I first saw Full Metal Jacket on a school night when I was 12. It was on Encore, the free movie channel which, luckily, didn’t censor cursing or nudity or gratuitous violence. I was familiar with both Kubrick and an assortment of other ‘Nam films, but by the time the boot camp portion of FMJ was over, I knew this was something wholly different. The next time it came on, I taped it to VHS and brought it to a friends house for a sleep over, insisting that everyone needed to watch it asap. I think that night everyone was a bit corrupted. Full Metal Jacket showed us a side of the not-too-distant war that we’d never seen in history books, protest films and the mainstream media’s recollections of Vietnam. It portrayed the lives of guys not that much older than we were who were up against unimaginable forces. It was the first time I really understood what people meant when they said “he was in the shit.”
As a young actor working on one of his first major motion pictures, you could say the same for Matthew Modine. He had been picked by Stanley Kubrick to play Private Joker–– a combat correspondent best described by the duality of a peace sign on his jacket and the famed “Born to Kill” sign on his hat.
In preparation for his role as a budding war reporter, Modine took to the Stanislavski method, utilizing his time between takes to get acquainted with the life and occupations of a war reporter trying to cover the war from “inside the shit.” In his diary, Modine, regarding Kubrick, wrote “Everything is a performance. Always. Stanley doesn’t seem to be able to separate acting from life. You either are the character or you are not. It’s not acting.
Kubrick, notorious for keeping his sets closed, in turn, gave Modine full access to shoot behind the scenes on a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4-inch Rolleiflex camera. He tirelessly captured the quiet moments on the set with Kubrick for two years, while also keeping a diary of his observations and impressions.
After sharing some of his photos from the set with Kubrick nearly twenty years after the filming, Modine, encouraged by Kubrick, published his photos, along with his diary from the two-year shoot as a limited edition art book. The collector’s item, which featured a never-before-seen look into Full Metal Jacket, sold out near instantly.
In hopes of providing a greater glimpse of behind the scenes with Stanley Kubrick and more insight into the production of Full Metal Jacket, Modine is currently re-producing the book as an iPad App complete with audio commentary, additional photos, new music, and a new series of never-before-seen images.
The other day, Matthew, his son Bowman and producer Adam Rackoff came by the Kickstarter office. Matthew shared first hand a few of his stories from the set and even launched his project in the office -– a Kickstarter first, and one that I celebrated by using all of my will power not to say, “Does this mean that Ann-Margret’s not coming?”