Nightmarez Cafe Interview With
Interview conducted by former NC webmistress Cheryl Duran
NC: Hello Gunnar and thanks for taking the time to do this. I guess I will start off by asking about a movie you recently completed, "Hellblock 13."
Gunnar: I shot that in Columbia North Carolina with Debbie Rochon.
NC: Would you like to tell us a bit about it?
Gunnar: Sure. It's an anthology film, with 4 different stories. We did the wrap around story, which is the story out of which you see the other stories, and that set up is that Debbie Rochon's character is on death row and I'm the executioner. I come out at the beginning of the film, to her cell on death row and really just want to harass her a little bit because she is going to be executed that night. She convinces me to listen to these stories she has written while she has been in the cell. Which I agree to, much to my regret later. Each one of these stories she tells become the three stories of the film.
NC: How long did this project take?
Gunnar: Well, I of course, was just brought in to do it. They had been working on it for several months. I think one of the advantages of anthology films is that you can shoot it as a series of four or five different films. They had over a number of months been shooting and editing the stories and when they had those all ready, they brought the two of us in and we were there over the weekend shooting. I think we had about 11 pages of stuff, ten or eleven minutes of film with us.
NC: What do you think of the film? Could it develop a following?
Gunnar: Well, I think it's a pretty good film, I think it will. I have talked to Paul Talbot, who is the director and he was very happy with the footage we had shot and was pretty optimistic about the film. It will be released to video, it won't be a theatrical release, although they did shoot it on film. These days it's hard to get a small budget picture on film.
NC: When can we expect Hellblock 13 to be available?
Gunnar: He (Paul Talbot) is expecting the film to be finished in April and start shopping it out and have it in video stores, I guess, by October, if everything goes well.
NC: Well I guess I just have to ask you...about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre! First off, what was it like, being Leatherface in TCM?
Gunnar: Well, it was pretty hard, you know we shot it in Texas in August and early September, so the temperature was in the high 90's 100, 105 degrees everyday. We always shot long hours 12, sometimes 16 a day, then we would take a 12 hour break, which was just enough time to get home and get back into town, clean up, eat dinner and go to bed. 7 days a week, so we had a pretty grueling schedule. We had one day that was 26 hours. We started at noon on Saturday and finished Sunday afternoon. So I think that's the first thing I always think of. It was extremely difficult work because the conditions were so difficult and it was so demanding. Before we started filming I started going out and running a mile a day trying to get tuned up for all this chasing, because I didn't want to start doing a chase scene and fall over dead because I was too exhausted to do it.
It was interesting. I had never done anything like this before. I was fresh out of college and had never been in an environment where everyone was working so intensely. I had never seen anything like this. Everyone was so intense about what they were doing. Everyone was good at what they did and trying to do their best and I thought, boy, you know, that's what I'd like. Really I think that was the most positive thing to come out of the film, realizing that was the kind of way I wanted to work. I wanted to be good at what I did and give my best effort and not sort of fluff along.
NC: At the time you were working on the film, did anyone expect it to become as big as it has?
Gunnar: Almost all the cast and crew were really serious about having careers in film. I didn't. The guy who played Jerry, Alan Danziger, He didn't, he has his own career going. Really, pretty much everybody else hoped that the film was going to be successful enough, one way or the other, that it would really help them move their careers along, they would all go out to L.A. or Hollywood and start working. I don't know if any of us really expected it to be what it became. I didn't expect it. I expected it to be a movie that, oh, five years later a few hard core horror fans would remember it and investors would be happy because they made their money back, but I didn't really expect it to do anymore than that. It was pretty clear though, right away that it was going to be a lot bigger once the film came out. Almost immediately, there was such an uproar over the film. Philadelphia Enquiror ran a couple of front page stories about how disgusted and horrified and sickened the people in Philadelphia were that had gone to see it. Johnny Carson was complaining that it should have gotten an X rating because it was so violent. Rex Reed said it was the most frightening movie he had ever seen. So right away it was clear that it was going to be a very big picture. But from my point of view, at least for myself, I never thought or never expected it until suddenly, it was very big.
NC: Have you ever considered going back and playing Leatherface again?
Gunnar: Well I have. I was asked to do two, three and four and in each case it just didn't work out. When they did two, they talked to me for quite awhile about it. We just couldn't come to terms at all about it and what they were going to pay me to do the picture. I was disappointed until I saw the movie, then I was glad I wasn't in it. Then three, it was a similar situation. A friend of mine was directing it, Jeff Burr, and I was interested in it and he'd shown me the script and we'd spent a lot of time talking about the script. They had some problems in the sense that I didn't feel they understood what Leatherface was about. So we talked a lot about how we were going to change the script, but then it just came down to the fact that they just didn't have the budget and really were not willing to pay me anymore than union scale so again, it didn't work out. The fourth one, which has not come out yet and was shot about three and a half years ago, again they wanted me in it and they offered me so little money, I mean just so little money, that I couldn't believe the offer. I sort of laughed at the offer. I was extremely insulted. I don't think it's all about money, but I think you have to be paid fairly and clearly they weren't interested in paying me what I thought it was worth. In all those cases, it just didn't happen. I haven't seen four, but certainly two and three I was kinda glad I wasn't in them once I saw them.
NC: I have to agree that the original was the best, I have seen the other two and they don't seem carry the same feeling with Leatherface at all.
Gunnar: No, not at all. I mean it's as if they didn't pay a lot of attention to what made Leatherface so frightening in the first movie. They made him a real comic character in the second movie, he's got this complex, do I kill her or do I screw her? That's not Leatherface as he was defined in the first movie. I mean, Leatherface wouldn't worry about that. He would kill her and then say "Do I eat her now or do I eat her later?" That's really the way he was.
NC: Yes, two was quite different. Leatherface was portayed in a much lighter way.
Gunnar: He was really an enigmatic in the first one, a very frightening character. He just wasn't so scary after that.
NC: Do you have any projects coming up that you would like to share with us?
Gunnar: I don't have any more film work coming up right now. I am always talking to two or three different people about a project, but those are always pretty far down the road. I did a picture about a year and a half ago called "Hatred of a Minute" in Detroit which I think is going to be a very good picture. I think they are shopping that now. The director of "Hatred," he and I have been talking about what the next picture is going to be and we don't mind being involved in it. Most of the work I really do is writing, so that's where most of my attention is. Right now I am working on a screenplay, a ghost story, a thriller. In fact I was working on it when you called. I'll be finishing that up this week and see if we can't get something started with that.
NC: I understand you were involved in the film "Freakshow?"
Gunnar: Yes, "Freakshow" was also done by Paul Talbot and Crimson productions down in South Carolina. It was the second picture I had done with him. I did another picture first called "Campfire Tales." which was an anthology and then "Freakshow." In each one of these I have done the wrap around story. "Freakshow" is another anthology film with four stories. In this case the wrap around story is that some young people have come to the Carnival and one of them meets this girl there and goes into the freakshow tent with her and my character, they call him the "freakmaster" he's the mc at the freakshow. He comes out and brings out each exhibit and tells the story of how it came to be and that becomes each of the stories. In each one of these, there is a scary twist at the end of the story at the end when the story has been told and you are back at the reference story.
NC: Well, I guess I will finish up by asking if you have any last comments for the fans reading this?
Gunnar: Well, give them a link to my web page so they can come take a look.
I really like working on films, its been 23 years since "Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out, or it will be in the fall and it's just amazing to me how the film is just as big now as when it came out. That people all these years later, still hold it up as such an important film to them, in horror.
NC: Well it's been quite an honor interviewing you and I thank you for your time.
Click here to visit Gunnar Hansen's web site!