TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D
About the Film
As the President of Twisted Pictures, Carl Mazzocone had overseen several entries of the very successful SAW horror franchise, and was looking for more projects that would appeal to the fan base. When he was informed that the rights to the cult classic THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE property had reverted to the original owners Robert Kuhn and Kim Henkel, Mazzocone was on a plane to Austin within days. The producer extolled the virtues of the original film, and explained to the duo how he hoped to invigorate the property, while remaining faithful to the source material. His passion and ideas for the project convinced Kuhn and Henkel and soon thereafter, Mazzocone was anointed as the new caretaker of the series.
"Great horror is a universal level playing field," states Mazzocone. "We all come from different backgrounds and cultures, therefore comedy and drama can be lost in translation. Horror is a universal language, that's universally scary on a human level. It's where your boogieman is authentic and believable, and I think that's something that's been forgotten in recent cinema.
I put the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE right up there as one of the top five scariest movies, ever. I was a big fan of the original, when I could finally watch it all the way through. What made the original such a classic is that it felt realistic. Everything about it felt like it could and did happen. At the time it was released, it was marketed as being a true story, which many people still believe in to this day. Not to disrespect any of the filmmakers who have been involved with the franchise over the years, but I felt like there was a lot of gold left in the mine."
After working with screenwriters Adam Marcus and Debra Sullivan to begin the journey back to TEXAS, Mazzocone asked director John Luessenhop to get involved with the project. Like his producer, Luessenhop admits it took him more than one viewing to make it all the way through the original film. "I was scared to death. I had to stop watching it when the girl pops out of the freezer. I'd had enough," he recalls. "I never watched the movie again until very recently, when I went back and broke it down setup by setup to understand everything that was in the final product, and to get a sense of how Tobe Hooper had set the cameras and how he built this world. I took on a great appreciation for it. There's a lot of poetry in the original movie, just the compositions alone with the sunlight and the moon, and being shot mostly in wide shots, not so full of close-ups."
One of the things that most impressed Luessenhop was Hooper's cinema verite style of shooting, and a very minimal use of editing, which made the film all that more startling and realistic. "It was one of the first times you had really graphic violence and horror without it being manufactured in cuts or with special effects. And it introduced us to one of the most provocative characters in horror."
"A great horror icon that's going to have longevity has to sustain a certain organic authenticity," offers producer Mazzocone. "When you look at a lot of other horror movies, the bad guy becomes almost superhuman in his ability to survive anything. Leatherface has maintained his realism. He's a man. He may have the emotional development of a nine-year-old, but you have to equate the power of Leatherface to a shark. He has a set of teeth that you can't survive. You can't defend yourself from a chainsaw. If it hits you, it will cut you and kill you. Leatherface is a predator that comes after you relentlessly."
Adds Luessenhop, "In the original film, Tobe Hooper took the time to give him some human moments. He's got a chainsaw and he's willing to use it, but he's not like a simple-minded killer. There's a human aspect to him that we tried to retain in this movie."
In developing the script for the new film, Mazzocone and Luessenhop decided they would go back to the beginning. Literally. At the end of Hooper's 1974 classic, a lone teenager named Sally Hardesty had managed to escape the madness and horror of the Sawyer family as well as the deadly blade of Leatherface. None of the ensuing sequels or remakes had ever dealt with the consequences of that young girl's escape, so the filmmakers chose to begin their story exactly at the end of Hooper's original film. Audiences would learn what Sally's actions had wrought upon the Sawyers and the townspeople, who had only suspected the evil that lived in their midst. Those consequences would continue to reverberate over several decades to bring the characters into the present day.
"The original is such a powerful piece of film we thought that playing off of it was a unique way to approach it," says Luessenhop. That being said, the new movie would pay homage to the first film, and still take an original approach with a contemporary twist to satisfy both the fan base and new audiences as well.
"We wanted to have back stories on every character and brought logic and reason to their decision making in the movie," says Mazzocone. There's nothing worse than watching a horror movie where a girl goes to a creepy house, her friend is chopped up, she gets blood on her and decides to take a shower. She gets out, wrapped in a towel, and there's a weird noise on the other side of a door, and of course, she opens it and gets hacked to death. You roll your eyes when you watch movies like that, and it takes you out of the film. We tried to have a very realistic movie where the decision making of our characters is one that is unpredictable, yet realistic, and keep audience members in their seats."
