Gunnar Hansen

Gunnar Hansen
Gunnar Hansen photographed by Ryota Nakanishi (cropped).jpg
Hansen at Days of the Dead in Indianapolis, Indiana, 2012
Gunnar Milton Hansen

(1947-03-04)March 4, 1947
Reykjavík, Iceland
Died November 7, 2015(2015-11-07) (aged 68)
Northeast Harbor, Maine, United States [1]
Alma mater University of Texas at Austin
Occupation Actor
Years active 1973–2014

Gunnar Milton Hansen (March 4, 1947 – November 7, 2015) was an Icelandic-born American actor and author best known for playing the mentally impaired cannibal Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

Early life

Hansen was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, and moved to the United States when he was five years old. He lived in Maine until age eleven, when his family moved to Austin, Texas, where he attended both Austin High School and the University of Texas at Austin. He majored in English and mathematics as an undergraduate and then went to graduate school in Scandinavian Studies and English.


His first job out of high school was as a computer operator before he began theater work during college. He was also a football player during high school and for a while a bar bouncer. In 1973, just after finishing graduate school, Hansen heard that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was being filmed in Austin and decided to audition. He got the part of Leatherface, the masked killer in the movie. Hansen apparently visited and studied children with special needs to determine mannerisms for Leatherface.

After the success of the movie, Hansen co-starred in Demon Lover, but after the experience he decided not to continue acting, instead pursuing a writing career. In 1975, after one extra year of graduate school, Hansen moved back to Maine and started writing. During this time he rejected a part he was offered in the cult horror film The Hills Have Eyes.

After writing (and occasionally editing) for magazines and writing books, Hansen returned to acting in 1988, appearing in the horror spoof Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and appeared in 20 films since, Including Texas Chainsaw 3D as one of the Sawyers. He considered his later acting as a side project and continued to write books. He also wrote film scripts and wrote and directed documentary films.

Hansen was also an author; his nonfiction travel memoir, Islands at the Edge of Time, A journey to America's Barrier Islands, was published in 1993. In 2013 he wrote the nonfiction book Chain Saw Confidential, which focuses on the making and reception for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In addition, he taught college as an adjunct instructor.


His agent stated Hansen died at his home in Northeast Harbor, Maine from pancreatic cancer on November 7, 2015 at the age of 68.[2][3]


Film and television
Year Title Role Notes
1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Leatherface
1977 The Demon Lover Prof. Peckinpah
1988 Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers The Stranger
1991 Campfire Tales Ralph
1995 Mosquito Earl
Freakshow Freakmaster Direct-to-video
Exploding Angel Walter
1996 Repligator Dr. Kildare
1999 Hellblock 13 The Executioner Direct-to-video
2002 Hatred of a Minute Barry
Witchunter Michael Jones Direct-to-video
Rachel's Attic Ronald
Sinister The Piper Short film
2003 Next Victim Doctor Howard (segment "rehabilitation Center")
2004 The Business Grandfather Short film, direct-to-video
Chainsaw Sally Daddy
Murder-Set-Pieces Mechanic
2005 Wolfsbayne The Elder
Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen Reggie
2006 Swarm of the Snakehead Gunner
The Deepening Dr. Chambers
2007 Brutal Massacre: A Comedy Krenshaw
Shudder Direct-to-video
Gimme Skelter Porter Sandford
2009 Won Ton Baby! Dr. Kurt Severson
It Came from Trafalgar Tex Ghoul
Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre Captain Pétur
2013 Texas Chainsaw 3D Boss Sawyer; Leatherface (archive footage) Cameo, final role
2017 Death House Father Cameo

As self

  • Terror in the Aisles (1984) – archival footage
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait (1988)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000)
  • Leatherface Speaks: An Informal Interview with Gunnar Hansen (2001)
  • Behind the Attic Door: The Making of "Rachel's Attic" (2002)
  • UnConventional (2004)
  • Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (2006)

See also


  1. ^ Associated Press "Gunnar Hansen, killer of 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre,' dies" Associated Press via The State Columbia, SC November 8, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' Actor Gunnar Hansen Dies at 68
  3. ^ Associated Press staff, "Gunnar Hansen, killer of 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre,' dies," Associated Press via Waco Tribune-Herald (Waco, Tx) accessed at 3:56 am November 8, 2015.[1][permanent dead link]

External links