"Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?"

It's a recurring line in "Full Metal Jacket," Stanley Kubrick's intense 1987 war meditation as famous for its colorful language and memorable characters as it is for its scrutiny of the Vietnam conflict. The line is first uttered by Matthew Modine's J.T. Davis, a new Marine recruit at Parris Island. Delivered within a full-throated impersonation of the Golden Age movie star, the cheeky statement lands Davis on the radar of sadistic drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey), earning the quipster the nickname "Pvt. Joker" for the bulk of the movie. See the moment here, and enjoy the subsequent cornucopia of curses that flows from the D.I.'s lips.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the "Pacific Heights" star unearths the story behind Private Joker's drawling John Wayne impression which, it turns out, was cultivated three years before stepping onto Kubrick's set.

Modine grew up in and around both Utah and southern California, the son of a drive-in theater manager. "Our homes typically were next to the drive-in properties," he tells the Wall Street Journal, "and every night was movie night." Of the movies playing at the outdoor theaters, John Wayne's westerns were frequently shown; it would familiarize the future actor with the gruff cowboy aesthetic that would come to characterize "The Duke." Anyone who's watched "The Cowboys" or the Oscar-nominated "True Grit" knows Wayne's iconic delivery: low, slow, and more legato than staccato. It's a sound that, according to Modine, co-star Mel Gibson came amusingly close to as he learned the nuances of an American accent on the set of a romantic drama.

The Key, Apparently: Slow Down An Australian Accent

"Mrs. Soffel" is something of a Bonnie-and-Clyde riff; it's the true story of convicted robbers Jack and Ed Biddle's escape from a Pittsburgh jail, with the aid of the warden's wife of the title name, played by a feverish Diane Keaton. Gillian Armstrong's 1984 period drama showcases powerful performances by a fairly green Modine and a baby-faced Mel Gibson as the Brothers Biddle; the New York-born, Aussie-raised Gibson was in between "Mad Max" installments and had already gained fame in Peter Weir's 1981 WWI drama "Gallipoli." "Mrs. Soffel" would be Gibson's second American feature after Mark Rydell's "The River" and as such, required a dialect coach to hammer down the North American sound of the condemned Ed Biddle. Modine explains to THR how The Duke emerged from that production:

"I'd done a movie with Mel Gibson called 'Mrs. Soffel,' one of the early movies of my career. And since Mel had quite a heavy Australian accent and had to speak like he was an American, the dialect coach would work with him in slowing him down. And in the process of listening to him learn to speak like an American and then us taking classes together so that we'd sound like brothers, Mel would often sound like John Wayne. So I learned how to do a John Wayne impersonation when I was working on 'Mrs. Soffel,' working with the dialect coach and listening to Mel Gibson learn to speak like an American."

Gibson's deliberate, husky delivery takes on almost a dreamy quality in the film (all the better to seduce the warden's wife with). By the time Modine carries it to "Full Metal Jacket," he successfully translates the unintentional Duke impersonation into an intentional one, with unforgettable results.

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