As related in John Baxter’s “Stanley Kubrick: A Biography,” from his country home in England’s Hertfordshire, Kubrick let “wannabe actors do much of the work of casting for him [by telling] the world’s press that he wanted audition tapes from anyone who felt able to play an 18-year-old Marine.” The 1984 casting call came with typically specific Kubrickian instructions that demanded actors “stand against a plain background in jeans and a white T-shirt with a card showing their name and a contact number.” The performers would the run through a three-minute scene before providing some information on their personal life and interests. Finally, they were instructed to hold up a sheet showing their name, contact details, age, and date of birth.
YouTube is littered with some of the audition tapes, including one legendary example by Mr. Brian Atene (“the finest actor in the lot!”). Word also got back to almost as fine an actor, Val Kilmer, who similarly made a tape and delivered it directly to Kubrick by traveling to the UK where production was set to get underway. Ultimately, neither Atene nor Kilmer would be cast. Instead, according to Vincent LoBrutto’s Kubrick biography, Kubrick’s team pored over “as many as 3,000 videotapes of prospective movie Marine grunts,” before paring them down to around “800” for the director to review.
But the tapes themselves weren’t the only thing Kubrick had in mind when sending out his casting call. As Baxter’s book noted, “Kubrick played on his mystique” with the casting call and the resulting publicity for his war epic was “phenomenal. Everyone soon knew about ‘Full Metal Jacket.'” It was only after the thousands of tapes came in that Kubrcik instructed his assistant, actor Leon Vitali, to “discreetly invite proposals from professionals.”