This has been a difficult year for us horror fans. We’ve said goodbye to some extraordinary talents, including Wes Craven, Christopher Lee, Betsy Palmer, and Catherine E. Coulsan. However, this most recent loss of the great Gunnar Hansen is personally felt very deeply by all of us here at Morbidly Beautiful. See, we reside in the great state of Texas, and we LOVE our horror here— especially the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (TCM) franchise. The films were shot outside of Austin, Texas, in the cities of Bastrop, Round Rock, and Leander. The fans here locally are fanatical about preserving the buildings and land where filming took place, and fans from all over regularly make pilgrimages to the various shooting locations (such as, the Grandparent’s home, the gas station, and the cemetery).
TCM is one of the most successful horror franchises of all time, and Leatherface, originally portrayed by Gunnar Hansen, became a truly iconic figure in the world of horror and the film world in general. The recent 40th Anniversary edition blu ray/DVD combo package was so grand and coveted that it was nominated for a Saturn Award. Director Tobe Hooper earned a Critic’s Award in 1976 at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival.
Hansen, born in Reykjavik, Iceland, briefly lived in the Northeastern part of the United States in Maine. But he soon moved to Texas. Enjoying his formidable years in the Lone Star State, Hansen later became a Longhorn and attended The University of Texas at Austin. Gunnar majored in English, having an immediate and constant connection with the literary arts.
One day while on campus, at the age of 26, he heard that a film was going to be made around town. After a few conversations with writer/director Tobe Hooper and co-writer Kim Henkel, and with the help of his hulking 6’4″ frame, he got the job as the mentally challenged killer. He received $800 to portray Leatherface, whom he personally described as “homicidal, brutal, a simple personality…but he’s a real freak, a retarded maniac.”
Damn, I loved that maniac. He was simple, yes. But his one mode, and the mode he knew well, was kill. He knew no mercy, or empathy, or even that constant nagging emotion of love. Perhaps loyalty was felt by him…the Saw WAS family. But Leatherface was a unique, feared, and uncompromising villain.