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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre character
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Leatherface
In-story Information
Classification: Mass murderer
Signature weapon: Chainsaw
Gender: Male
Race: Caucasian
Primary location: Texas
Development Information
Creators: Tobe Hooper
Kim Henkel
Portrayed by: Gunnar Hansen
Bill Johnson
R. A. Mihailoff
Robert Jacks
Andrew Bryniarski

Leatherface is a fictional character from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series of horror films. He first appears in Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), as a member of a cannibalistic family that preys on group of teenage friends who come to the area to visit an old family homestead; he is portrayed by Gunnar Hansen. Leatherface was created by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel, with five different actors having portrayed the character over the course of six films. The character has also been represented various comic books.

Appearances[edit]

Leatherface is a fictional mass murderer who appears in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series of films. He first appears as part of an unidentified family of cannibals; later films the family members would change, and be provided with different surnames. The silver screen is not the only place Leatherface has appeared; he has also appeared in various comic book lines, including a comic book cross-over with Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees, which have been used to expand the universe of Leatherface.

Films[edit]

Leatherface made his first appearance in the 1974 original film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In the film, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), wearing the faces of past victims as a mask, captures and murders a group of teenagers one-by-one for his cannibalistic family. Leatherface's family come from a long line of slaughterhouse workers. One of the teenagers, Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns), escapes and Leatherface injures himself with his own chainsaw while trying to recapture her.[1] The character's second appearance is in the 1986 sequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Here, it is revealed that Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and his family, now identified as The Sawyers, have been on the run since Sally escaped and alerted the police. Leatherface finds himself attracted to Vanita Brock (Caroline Williams), a radio disc jockey who recorded Leatherface and his brother (Bill Moseley) murdering a couple of teens over the radio airwaves, and refuses to kill her when his older brother Drayton (Jim Siedow) orders him to. Later, Leatherface is stabbed in the stomach with a chainsaw by Lieutenant "Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper), Sally's uncle, who has been seeking revenge against Leatherface and his family.[2]

In Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, released in 1990, Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff) appears alongside different members of the Sawyer family. Here, Leatherface helps to capture a young couple, Michelle (Kate Hodge) and her boyfriend Ryan (William Butler), who get lost on the back roads of Texas. When Michelle escapes, Leatherface chases her into the nearby woods. Michelle gets the upper hand and bashes Leatherface in the head with a rock, repeatedly, until he is unconscious and sinks into a bog.[3] Leatherface's fourth appearance is in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, which was originally released in 1995. Here, a group of teenagers attending their high school prom stumble across Leatherface (Robert Jacks) and his family. All but one are killed, with the final girl (Renée Zellweger) escaping to a nearby hospital.[4]

In 2003, Leatherface appeared in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a remake of the 1974 original film. In the remake, Leatherface's real name is Thomas Hewitt. The remake also reveals that Leatherface wears a mask to cover up a skin disease that ate away most of his face when he was a child. As previously, Leatherface helps to capture and kill a group of teenagers for his family, who sell and eat the human meat. One of the teenagers (Jessica Biel) escapes the family, severing Leatherface's arm with a cleaver in order to help facilitate her attempt.[5] The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, released in 2006, features Leatherface's most recent film appearance to date. The 2006 film is a prequel to the 2003 remake, and explains when Leatherface first put on a human skin mask, used a chainsaw, and when he and his family became cannibalistic.[6]

Comic books[edit]

Leatherface's first foray away from the silver screen was in 1991, with Northstar Comics' Leatherface, a loose adaptation of the 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, written by Mort Castle. The miniseries follows the film closely, but provides additional insight into Leatherface's mental state, as well as modifying the ending to be different from that of the film.[7][8] In 1995, Nancy A. Collins wrote a 3 issue, non-canonical miniseries involving a crossover between Jason and Leatherface. The story involves Jason stowing away aboard a train, after being released from Crystal Lake when the area is drained due to heavy toxic waste dumping. Jason meets Leatherface, who adopts him into his family after the two become friends. Eventually, they turn on each other.[9]

