Gunnar Hansen took time out from his book tour to talk to Starburst about Chain Saw Confidential, the definitive account of the making of Texas Chain Saw Massacre told by those truly in the know…
Starburst: It's forty years since the original TCM. What prompted you to want to give the 'inside story' in your new book Chain Saw Confidential?
Gunnar Hansen: I thought it was the right time. The myth of Chain Saw Massacre was growing, and much of it was simply wrong. In addition, I knew we were losing more and more of the people who made the movie, and I wanted to talk to them before it was too late.
As you mention in the introduction to the book TCM has recent serious attention from critics and academics over the years, reading various social and political meaning into the film. What do you make of this attention to the film from scholars and academics?
I think it's great, though a bit ironic. At first, of course, critics and academics weren't the least bit interested, except for the Canadian critic Robin Wood. Otherwise it was nothing to them. But as the popular interest in Chain Saw grew, academics started to take notice. After that, they were falling all over themselves to make sure we know that they were the first to recognise the movie's greatness.
We have a copy of the original script with your comments in the margins, you have written in Leatherface's 'dialogue' as gibberish with a translation next to it. How did you develop Leatherface's verbal 'language' in the film?
There really wasn't anything to develop. The lines were as written, and my marginal notes reflected what Tobe told me that gibberish was supposed to mean. When that didn't work - after the first take, Tobe said there was too much intelligence in the character - we did it again, this time ignoring any potential "meanings" - that is, my marginal notes - and I just presented a bunch of gibberish, as if Leatherface understood that sounds meant something, but did not know how to form a thought and turn it into a sentence.
Chain Saw Confidential draws attention to some of the film's unspoken heroes. Daniel Pearl's contribution as the DOP, for example, has become more recognised over the years. What are your memories of working with him?
He was very focused on this job, so he and Tobe spent long hours discussing the framing and lighting of the shots, and working out the camera movement. I never worked with him directly, in the sense that he and I might have a conversation about a shot - that was between him and Tobe.
You have recently written a horror haiku for Kyra Schon. Is 'horror' something you find yourself returning to in your writing and poetry?
No, actually not. I wrote the haiku because Kyra asked me for something for her site and she was having a poetry contest at the time - though these haiku were not to be part of that competition. I really enjoyed writing them - the restrictions of the haiku form made it an unusual challenge.
Chain Saw Confidential details the financial travesty of the film's distribution. Are the parties concerned any closer to receiving reasonable settlements for their shares in the film?
No. It's a long-dead issue, really. All that was ever settled was that we would not receive any more money from the distributor, since they filed bankruptcy. I think we all understand that there will never be any large money payments to the shareholders.
Tell us about your book tour for Chain Saw Confidential. Any plans to come over here to the UK? It was great to see you and Marilyn Burns in '99 for the film's DVD and cinema re-release.
At this point, I have no direct plans to come to the UK to promote the book. I have always enjoyed my visits, though, and hope to go back before too long. I might be doing an appearance in the UK next year. If so, I will of course try to tie it in with promoting the book.
CHAIN SAW CONFIDENTIAL is out now and reviewed here.