Jerry Ziesmer

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Jerry Ziesmer (born May 31, 1939) is a career assistant director for major Hollywood films, best recognized for the line "terminate with extreme prejudice" in his acting role as 'Jerry',[1] a CIA officer[2] in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.

Early life[edit]

Jerry Ziesmer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to a postal employee and his wife, who was the daughter of Dutch immigrants.[3] He graduated on a scholarship from Milwaukee's Rufus King High School in 1957. He received a bachelor's degree in acting from Northwestern University in 1961. After graduation he moved to Beverly Hills and took a job as a United States Post Office employee and later, a part-time junior high school teacher.[3] In 1964 he married Mary Kate Denny, with whom he had three children. He later obtained a master's degree from UCLA.[4] He received a Directors Guild training certificate for assistant directors in 1969, applying to the program after reading an advertisement in Variety.[5]


Ziesmer worked on more than 50 films, usually in the role of assistant director. His first uncredited film job was as a trainee in Hello, Dolly!. His credits include The Way We Were, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Scarface, Illegally Yours, Midnight Run, History of the World, Part I, Annie, Say Anything, Almost Famous, and Jerry Maguire.[5][6] He took small acting parts in some of his films, for example playing a pilot in Blue Thunder and a salesman in Rocky II. His most famous role is as a civilian intelligence officer named 'Jerry'[1] in Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War film, Apocalypse Now, in which he utters what some call the film's most memorable line,[3] "Terminate, with extreme prejudice", to instruct the film's lead character to carry out an assassination. Coppola, who had searched for a suitable actor for months, gave the role to Ziesmer at the spur of the moment.[3]

In 1981, Ziesmer re-met and began dating his high school girlfriend and 1957 prom date, Suzanne. They married in 1982. Suzanne joined him on-set, tutoring actors including Mel Gibson.[3]

In 2000 Ziesmer wrote a memoir, Ready when You Are, Mr. Coppola, Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Crowe,[7] that includes the most complete account of the production of Apocalypse Now.[6]

Ziesmer served on the council of the Directors Guild of America from 1987 to 1998, for three years as the chair. He helped establish a mentorship program for women and minority directors.[5] For many years he and his wife, Suzanne, taught an Assistant Director’s course at UCLA's Extension school. In 2006, he won the DGA's "Frank Capra Achievement Award", a career award given to assistant directors.[5][8]