Leatherface - Gunnar Hansen
While Gunnar Hansen has been known as Leatherface ever since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre made horror movie history, there's more to his life and his career than just that classic character. Just in time for the upcoming Dark Sky Film's amazing two-disc Ultimate Edition re-release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Ian Jane had the chance to ask the man a few questions via email. Here's what Gunnar had to say about his work on an undisputed horror classic and a few other projects.
Ian - How did you get into acting and what did you do before working on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
Gunnar - I was in a couple of plays in college -- "Of Mice and Men" and a production of Mark Twain stories. Otherwise, I was also in a couple of student movies, which involved walking through a scene and looking menacing or befuddled, depending on the director. As far as work, I was fresh out of grad school and working as a carpenter when the movie came up.
Ian - How did you come on board The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and what drew you to the project initially?
Gunnar - I ran into a fellow that I had been in "Of Mice and Men" with -- he had played George to my Lennie. We were reminiscing over a cup of coffee when a friend of his joined the conversation and said that there was a film production in town and that I would be perfect in the role of the killer. He gave me the name of the casting director and I gave him a call. Then I got a call back and met the Tobe Hooper, the director, and Kim Henkel, the co-writer with Tobe. We had a long meeting, in which we discussed the character of Leatherface and his relationship to his family. At the end, they offered me the part. My reasons for doing the movie were simple. I had never been involved in a real movie and thought it would be an interesting experience to get to act in a horror movie and also learn a bit about how movies are made. To me it sounded like the perfect summer job.
Ian - How do you feel about being remember as one of the most notorious cinematic villains of all time?
Gunnar - I think it's great. It's certainly nothing I ever expected in my life, and the whole notion is very far away from what my life is really like.
Ian - Why is it, do you feel, that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is as beloved - if not more so – today than it was when it was first shown decades ago? To what do you attribute its ongoing success?
Gunnar - Chainsaw has survived -- and continues to grow in stature -- for a lot of reasons. It is genuinely frightening. It does not rely on blood effects. It is also very realistic -- it looks almost like a documentary. So people come away from seeing it feeling very disturbed by what they have seen. And that feeling lingers with them. Also, Chainsaw changed horror movies. Before it, horror movies were more polite, more talky, less committed to unnerving the audience.
Ian - An odd question maybe, but there have been a few Leatherface action figures, some based on the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and some based on the original film that you starred in. What's it like to be immortalized in 9" plastic form?
Gunnar - I know that my gravestone is going to say, "Gunnar Hansen -- He Had His Own Action Figure." And, in truth, there are worse things to be remembered for.
Ian - You're also a pretty prolific writer. Do you prefer writing to acting? Why?
Gunnar - I prefer writing. Writing has always been my main interest and I derive a great deal of satisfaction from it. I'm also introverted -- I like to spend much of my work time on my own, not around other people. On the other hand, acting is a good balance to writing -- in its way it is the most social of the arts, demanding constant interaction with other people.
Ian - You declined a role in the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake despite the fact that it probably would have been a nice paycheck for you. What was your reasoning behind this and how do you feel about the remake in general?
Gunnar - That's a good one! The producers of the Chainsaw remake wanted me in their movie for one day and offered me union minimum, which would have amounted to something around $650 -- hardly a "nice paycheck." I turned the "opportunity" down. On the other hand, since the release of their movie, they have lied to the public and said that I demanded as much as $20,000 per day to be in the movie. I found the offer insulting and the lie slanderous.
Ian - Since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre you've worked on a lot of small, independent genre films from Campfire Tales to Hatred Of A Minute. Which of these are your favorites and why?
Gunnar - In a lot of ways, Mosquito has been my favorite. I was able to be on set for a long time, and the whole production time was great fun (unlike shooting on Chainsaw, which never was fun). On the other hand, I worked on Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen last year (and which we're hoping will be out soon), and I am very proud of that movie. Again, I was on set for quite a while and had a good character that I could work with.
Ian - What do you look for in a role or a script before you sign on to a project?
Gunnar - There's no mystery to it. I want the movie to have promise to become something interesting and enjoyable -- to make as well as to see.
Ian - You recently had a cameo in Nick Palumbo's controversial Murder Set Pieces. What are your thoughts on that film and how were your experiences on the set of that movie?
Gunnar - The movie is very violent and very graphic. And that's just fine with me. I know a lot of people are upset by that, and my feeling is that if that's the case, they shouldn't watch movies like Murder Set Pieces. For myself, I thought it was great to play a Nazi mechanic selling guns illegally. And I had a great line: "Ain't many people as lucky as me --or as purty."
Ian - Last but not least, what upcoming projects are you involved in?
Gunnar - Right now I'm actually in Nashville at the midpoint of a shoot -- a film called Shudder, with Ed Neal (Hitchhiker) and John Dugan (Grandpa). This is the first time we have worked together since Chainsaw. I hope to be in New Orleans in January, working on a new movie for Thomas Smugala, the director of Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen, and then in Iceland sometime early in the year working on another horror movie in which I play a ship's captain.
Anyone interested in learning more about Gunnar Hansen is encouraged to check out the man's homepage here where they can check out some of his writing and read a detailed biography. For more information on the upcoming Dark Sky Film's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 2-Disc Ultimate Edition DVD release, take a look at the official site for that release here.
- Ian Jane
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