It’s a sad day for fans of classic horror movies, as actor Gunnar Hansen has passed away at the age of 68. Best known for portraying iconic slasher Leatherface in the original 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, Hansen reportedly died of pancreatic cancer on Saturday at his home in Maine. The news was picked up by multiple media outlets this morning, and has been confirmed by Hansen’s agent.
Hansen was born in Reykjavík, Iceland on March 4th, 1947. His family emigrated to the United States when he was 5, initially settling in Maine before moving on to Austin, Texas when he was 11. Hansen attended Austin High School, before majoring in English and Math as an undergrad at the University of Texas at Austin. Shortly after finishing graduate school in 1973, Hansen learned that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filming nearby, and decided to try out for the part of Leatherface. Despite having limited acting experience, he got the role.
In Leatherface, Hansen brought life to one of the most iconic villains in the history of the horror genre. Partially based on real-life murderer Ed Gein, Leatherface was a hulking beast of a man with the mind of a child, willing to do anything his cannibalistic family deemed necessary. Like Gein, Leatherface created trophies out of the remains of his victims, with his propensity to wear their hacked off faces lending him his nickname.
After the success of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hansen was offered a role in the 1977 horror film The Demon Lover. Unfortunately, Hansen was unsatisfied with the experience making that project, and decided to quit acting. This led to a different actor taking over as Leatherface in 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Hansen pursued a writing career for the next decade, before ultimately returning to the industry in 1988 for the b-movie Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Hansen has continued to act off and on ever since, mostly in independent horror productions.
While Hansen would never again reprise the Leatherface role, he did cameo as a member of the murderous Sawyer clan in 2013’s Texas Chainsaw 3-D. That same year, Hansen also published Chain Saw Confidential, a behind-the-scenes memoir about the infamously difficult shoot that brought us Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw film. Despite initial misgivings about acting, recent years have seen Hansen embrace his status as a horror legend, becoming a regular fixture on the genre convention circuit.
Gunnar Hansen is survived by Betty Tower, his partner of 13 years. We here at Screen Rant extend our deepest condolences to her, as well as Hansen’s family, friends, and fans.
Source: Associated Press