at every opportunity.
The other recruits begin to hate him, since every time Pyle fucks up, the
entire platoon is punished. Private Joker is assigned to help
him improve, but it doesn't help much.
Pyle's turning point comes when, after he is caught with a donut in
his foot locker and the platoon is punished, he is tied up that night
and beaten with soap bars wrapped in towels (a blanket party in military lingo)--not by Hartman, but by every
single one of his fellow recruits, even Joker.
Pyle begins to withdraw into his own mind. He starts doing drills
perfectly, he memorizes all his General Orders, and he is even recognized
by Hartman as an expert sniper during target practice. He also
begins to speak to his rifle and not speak unless directly questioned
by Hartmann. Joker begins to think that Pyle should get a Section
8--a discharge due to mental instability.
His condition deteriorates steadily through graduation day. Pyle
makes it through, being assigned to the infantry. That night, he
gets out of his bunk and goes to the barracks head (bathroom), cleaning
his rifle while babbling to himself. Joker finds and confronts him,
seeing that Pyle has clearly gone over the deep end. Hartman wakes
up and enters the head; he's informed by Joker that Pyle has live ammunition
loaded into his rifle (a full metal jacket, hence the derivation of the
movie title). Hartman, as usual, screams at Pyle and treats him
like an idiot.
Private Pyle promptly shoots Hartmann through the chest, killing him
He then sits down on a toilet, puts the barrel of the rifle in his mouth,
and blows his own brains out.
To this day, it remains one of the most compelling and disturbing portrayals
of military life ever captured by modern cinema.