Leatherface played by Gunnar Hansen
Tobe Hooper’s kooky 1974 horror flick The Texas Chainsaw Massacre spawned all kinds of weird and bizarre sequels, but we particularly remember the original thanks to how it stood out compared to other genre entries from the era. Instead of the monster/killer infiltrating houses and chasing people down, the victims were led into Leatherface’s lair.
Heavily inspired by the horrific true story of Ed Gein, Leatherface wore a headpiece made of human skin. While plenty of people have picked up the chainsaw since, we’ll always remember Gunnar Hansen for his original (and only) portrayal of the role. While other Leatherface actors have come and gone, Hansen set the standard for how to properly play a chainsaw-wielding maniac, utilizing mannerisms that have been repeated in the character’s other movie appearances. Fans of the B movie Mosquito will also recognize Hansen as one of its main characters—who actually uses a chainsaw to fight off ginormous, blood-sucking bugs.
While he’s best known for his horror résumé, Hansen wasn’t interested in being a star in that or any other genre; he later quipped that he only got the Leatherface gig because he “filled the door” with his large frame when he showed up to audition, and he turned down a number of later opportunities to play terrifying bad guys, opting instead to focus on his passion for writing. Eventually, Hansen returned to Hollywood, accepting roles in horror outings like Hellblock 13 and Next Victim, and enjoying a busy second career that sadly ended in November of 2015, when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 68.