Apr 7, 2017

13 Reasons Why We’ll Never Forget Gunnar Hansen

Article By: Tyler Doupe

Gunnar Hansen touched so many lives throughout the course of his own life. He was a gentle giant and a friend to everyone he met. Hansen was well loved by horror fans for his iconic turn in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but he was also prolific in a variety of other mediums (outlined below). It’s hard to believe that it has been more than a year since his passing. But we can take solace knowing that he will live on through his work. Read on for 13 reasons we will never forget Gunnar Hansen. 

1. Gunnar Hansen holds the distinction of being the original Leatherface

Hansen is the Leatherface upon which all Leatherfaces to come after him have been and will be based and evaluated. He defined the character in an iconic and unforgettable way. He was a true legend. 

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2. Hansen is the only actor ever to (successfully) make Leatherface a sympathetic character

Future installments in the series have certainly tried, but for me, Hansen is the only one ever to pull it off. He made you feel for the character, in spite of the horrible things he was doing. Hansen was able to accomplish all of that through a mask that obstructed (almost) all of his face. 

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3. "Death House" (AKA "The Expendables" of Horror) was his brainchild and is based on his screenplay

The long-awaited horror ensemble film Death House originated from the mind of the late, great Gunnar Hansen. I hope that when it sees release, it will be a loving tribute to his memory and a faithful execution of his original vision. 

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4. He had a great sense of humor

This was perhaps never more evident than when he agreed to appear in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. I cannot imagine anyone involved with that project not having a good sense of humor and suspect that all of the cast and crew had to be willing and able to laugh at themselves.   

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5. He had a secondary career as an author

Hansen authored a memoir titled Chain Saw Confidential as well as a travel book outlining one of his most ambitious journeys. The latter was titled Islands at the Edge of Time: A Journey to America’s Barrier Islands. Both received a fair amount of acclaim and positive response from readers. 

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6. Gunnar Hansen also worked as a documentary filmmaker

He wrote a documentary film about the history of Maine called Dancing at the Mill. That film was known to be particularly close to his hart as he lived in New England for most of his post-Chain Saw career. 

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7. He also taught college English

After retiring from acting for a spell in the ‘70s, Gunnar Hansen took on a gig teaching college English. As a grad student, he studied Scandinavian Studies and English. 

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8. Gunnar Hansen was proud to be Leatherface

A lot of actors try to shy away from their roots in horror cinema but not Hansen. In fact, he didn’t even care so much if the film was successful. He was just happy to be a part of it. Even if it had been nothing, I would have been proud of it,” Hansen once told USA Today. “Because we tried so hard to do something good.” 

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9. He was always modest

In interviews, when given the chance to comment on other actors attempting to fill his shoes, he was always complimentary of their performances and realized that no two people can play the role the same way. He also mentioned being friendly with some of the other actors that had taken a stab at the role.  

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10. He appreciated his fans

Gunnar Hansen was always known to be more than happy to pose with fans when he was out and about or at a convention or anywhere else that he happened upon a Chain Saw enthusiast. He recognized that the support of his fans was what made him a horror icon and he was always willing to give back in whatever way he could. 

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11. He was well-loved by his peers

Upon Hansen’s passing, there was a major outpouring of support from not only his fans but also the many performers he worked with and inspired over the years. Tweets and Facebook posts from Bill Moseley, Barbara Crampton, Lena Headey, Adam Green, and many more began pouring in moment after his death was announced. 

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12. He was not afraid to face his fears

Gunnar Hansen detailed in his memoir Chain Saw Confidential that he had a fear of public speaking but wanted to see how movies were made. Rather than let that stop him, he faced he fear head on and overcame his phobia. The rest, as they say, is history. 

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13. He didn’t take himself too seriously and he wasn’t afraid to be self-deprecating

In an interview with Hero Complex, he once said: “I used to find that there were women who were excited to meet me. When they discovered that I wasn’t like Leatherface, some were relieved — but most were disappointed.” 

Tyler Doupe is a film critic and journalist. He is the managing editor at Wicked Horror and an occasional contributor to Fangoria and Rue Morgue.

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