Lou Gossett Jr. won his Oscar from his only nomination so far for portraying Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman.
One of Zack's seemingly largest obstacles, although in actuality is trying to get him through the course, is his drill Sergeant played by Gossett. In all truth there really is not too many ways to play a drill Sergeant, particularly in their opening scenes where they ridicule everyone. I really must say I was not surprised to learn that Gossett was coached by R. Lee Ermy a real drill Sergeant, who also later portrayed one in Full Metal Jacket. Gossett portrayal Sergeant Foley is not nearly as intense or brutal as Ermy's was in that film, but his performance clearly shows he took a few pointers from Ermy.
As the Sergeant Gossett is appropriately intense, and dominates most scenes he is in with his presence. He quick witted loud, swift, and properly rough in proper drill Sergeant method. The question is, is this amazing acting the drill sergeant role is technically a standard role where there is not much play to it except on just how intense they and Gossett is not the most intense, that would be Ermy, but he does manage to make a far greater impact than most other drill sergeant performances I have seen.
What specifically separates Gossett as a drill Sergeant is that he always hints at the fact that really Sergeant Foley wants to bring what is best out of the recruits, and does in fact feel proud when they achieve. Gossett handles these moments in very very small reactions in a few scenes, and actually they are just about brilliantly handled by Gossett. This is because Gossett handles them with such subtly that the audience can notice it but also only enough that it never compromises what his character is suppose to be.
Although I cannot really say this quite an amazing performance by Gossett it is easy for me to say it is a good one. He is completely up to being the overwhelming presence of the Sergeant as well as does add some well laced hidden human characteristics as well. It is a very well handled performance that could have been a wholly standard performance that made absolutely no impact whatsoever, or it could have failed to find the right balance between the rough and the humane, but Gossett manages to find both this balance and leave a mark on the film.