Gunnar Hansen (March 4, 1947 – November 7, 2015) was an Icelandic-born American actor and author best known for playing the mentally impaired cannibalLeatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
Hansen was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, and moved to the United States when he was five. He lived in Maine until age eleven, when his family moved to Texas, where he attended both Austin High School and the University of Texas at Austin. He majored in English and mathematics as an undergraduate, and then went to graduate school in Scandinavian Studies and English.
His first job out of high school was as a computer operator, before he began theater work during college. He was also a football player during high school, and for a while a bar bouncer. In 1973, just after finishing graduate school, Hansen heard that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was being filmed in Austin and decided to try out. He got the part of Leatherface, the masked killer in the movie. Hansen apparently visited and studied children with special needs to determine mannerisms for Leatherface.
After the success of the movie, Hansen co-starred in Demon Lover, but after the experience he decided not to continue acting, instead pursuing a writing career. In 1975, after one extra year of graduate school, Hansen moved back to Maine and started writing. During this time he rejected a part he was offered in the cult horror film The Hills Have Eyes.
After writing (and occasionally editing) for magazines and writing books, Hansen returned to acting in 1988, appearing in the horror spoof Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and has appeared in 20 films since. He considers his recent acting as a side project and has continued to write books. He has also written film scripts, and writes and directs documentary films.
Hansen is also an author; his nonfiction travel memoir, Islands at the Edge of Time, A journey to America’s Barrier Islands, was published in 1993. In 2013 he wrote the nonfiction book Chain Saw Confidential, which focuses on the making and reception for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In addition, he has taught college as an adjunct instructor.
|1974||The Texas Chain Saw Massacre||Leatherface|
|1977||The Demon Lover||Prof. Peckinpah|
|1988||Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers||The Stranger|
|1999||Hellblock 13||The Executioner||Direct-to-video|
|2002||Hatred of a Minute||Barry|
|Sinister||The Piper||Short film|
|2003||Next Victim||Doctor Howard|
|2004||The Business||Grandfather||Short film, direct-to-video|
|2005||Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen||Reggie|
|2006||Swarm of the Snakehead||Gunner|
|The Deepening||Dr. Chambers|
|2007||Brutal Massacre: A Comedy||Krenshaw|
|Gimme Skelter||Porter Sandford|
|2009||Won Ton Baby!||Dr. Kurt Severson|
|It Came from Trafalgar||Tex Ghoul|
|Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre||Captain Pétur|
|2013||Texas Chainsaw 3D||Boss Sawyer, Leatherface (Archive Footage)||Cameo|
- Knight of the Living Dead (2005) (special thanks)
- Terror in the Aisles (1984) – archival footage
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait (1988)
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000)
- Leatherface Speaks: An Informal Interview with Gunnar Hansen (2001)
- Behind the Attic Door: The Making of “Rachel’s Attic” (2002)
- UnConventional (2004)
- Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (2006)
- Associated Press “Gunnar Hansen, killer of ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre,’ dies” Associated Press via The State Columbia, SC November 8, 2015.
- ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Actor Gunnar Hansen Dies at 68
- Associated Press staff, “Gunnar Hansen, killer of ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre,’ dies,” Associated Press via Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, Tx) accessed at 3:56 am November 8, 2015.
- Heins, Catherine (July 29, 1998). “White Bird’s trail fading – Many convinced trans-Atlantic flier made it to Maine”. Bangor Daily News.