On a stifling and sticky August morning in Shreveport, Louisiana, Dread Central arrived on the set of Texas Chainsaw 3D to be greeted by an exact replica of the Sawyer House located in the middle of a dried up and desolate field in an abandoned area of a local Army base that felt appropriately untouched by time.
For someone who can still vividly remember the very first time she watched Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original classic at the ripe age of 8 years old, standing in front of the iconic dwelling brought back waves of chilling nostalgia, which is something you don’t necessarily experience while visiting the set of a brand-new flick all that often.
As we head up the dusty trail into the house, the inside of the Sawyer home is just as remarkable as the outside- production designer William Elliott painstakingly recreated every minute detail right down to the chicken cage hanging in the living room, furniture assembled out of human bones and pounds of chicken feathers and debris covering the weathered floor.
Since Texas Chainsaw 3D picks up right after where Hooper left off, ignoring the franchise’s sequels and the Platinum Dunes remake series, today is the day when the Sawyer Family has to answer to local law enforcement for their unspeakable crimes. The family of cannibals is poised to not go down without a fight of course, and we’ve been told this fight ends only one way- with the Sawyer House burning to the ground.
Once we head over to production, producer Carl Mazzocone tells us, “When I pursued the rights to this series, I wanted to reboot the franchise off of the original. I had always thought there was an enormous missed opportunity because the first one had a greater consistency for horror, and they got campier after that. That’s certainly an interesting choice, but I wanted to make a classic monster movie in 3D.”
“So the opening of our movie is the close of the original. We pick it up three hours after Sally (Hardesty) from the original escapes and the police have come to arrest Leatherface. That’s the opening of our film; the townspeople have come to kill and burn the monster up,” added Mazzocone.
So what does that mean for our favorite cannibalistic clan? They won’t tell us exactly, but what we do know is that eventually the story for Texas Chainsaw 3D picks up in the future, where we are introduced to a young woman named Heather (Alexandra Daddario), who discovers her own connection to the nefarious Sawyer Family after she collects on an unexpected inheritance.
After touring the set and taking in some of the action, we had the opportunity to chat with many of those involved with Texas Chainsaw 3D, including a ton of familiar faces who are returning to the franchise that put them on the proverbial map but not exactly in the roles you would be expecting.
Gunnar Hansen, the original (and still best in this writer’s humble opinion) Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, teased details with us about his involvement on this latest installment, saying “I’m not allowed to really say much except that I am a Sawyer and I like to think of myself as the ‘Boss Hog’ Sawyer in this. There are a couple of things which I’m not allowed to say of course about this Leatherface that are really neat; I would never have thought of them.”
Hansen continued, “A lot of times when they create a new Leatherface in these movies, it’s like they ignored the original Leatherface so they’ve got a kid with a skin problem and an attitude- that makes him nothing. But they did some details on this new Leatherface that when I read them, I thought, ‘Oh, what is this?’ and then as I thought about it, I thought they were really nice additions to the personality of Leatherface that were consistent with the Leatherface from 1974, which I liked. I’m trying to give you as much as I can without giving anything away of course (laughs).”
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As it turns out, Hansen was also tripped out by the recreated Sawyer House he first stalked almost 40 years ago now. “Oh man, it was such a shock to see the recreated house. We usually come up the back road here, but yesterday when I first came, we came up the main road. So I’m sitting in the car and I look over and through the trees I get a glimpse of the house, and I’m really startled and then we pulled up right at the foot of the driveway.”
“So I got out and it’s like right out of ’73. I was really shocked at how real it was and how everything was right. You know the old house has been cut up and moved because it’s a restaurant now so the producers went out there and measured it, took pictures and everything. It was the creepiest feeling, looking down the road, down the driveway, and seeing the house kind of coming up. Then Carl (Mazzocone) the producer said to me, ‘I want you to tell me what’s wrong with this setup so we can fix it before we shoot interiors.’ And I went through the entire house and only found one thing that I would have changed. The chicken cage wasn’t exactly in the right spot; otherwise, it was just dead on. Amazing.”
For Marilyn Burns, Sally Hardesty from Hooper’s original Massacre and lone survivor, the weather conditions they faced on the set of Texas Chainsaw 3D now made the actress feel right at home, “It’s amazing to be here; it feels like coming home. This site really has a weird feeling to it, and that plus having all this heat makes it better – it makes it feel just as oppressive as when we shot the original, which makes this one feel very authentic (laughs).”
Burns added,“I play a woman named Vera in this, but I can’t say much more. I probably shouldn’t say any more but she’s this great, eccentric woman. This is the first Chainsaw-related script that right from the very beginning really felt like our movie felt. All the twists and turns- it’s pretty amazing what they’ve accomplished in this story.”
As for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 alumnus Bill Moseley, he’s returning not as Chop-Top but as Drayton Sawyer, the role originally brought to life by the late great Jim Siedow. Moseley told us on set, “I consider it a real honor to be channeling my buddy Jim Siedow and to protect his legacy. It’s weird playing Drayton; I liken it to Moe playing Curly in the remake of The Three Stooges. But it’s fun, thanks to the awesome KNB EFX dentures that they gave me and this paunch, which is very hot in Louisiana temperatures.”
“I was trying to do Jim’s voice; his mouth, he’s got kind of a crooked smile, and a lot of times he talks out of the side of his mouth. He seems to lead with his belly although he’s not a paunchy guy, and he’s got a weird center of gravity. He’s not really kind of an athletic guy so it’s been fun doing some of the mannerisms, trying to get the physical center of him down,” added Moseley.
And while nostalgia for Hooper’s original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre certainly set the precedent for filming, it’s not the only thing driving this latest story according to Texas Chainsaw 3D producer Mazzocone, “When you make a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, one of the more difficult decisions is the fine line you walk between plagiarism and homage. For this, I wanted to get back to the Tobe Hooper basics.”
“The decision to bring Bill Moseley back was he was a personal friend of mine and he looks like Drayton Sawyer so that was a no-brainer for me,” added Mazzocone. “The original grandfather, John Dugan, was wearing so much make-up in the original film that he could easily reprise his role now. And Marilyn Burns, I couldn’t picture a better Verna; she plays the grandmother. Gunnar came about from me watching the DVD bonus features from the original; he had always talked about being so overlooked and was being offered nothing to come back. I felt bad and said if I ever get this movie off the ground, I will give him the respect that he deserves.”
Look for more soon on Texas Chainsaw 3D with our exclusive interviews from director John Lussenhop and star Alexandra Daddario!
Texas Chainsaw 3D continues the legendary story of the homicidal Sawyer family, picking up where Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic left off in Newt, Texas, where for decades people went missing without a trace. The townspeople long suspected the Sawyer family, owners of a local barbeque pit, were somehow responsible. Their suspicions were finally confirmed one hot summer day when a young woman escaped the Sawyer house following the brutal murders of her four friends. Word around the small town quickly spread, and a vigilante mob of enraged locals surrounded the Sawyer stronghold, burning it to the ground and killing every last member of the family – or so they thought.
Decades later and hundreds of miles away from the original massacre, a young woman named Heather learns that she has inherited a Texas estate from a grandmother she never knew she had. After embarking on a road trip with friends to uncover her roots, she finds she is the sole owner of a lavish, isolated Victorian mansion. But her newfound wealth comes at a price as she stumbles upon a horror that awaits her in the mansion’s dank cellars…
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