2015 has been an unbelievably tough year for horror fans, we've lost so many of our genre's icons and it has really hurt to see them go. I was saddened to hear over the weekend that we've lost another legend, as Gunnar Hansen passed away on Saturday, November 7 at the age of 68. He died of pancreatic cancer at his home on Mount Desert Island, Maine, where he had lived for around forty years.
It was just over forty years ago that Hansen became an instant genre icon for his portrayal of Leatherface in Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Although he was playing a hulking, mute, chainsaw-wielding killer, Hansen was able to make Leatherface as fascinating as he was terrifying, building a deep character just through body language, what little could be seen of his face under the mask, and some unintelligible noises.
After an unsatisfying experience working on the 1977 film THE DEMON LOVER, Hansen took an eleven year hiatus from acting, returning to the screen in 1988's HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS. In the years since, he has appeared and delivered wonderful performances in over two dozen more films, including CAMPFIRE TALES (1991), MOSQUITO, HATRED OF A MINUTE, CHAINSAW SALLY, MURDER-SET-PIECES, BRUTAL MASSACRE: A COMEDY, GIMME SKELTER, and fittingly, since he had been born in Reykjavik, Iceland, REYKJAVIK WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE.
Although he had turned down offers to play Leatherface or make cameos in other CHAINSAW films, Hansen did finally return to the franchise with a small role in 2013's TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D.
In his downtime between acting projects, the English major focused on his writing. His travel memoir Islands at the Edge of Time: A Journey to America's Barrier Islands was published in 1993, and 2013 saw the publishing of his book Chainsaw Confidential, which was about the making of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
I didn't know Hansen personally, I'm just one of many fans who have been lucky enough to meet him at a convention over the years, but his death has definitely made an impact on me. This is someone I've been watching and reading about pretty much my entire life. One of my earliest memories involves THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, as I got into horror at an age many would deem inappropriate. It's one of my all-time favorites, and I've always loved hearing and reading about its grueling production. At the center of it all is this incredible character, Leatherface, so perfectly realized by this really interesting guy, Gunnar Hansen. It's hard to accept that he's gone from us now.
Hansen is survived by his partner of 13 years, Betty Tower, and is remembered by friends, family members, and fans as a kind and thoughtful man.