To add to that realism, it was decided that this new continuation of this classic horror film would be shot in 3D. While the script was written to take full advantage of this process, it was done with purpose, and not with the intent to simply use it for shock purposes. "I asked myself how I wanted to use the 3D," offers Luessenhop. "Did I want to make a movie where people are ducking and screaming the whole time like a '50's drive-in film, or did I want to create a really cool 3D world? I opted for the latter. I wanted to make a good-looking picture that has some gloss, and then delivers all of the genre elements when we need to. If you're going to use 3D properly, the eye takes a little extra time to see all the things that you're now being allowed to see than it would in 2D. For me, the 3D was to create a world you could watch, exist in, explore the frame and participate without having to duck and crawl and worry about things being thrown at you the whole movie."
Mazzocone agrees. "I guarantee this is a 3D movie where the fans won't be disappointed, because we set out to make a 3D movie. We spent months and months researching the technology, and assembled one of the best 3D camera packages in the business. We wrote the script for 3D. I think if it's done right in a horror environment, it's only going to enhance the cinematic experience even more. Our 3D will not give you a headache and you won't suffer from eyestrain when you watch it. It will provide a very realistic environment to scare the living pants off of you. There's nothing like a chainsaw coming at you in 3D!"
In the casting of the movie, the filmmakers also took a cue from the original. There would still be a group of four friends traveling to Texas, and a hitchhiker they would come upon in their travels, but these new characters would be quite different from their mid '70's counterparts.
"The minute Alexandra Daddario walked in the door, I knew she was absolutely the one to play Heather," says Mazzocone of the actress. "She has an enormous strength and power that very few actresses possess. She brought a work ethic and can-do quality that I haven't seen in a long time." "She's very pretty in a warrior type of way," adds Luessenhop. This franchise has a history of very beautiful leading ladies and Alexandra fits that bill very well."
Daddario, who had seen her share of on-screen action as the female lead of PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS, was excited and enthusiastic to take on the role of Heather. "It's such an iconic series of films," says the actress of joining the TEXAS CHAINSAW legacy. "But this script was very different than the usual remakes and sequels in that it has a story that stands on its own. I also think that Heather is written as stronger than many of the female characters in horror films. I liked being able to play the 'frightened, running-away-screaming character,' but then she also gets to find the strength within herself. I loved the mixture of action, horror and it also has elements of mystery. It really caught me off guard when I read the script."
While attending an awards function for BET, Luenssenhop was caught up in the excitement as a singer made an electric entrance being flown from the ceiling to the stage. "He had a lot of charisma, and the crowd went crazy. The next day I called his agent and told him I wanted Trey Songz to play the role of Heather's boyfriend in the film."
The agent arranged a meeting between the director and the Grammy-nominated artist, and Luessenhop found himself at a recording studio in Hollywood at eleven o'clock that night. "I got to see him work, to see how professional and what a perfectionist he is. We spoke until about two in the morning, but it had really nothing to do with the movie. It was about getting to know each other. The next day he committed to the film."
"There were so many things that appealed to me about taking on this role. I had been given a lot of opportunities and scripts," explains Songz, "and either the timing wasn't right or the movie wasn't right, or the role was too heavy for my first time. I'm a big horror fan and although I hadn't seen the original film until just before we started shooting, I did know the impact it had on the whole culture of horror films and changing the way the fans thought about them."
One of the most integral pieces of casting presented itself to the director even before the process had officially started. At a Christmas party being given by Mazzocone, Luessenhop was chatting with Executive Producer Mark Burg, when he found himself distracted by someone on the far side of the room. "I was staring at a six foot, six inch man, with this huge brow, really scary eyes who had this 'I'm on an island, just taking in this room' quality about him. I wasn't sure if he was the nicest guy in the world or a serial killer. I was mesmerized." When Burg asked what the director was so preoccupied with, "I told him 'I think I'm looking at Leatherface.' It was a completely random meeting and afterwards I began to not be able to think about Leatherface without thinking about Dan Yeager." Adds Mazzocone, "I met Dan at an acting class that I was lecturing at, and he had left the profession of being a contractor in pursuit of acting. We became friends and he was helping me with my house, and I had invited him to my holiday party. When John told me he wanted Dan to play Leatherface, I had a little trepidation, because he was my friend, and he had limited acting credits. Having gone through the experience of the film, I can't imagine this movie without Dan Yeager."
