This article contains mentions of violence and gore.
- Gunnar Hansen, the actor who played Leatherface, accidentally sliced Marilyn Burns’ finger while filming a scene, using a prop knife that malfunctioned.
- Actor John Larroquette was reportedly paid in drugs, specifically cannabis, for his narration work in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
- Actress Caroline Williams had a unique audition for her role in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, where she ran into the audition room, slammed the door, and even piled chairs in front of it before starting her audition.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies have terrified audiences since the 1970s, but for modern observers, the wild behind-the-scenes stories are bound to draw more shock. With Tobe Hooper directing 1973’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the horror auteur revitalized the genre like never before. From the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface’s eerie dance routine to a blood-splattered family dinner, the sleeper hit established slasher tropes that would be done to death with future entries, remakes, and spiritual sequels. But be it Hooper’s gory comedy follow-up or Matthew McConaughey’s The Next Generation, the production behind these movies has taken a chaotic route.
From Hooper’s franchise debut to 1995’s The Next Generation, some of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies were made on meager budgets amounting to even less than a million dollars. Actors weren’t bestowed with lavish vanity fans, and production design teams had to resort to veterinarian-sourced animal carcasses, three-inch heels, and any other cheap contraption in sight. The grueling experience ultimately shone as an exercise in guerrilla filmmaking, even though it mentally and physically scarred some members of the cast and crew. With instances of even real violence reported from the sets, some behind-the-scene facts about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies have not aged well.
10 Gunnar Hansen Intentionally Injured Marilyn Burns
The late Gunnar Hansen left behind a horror legacy as the original Leatherface in the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. However, his performance proved to be too terrifying in real life. Hansen actually sliced Marilyn Burns’ finger while filming. The original scene was supposed to play out as Leatherface cutting Burns’ character’s finger so that his cannibalistic family’s patriarch can suck on her blood. Joseph Lanza’s book The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Film That Terrified A Rattled Nation revealed how, after multiple takes, a frustrated Hansen used the prop knife to slice the heroine’s finger while Grandpa actor John Dugan drank the actual blood that flowed out.
Lanza added that Hansen’s prop knife was attached to a tube of fake blood that he was required to squeeze on Burns’ finger. But with the knife malfunctioning, Hansen decided to rely on actual blood instead. What’s even more surprising is that Burns herself never realized that Hansen cut her finger. As reported by New York Post, the truth came into light during a Q&A session years later. While Dugan found drinking Burns’ blood “erotic,” the actress was naturally “furious” learning of this concerning BTS story.
9 John Larroquette Was Paid In Drugs To Record The Opening Narration Of Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Despite raking in millions at the American box office, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s production budget is estimated at $140,000 (via The Numbers). With such a shoestring budget at Tobe Hooper’s disposal, it wouldn’t seem surprising that one of the actors was literally paid in drugs. John Larroquette, the Emmy-nominated star of the sitcom Night Court, shares an off-screen credit as the narrator of the movie’s chilling prologue. A long-running rumor has been that Larroquette was actually paid in cannabis for his voiceover work. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre actor finally confirmed he was paid in drugs in 2023, proving the rumors about Hooper’s unconventional payment methods correct.
8 Caroline Williams Had A Bizarre Audition For Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
During the casting calls for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Caroline Williams was a relatively unknown actress. She knew she had to create a scene to make her audition truly stand out (more so considering her character Vanita “Stretch” Brock was an action heroine). As she recounted during an interview with Starburst Magazine, Williams achieved her desired goal. She recalled, “I ran into the audition room, slammed the door, and pulled the chairs right out from under Tobe Hooper and Kit Carson.” She then piled the chairs in front of the door and proceeded with her audition. The rest his horror cinema history.
7 How Matthew McConaughey Got His Villain Role In Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation
The critically panned Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was notable for starring Oscar-winners Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey during the early years of their career. McConaughey’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre role has a story of its own, with the actor originally slated to play a smaller character with no lines. When director Kim Henkel asked if he knew an actor suited to play the villain Vilmer, McConaughey suggested himself. With no actress available to audition alongside, Henkel’s production assistant volunteered. McConaughey pinned her to the wall with a large spoon in his hand. Henkel was naturally amused by the threatening screen presence of the future star.
6 The Heat Made Filming The Original Texas Chain Saw Massacre Extremely Difficult
The Texas farmhouse where most of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre was shot transformed into a furnace during the day, considering the immense heat during the daytime. To mimic the nighttime conditions while filming under the Texan sun, the windows had to be blocked by thick black drapes that only made the interior more sweat-inducing for the cast. With no air-conditioning, many actors took breaks mid-filming to vomit outside and catch a breath of fresh air. As Hooper summed it up in an interview with IndieWire, “The heat, the smoke and bones are cooking under the hot lights. All of that, it’s kind of like a war dance.”
5 Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre Was Inspired By 2 Real-Life Mass Murderers
The true story that inspired the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise involved the grim crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, who caused terror in the 1950s by fashioning trophies out of the skins and bones of his victims (much like Leatherface). As Lanza wrote in his book, Hooper’s cynical worldview while filming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre might have stemmed from how he bore witness to Charles Whitman’s 96-minute shooting spree at the University of Texas, Austin. Hooper, then a college student, was paraded to safety by a police officer who himself was later shot by Whitman. The 1966 mass shooting left 14 people dead and 31 wounded.
4 Matt Bomer Was Really Being Suffocated In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
The prequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning ranked as one of the worst-reviewed Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, but its cast members went through a lot of physical toil to deliver their performances. As per the DVD’s behind-the-scenes commentary, actor Matt Bomer experienced brief bouts of suffocation when his character’s face was wrapped in cellophane by R Lee Ermey’s Sheriff Hoyt. Bomer’s face was actually covered in Saran wrap, and even though a small hole was cut near the chin region, he had difficulty breathing at times. Thankfully, Ermey got the cue whenever his co-star knocked his knees together.
3 The Animal Corpses And Skeletons From The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Were Real
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre entertained many realistic set pieces. Culturedarm described how art director Robert A. Burns recreated Leatherface’s cannibalistic family’s dinner table with gnarly adornments like decaying cattle remains, foul-smelling cheese, and latex strips. While Burns succeeded at achieving authenticity on a low budget, the real terror was felt by the cast and crew’s nostrils. Hooper even told Interview Magazine how budget limitations prompted his crew to use actual human skeletons instead of replicas. With the camera crew’s lighting equipment “cooking” the bones, the dinner sequence shoot was truly an olfactory threat for everyone on set.
2 Marilyn Burns Suffered A Physical Beating
Not only did Burns get her finger sliced while filming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but she also got brutally beaten up while filming a scene with Jim Siedow. Siedow played one of the violent members of Leatherface’s family, and one scene required him to viciously beat up Burns. The actor was reluctant to partake in such a disturbing activity. But according to the documentary The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: A Family Portrait, both Hooper and Burns urged Siedow to portray his maniac of a character. This resulted in nine takes, each of which found Burns enduring reckless blows. Once Hooper got his desired take, the bruised Burns instantly fainted.
1 Gunnar Hansen Experienced Head Injures Playing Leatherface
The Leatherface mask was integral to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, even if it gave its wearer plenty of logistical troubles. In his memoir Chain Saw Confidential, Hansen wrote about how the mask limited his peripheral vision to the extent that he couldn’t spot any obstacles on his side. This led the Texas Chainsaw Massacre star to hit his head on the cramped doorways of the filming locations. Hansen also remarked that, to appear more physically dominating than the other characters, he was made to wear three-inch heels as Leatherface. This decision hurt his head again whenever he couldn’t duck through the house’s pathways.