Magazine

Gunnar Hansen Remembers Playing Leatherface in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”

In 1987, Yankee asked Gunnar Hansen about his famous 1974 role as Leatherface in the cult horror movie classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hansen spent his childhood years in Maine, and returned there in 1975 to begin a career in writing, which included appearances in Yankee. He passed away on November 7, 2015 at his […]

By Gunnar Hansen

Nov 09 2015

leatherface gunnar hansen yankee magazine cropped
In 1987, Yankee asked Gunnar Hansen about his famous 1974 role as Leatherface in the cult horror movie classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hansen spent his childhood years in Maine, and returned there in 1975 to begin a career in writing, which included appearances in Yankee. He passed away on November 7, 2015 at his home in Northeast Harbor.
I Remember I The Price of Frightening Success by Gunnar Hansen in the November, 1987 issue of Yankee Magazine.
I Remember The Price of Frightening Success by Gunnar Hansen in the November, 1987 issue of Yankee Magazine.
Being a movie star wasn’t what I thought it would be, starting with the interview for my part. The director, Tobe Hooper, asked me some qualifying questions to see if I was right for the role. He asked me if I was violent. I said no. He asked me if I was crazy, I said no. At this point he looked a little concerned, but I assured him I could handle the part. “Good,” said Tobe, “We’ll put high heels on you to make you look a little bigger.” So much for my acting ability. I would be Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I went to the premier in October of 1974, I remember thinking that this wasn’t your average movie. There I was, running after people on the screen with a chain saw. My “family” in the movie would have me carve up innocent folks with a chain saw and then sell them as sausage. But for me, watching the movie isn’t as bad as reminiscing about making it. It was filmed in Texas where it gets pretty hot – and sometimes shooting sessions dragged on for more than 26 hours. Since we all had only one set of clothes for the movie, it was too much of a risk to get them washed; the colors might change. So after a few weeks of shooting, it was a little more than “fright” that made us keep our distance from each other. Kitchen scenes were pretty tough; all that food in the Texas heat, under movie lights, drew our undivided attention as well as some flies. And peering out from underneath my leather mask was practically impossible during one scene I stumbled and fell, pitching the chain saw up over my head. I covered my head and waited. It landed next to me, still running. But for all the nonsense and low-budget chicanery, the film did well — Rex Reed loved it. The movie became a cult hit. Current estimates put the film’s gross in these past 13 years somewhere around $50 million. It was one of the hottest-selling tapes when it was released for home video. So naturally, those of us who owned a percentage of Chainsaw’s profits thought we would see some substantial folding money- but alas, my complete ” take” to this day couldn’t pay for a week in Disneyland. I can’t even cash in on my notoriety – nobody will touch me. I mean, what would I do? A commercial for McCulloch with me in my backyard grunting about all the nice lawn furniture I made with my Mini-Mac? Nope. I guess I should have gotten a better contract. But now it’s not the money that I think about; there’s a much unkinder cut. This will be my 13th Halloween in Maine, and each year I have to buy less candy. Nobody comes — maybe they saw the movie. Excerpt from “The Price of Frightening Success,” Yankee Magazine, November, 1987.