'Full Metal Jacket' Turns 30: Matthew Modine Recalls Deleted Scene 'I Wish Was in the Movie'

Matthew Modine in Stanley Kubrick's
Matthew Modine in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. (Photo: Everett)

Stanley Kubrick is remembered as an exacting cinematic artist with a singular creative vision. According to Matthew Modine, though, the famously reclusive director — who passed away in 1999 — could also be a receptive collaborator with his actors. Speaking with Yahoo Movies recently, the star of Kubrick’s penultimate film, Full Metal Jacket, which opened in theaters 30 years ago this week on July 17, 1987, recalls how an offhand comment he made to the director resulted in the creation and filming of a long-lost deleted scene from the Vietnam War-set drama. And, sadly, it’s a scene that will forever remain lost thanks to one of Kubrick’s directorial dictates. “He destroyed the negatives of any scenes that were not in his movies,” Modine says. “So there would never be a chance that anyone might go through his things and say, ‘Oh, here’s this scene. Let’s try to cut it into the movie.'”

Stanley Kubrick directing
Stanley Kubrick on the set of Full Metal Jacket. (Photo: Everett)

In lieu of the actual footage, allow Modine to reconstruct the sequence from his memory. In 1985, fresh off acclaimed turns in Birdy and Vision Quest, the then-26-year-old actor enlisted in Kubrick’s adaptation of the Gustav Hasford novel The Short-Timers as Pvt. James T. “Joker” Davis, a wry Marine recruit who endures a hellish boot camp experience en route to Vietnam. Midway through the lengthy shoot, which spanned well over a year, Modine remembers Kubrick approaching him and saying, “‘I’m really excited about the way the film is cutting together. We have everything!’ I told him, ‘Yeah, everything but sex. We don’t have a sex scene in the movie.'” Not long after that conversation, production was halted for the Christmas break, and when Modine returned following the holiday, he was presented with fresh pages from Kubrick. “He said, ‘Here’s the sex scene.’ I was like, ‘Which sex scene?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean which sex scene? It was your idea!'”

The scene in question was intended to follow an encounter between Pvt. Joker and a Vietnamese prostitute, played by Papillon Soo. (Watch the sequence above.) Approaching the soldier at a sidewalk café, she tries to turn him and his friend, Rafterman, into paying customers but is interrupted by a thief who nabs his pal’s camera. In Kubrick’s newly penned scene, Joker does indeed follow her back to her room. “Stanley said, ‘You’ll be in bed with her, and she’ll say she wants more boom-boom, and you’ll say something from an old movie.'”

Acting on the suggestion of Modine’s wife, he and Kubrick eventually settled on having Joker recite a famous line from the 1942 Bette Davis-Paul Henreid classic, Now, Voyager: “Don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.” In suitably Joker-ish fashion, though, Modine revised the phrasing for the scene. “I lit two cigarettes just like Paul Henreid and said, ‘We have the moon, let’s not ask for the stars.’ I reversed it because we had landed on the moon. It was all filmed in one flowing, elegant camera move. That’s the one scene I wish was in the movie.”

Vincent D'Onofrio in
Vincent D’Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket. (Photo: Everett)

Instead, that Full Metal Jacket sequence joined the original ending of The Shining and the infamous Dr. Strangelove pie fight in Kubrick’s proverbial incinerator, never to see the light of a film projector again. Still, the version of Jacket that exists is filled with indelible moments that shock and confound 30 years later. One of the film’s most chilling scenes comes during the boot camp sequence, when poor, doomed Pvt. Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) is subjected to a merciless nighttime beating. “Sadly for Vince, we did that scene more than a dozen times,” Modine remembers. “When he’s whimpering, that’s really him crying! He was covered with bruises. It was brutal and cruel, and that’s the kind of inhumanity to another human being that we’re unfortunately capable of.”

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