In 2005, Avatar Press began publishing a comic book series based on the 2003 remake. Leatherface made his official appearance in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Special #1, a one-shot comic that features Leatherface and his family capturing a group of escaped convicts who attempt to rob the family's general store.[10] Next, he appears in Avatar's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Grind, a three-issue miniseries where Leatherface and the rest of the Hewitt family terrorize and kill a group of choir students and teachers whose bus breaks down near the Hewitt residence.[11] Leatherface appears in Avatar's final one-shot comic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Fearbook, which features Leatherface killing a group of cross-country travelers, with the exception of one girl, who is forced to wear the face of her dead boyfriend and dance with Leatherface.[12]

Leatherface's next appearance was in Wildstorm's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a follow up to the 2003 remake. Picking up one year later, Leatherface and his family are being hunted by the FBI. Leatherface is also being chased by a television news crew. Most of the news crew is murdered, but the team's leader, Kim Burns, manages to escape with Leatherface's chainsaw.[13] Leatherface appears in Wildstorm's one-shot The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Cut!, where he meets a group of independent filmmakers, 30 years after the events of the 2003 remake, who are making a documentary about the Hewitt family.[14] On July 18, 2007, Wildstorm released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: About A Boy, which chronicles Leatherface's journey through adolescence, and what it was like growing up with kids his own age.[15] Leatherface next makes a brief appearance in New Line Cinema's Tales of Horror, published by Wildstorm, which features Leatherface and the Hewitt family meeting a traveling salesman who tries to sell them chainsaws.[16]

Concept and creation[edit]

In the series, he often uses a chainsaw and sledgehammer to slaughter his victims.[17] He lives with a family of fellow cannibals and serial killers, who are often abusive and violent towards him. The character was loosely inspired by serial killer Ed Gein, who also wore the skin of his victims.[18]

Old stuff[edit]

In the original film, Leatherface wore three different masks; the "Killing Mask", "Grandmother Mask" and "Pretty Woman Mask". Gunnar Hansen commented: "the reason he wore a mask, according to Tobe and Kim, was that the mask really determined his personality. Who he wanted to be that day determined what mask he put on. So, when the Cook comes home, with Sally, Leatherface is wearing the 'Grandmother Mask' and he's wearing an apron and carrying a wooden spoon – he wants to be domestic, helpful in the kitchen. At dinner he wears a different face -- the 'Pretty Woman,' which has make up."[this quote needs a citation]

Hansen later added "the idea of the mask is that there is no personality under the mask. That was the idea in talking with Tobe and Kim. When they created the character, they said he has to put on masks to express himself because he himself can't do it. ... The way we tried to create him, there is nothing under the mask, which is what makes him so frightening."[19][20][21]

The remake offered a more concrete explanation as to why Leatherface wore masks. As a child, a severe facial deformity ate away most of his nose and made him subject to cruel ridicule from his peers. Prior to killing people, he wore animal hides, cloths and leather masks that covered up the bottom of his face. Later he began to skin some of the people he killed and wore their faces as masks. In a difference with the original film, Leatherface does not seem to have different masks for different purposes, although he has changed masks occasionally.

The Wildstorm comics that took place in the remake's continuity had Leatherface taking off his mask when alone with his family, something that did not occur in any of the original films.

Characterization[edit]

Old Stuff[edit]

The original film never shows Leatherface without one of his human-flesh masks on. He differs from other movie killers in that the films portray him not so much as sadistic or evil but as mentally retarded. Most of the time he only does what his family tells him to do. Hansen has stated that Leatherface is "completely under the control of his family. He'll do whatever they tell him to do. He's a little bit afraid of them."[22] In the documentary The Shocking Truth, Tobe Hooper portrays Leatherface as a "big baby" who kills in self-defense because he feels threatened, pointing out that in the first film Leatherface is actually frightened of all the new people entering his house.[23]

With Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III the filmmakers attempted to make the series darker and grittier (much as the film-makers of the original had intended), but interventions from the MPAA quashed their vision and had them tone it down and change the ending. An uncut version was released in 2003. Leatherface has a different family and a daughter in this film, possibly from a rape.[24]

In Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation Leatherface appears, inexplicably, not as a cannibal but as a pizza-eating transvestite involved in an Illuminati conspiracy to provide society a source of horror, and again, with a different family.[25][26]

Andrew Bryniarski, who played Leatherface in the remake, states: "In my estimation, Leatherface is like a beaten dog — he was ostracized and ridiculed, and treated harshly by his peers. The psychological damage they inflicted was immense … there's no chance for him."[27] Says Terrence Evans, who played Leatherface's uncle Old Monty, "I think there was a chance Thomas' life could have been different. But the teasing he suffered, coupled with a bad temper, and following Hoyt around like a puppy dog, left room for Hoyt to get absolute control."[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tobe Hooper (Director) (1974). The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (DVD). United States: Vortex. 
  2. ^ Tobe Hooper (Director) (1986). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (DVD). United States: Cannon Films. 
  3. ^ Jeff Burr (Director) (1990). Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (DVD). United States: New Line Cinema. 
  4. ^ Kim Henkel (Director) (1995). Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (DVD). United States: Columbia Pictures. 
  5. ^ Marcus Nispel (Director) (2003). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (DVD). United States: New Line Cinema. 
  6. ^ Jonathan Liebesman (Director) (2006). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (DVD). United States: New Line Cinema. 
  7. ^ "Interview with Mort Castle". Glass House Graphics. Retrieved August 25, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Comic Maniac". Icons Off Right. Retrieved August 25, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Jason vs. Leatherface (review)". Digital-Retribution. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  10. ^ Trist Jones (May 23, 2006). "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Special #1 (2005)". Digital Retribution. Retrieved August 25, 2009. 
  11. ^ Trist Jones (August 8, 2006). "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Grind (2006)". Digital Retribution. Retrieved August 25, 2009. 
  12. ^ Trist Jones (July 20, 2006). "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Fearbook (2006)". Digital Retribution. Retrieved August 25, 2009. 
  13. ^ Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, & Wes Craig (w). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (September 19, 2007), Wildstorm, 1401214584
  14. ^ Will Pfeifer (w), Stefano Raffaele (a). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Cut! (August 1, 2007), Wildstorm
  15. ^ Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (w), Joel Gomez (a). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: About A Boy (July 18, 2007), Wildstorm
  16. ^ Peter Milligan & Christos Gage (w), Tom Feister & Stefano Raffaele (a). Tales of Horror (New Line Cinema's…) (September 2007), Wildstorm
  17. ^ http://www.fridaythe13thforum.com/showthread.php?t=11596 Hansen on Leatherface's mentality.
  18. ^ http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/texaschainsaw.php Comparisons between Leatherface and Ed Gein.
  19. ^ http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Vault/3646/gunnar.HTM Hansen's explanation of the masks.
  20. ^ http://crezimunky.lunaticsworld.com/profile%20leatherface.htm lunaticsworld.com. URL accessed June 27, 2006.
  21. ^ Arts & Entertainment - Richmond.com / Richmond Virginia / Richmond VA - The Official Online City Portal
  22. ^ http://www.richmond.com/ae/output.aspx?Article_ID=1308865&Vertical_ID=2&tier=1&position=4 Hansen on Leatherface and his family.
  23. ^ Gregory, David (Director and Writer) (2000). Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (Documentary). Blue Underground. 
  24. ^ http://www.joblo.com/arrow/reviews.php?id=623 Review for Texas Chainsaw Massacre III which makes reference to Leatherface's daughter, her possible origins and the MPAA's cuts.
  25. ^ http://www.joblo.com/arrow/reviews.php?id=624 Reaction to final sequel
  26. ^ http://www.filmthreat.com/index.php?section=reviews&Id=1348 Reaction to New Generation
  27. ^ http://www.maximumhorrors.com/news/Default.asp?u_file=88720.txt. Bryniarski on Leatherface's transformation
  28. ^ Page Title