For Yeager, the chance to play Leatherface meant more than just an actor excited to get a major role in a feature film. "There were a few great films that caught my interest as a young person, and inspired me to get into the movies. When my parents bought a VCR in 1980, one of the first two VHS tapes I bought was THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I still have that tape. Leatherface is unique in the pantheon of horror. I don't want to call him an icon, nor do I want to call him a villain. He's more than that. He's one of us... with a twist, that being he's been put into a different context than anyone else has ever experienced. He's been trained from childhood to perform a particular killing function, and the most astonishing thing that informs who he is, is his inability to speak. If you've ever tried not to talk for an hour, it can drive you crazy. If you try not to talk for a day, you will go insane."
From the moment he began pursuing the rights to the CHAINSAW franchise, Mazzocone wanted to show his respect to the source material in a way that had not been evident in the previous films. "Sometimes when people make sequels or prequels or remakes, they shoot frame for frame. I think it's a really fine line between an homage and plagiarism. In this movie, we constantly debated to what point we could swing in the right direction. Out of respect, I pursued Gunnar Hansen to play a cameo in our film. He was the original and best Leatherface, and he was passed by in all the subsequent TEXAS CHAINSAW movies. I swore if I ever got the rights, I would fix that wrong."
In addition to recruiting Hansen to the cast, Mazzocone also invited Marilyn Burns, who had portrayed Sally Hardesty in the original film, to play the role of Verna Carson, the matriarch of the Sawyer clan.
For the opening scenes of the film, which continued the action from the first movie, the filmmakers would also need actors to fill the roles of Drayton Sawyer and Grandpa Sawyer. Jim Siedow, who had portrayed Drayton, had since passed away and would be replaced by Bill Moseley, who had created the character of 'Chop Top' in Tobe Hooper's sequel, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. Moseley had worked with Siedow in that film, and the two men enjoyed a long friendship afterwards. Moseley bore such a close resemblance to Siedow that he became the first and only choice of the filmmakers to take on the part.
Finally, John Dugan, who portrayed Grandpa Sawyer in the first film was invited to be the only cast member of the original Massacre to reprise his role. "We could do it," explains Mazzocone, "because John was twenty years old in special effects makeup when he played Grandpa for the first time." Dugan would get into the effects makeup chair once again to be transformed into the macabre patriarch of the Sawyers. "When I called and asked him if he wanted to be in the movie, his response to me was, 'Carl, I've waited forty years for this phone call!'"
Dugan's enthusiasm was shared equally by Hansen, Burns and Moseley at being asked to be a part of the 2013 version. "Joining the Sawyers back in 1986 for CHAINSAW 2 really started my whole career in horror and was a great thrill," says Moseley. "It's something I still cherish, and any time you get to be part of that again, you jump for it. I'm especially happy to have been handed the responsibility to do right by Jim Siedow."
"Over the years, everybody and their brother was trying to write a sequel," reflects Burns. "When I read this one, I was thrilled that somebody finally got it right. I just flew through it, and was genuinely surprised at how clever it was, and delighted that this hasn't been done before. It paid tribute to Leatherface and the original characters, and then it had a life of its' own characters who were so interesting and full of life. I loved all the puzzles and twists in the script."
The actress was so impressed by the script that she called her cast-mate Hansen to discuss their reunion. "I think he could tell from my voice I was truly excited. And we talked about all the twists and the ending, and he was excited. Who would have thought that Texas Chainsaw Massacre would keep on giving, because it sure as heck did not give for many years!"
One of the key elements that would greatly help Yeager in his portrayal of the mute killer was the iconic mask, instantly recognized by legions of Chainsaw fans worldwide. Great care was taken by the filmmakers to recreate the original mask worn in 1974 at the end of the first movie by Hansen, and two new masks were fashioned by the special effects makeup wizards at KNB EFX Group, Inc., designed by Aaron Sims and Jerad S. Marantz. Photos taken from the first movie were used as the blueprint for the mask worn by the actor who would portray the 1974 Leatherface.
As the character has evolved over the years, he has added new masks to his collection. Explains KNB makeup artist Mike McCarty, "Leatherface cuts people's faces off and makes masks out of them. We created two new masks that the character would have made over the course of time. One was described to us as being akin to a favorite pair of slippers that he wears around the house all the time. It laces up in the back and it's got a couple of stitches where he attaches it to his face. It's an old, worn version of something he loves and cherishes. The other is the one he wears at the end of our film during the big climax. It's more distorted and even more horrifying."
"It's a wonderful aid in getting into the character," says Dan Yeager. "I see Alexandra and the others on set, and they're in character for most of the day, being pursued by a monster who's trying to kill them. That's grueling for any actor. The mask is a tremendous shortcut to my character. One can't help but be a murderous monster in that mask."
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