It is with a heavy heart that we report that Gunnar Hansen, the man who played the chainsaw wielding killer Leatherface in Tobe Hoopers seminal 1974 slasher “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” passed away this weekend, aged 68.
Originally from Iceland , he spent most of his life growing up in Texas when his family relocated to the US during the 1950s. During his time at University he got involved with theatre work, so when he heard about a movie being shot in Austin during the summer of 1973, decided to go to the auditions. His height and stature saw him landing the iconic role of the films main killer “Leatherface”, a retarded, cannibal who wore masks of human flesh and enjoyed butchering teenagers, that passed by his family’s remote farmhouse.
The film was considered so shocking by UK censors, the film was banned from general release at the cinema and on video until 1999, some 25 years later. Only finally seeing the light of day when the previous chief censor, James Ferman, finally retired.
Hansen’s role lead to him appearing in a string of B-movies over the years, eager to cash in on his status as a cult horror icon, including Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Hellblock 13, Murder Set Pieces and Chainsaw Sally. He did not reprise his role in any of the original Chainsaw sequels, owing to the film makers reluctance to pay reasonable rates for the gruelling work involved in the role. However, he did appear in 2013s Texas Chainsaw 3D, a belated alternate sequel to the original 74 film, in which he played another family member of the murderous chainsaw clan.
Despite numerous film offers, he chose to concentrate on a career in writing. Working on magazines, authoring books and doing screenplays. However, to horror fans everywhere he will always be remembered as the original Leatherface, and was a regular on the convention circuit.
He died Nov 7th at his home in Maine after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.
RIP Leatherface, and thanks for the movies.