OBITUARY: Gunnar Hansen

RIP Gunnar Hansen

By Woofer McWooferson

Gunnar Hansen

Actor Gunnar Hansen passed away from pancreatic cancer at his home in Maine on November 7, 2015. Hansen, who is best remembered as the original actor behind the human mask face of iconic killer Leatherface in Tobe Hooper's original The Texas Chain Saw Mssacre. Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Gunnar moved with his parents to the US at age 5 with the Hansen family settling in Maine. At age 11, they moved to Texas, where Hansen attended high school at Austin High School and college at the University of Texas at Austin. In college Hansen doubled majored in English and mathematics, pursing graduate work in English and Scandinavian Studies.

Although he dabbled in theater in college, it wasn't until 1973 that he was interviewed by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel, eventually landing the role as Leatherface, the iconic chainsaw wielding cannibal in 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This was followed by The Demon Lover in 1977 after which Hansen took a decade-long break from acting. During this break, Hansen worked as a magazine writer and a magazine and book editor. Hansen returned to film in the horror spoof Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and has worked steadily in film since. Because of his imposing size (Hansen is 6' 4" or 1.93 m), he was usually cast as bad guys in horror movies, further endearing him to the horror fandom.

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In addition to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Demon Lover (1977), and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988), Hansen has starred in Campfire Tales (1991), Freakshow (1995), Mosquito (1995), Repligator (1996), Chainsaw Sally (2004), and Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (2009).

Freakshow

In 1993 Hansen published a nonfiction travel memoir, Islands at the Edge of Time: A journey to America's Barrier Islands. From the description:

Islands at the Edge of TimeWeaving in and out along the coastlines of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina, poet and naturalist Gunnar Hansen perceives barrier islands not as sand but as expressions in time of the processes that make them.

In 2013 he wrote the nonfiction book Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World’s Most Notorious Horror Movie, detailing the making, distribution, and reception of 1973's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. From the description:

Chainsaw ConfidentialA critically acclaimed poet and author, Hansen tells the real story of the film, debunking myths, giving behind-the-scenes details, and offering insights on the film's reception and our enduring fascination with the horror genre today.

 

RIP, Mr. Hansen, you will be missed.

Posted by Alan Smithee

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