Exclusive: Leatherface Talks! Dread Central Chats with Dan Yeager for Texas Chainsaw 3D
This Friday, January 4th, Texas Chainsaw 3D is set to tear apart audiences everywhere courtesy of Lionsgate. The direct sequel to Tobe Hooper's original 1974 classic reunites many franchise vets and newcomers, including the newest chainsaw-wielding maniac of cinema, Dan Yeager.
During a recent press day, Dread Central sat down with Yeager to discuss his approach to Leatherface for Texas Chainsaw 3D and also heard more from the actor about the challenges of bringing a character to life while being stuck behind a mask. Yeager also discussed how this sequel celebrates and pays tribute to Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre more so than any of the other sequels and how he landed the iconic role.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Yeager below, and look for more on Texas Chainsaw 3 all week!
Dread Central: Was there any nervousness on your part to step into the shoes of Leatherface for Texas Chainsaw 3D?
Dan Yeager: You know… no, not really. It was such a gradual, easy process amongst friends. Carl Mazzocone and I were friends for a good year before we started talking about Texas Chainsaw. It was actually another friend who I had taken acting lessons from - Jeff Celentano, who directs now - that had been working with Carl on another project and he asked about how Texas Chainsaw was going at the time. Carl just responded to him with, "Oh man, I just don't know…" and then they started talking more about it.
Jeff then asked him if he had any ideas for Leatherface and Carl didn't at that point so he said, "Well you know, I think this guy Dan would make a great Leatherface." And this was like in August 2010. But Carl and I never really talked about movies up until that point - that wasn't our relationship. We were into building stuff together and working on those kinds of projects together. Construction stuff. But anyway, I think it was that conversation that got things turning in his mind.
And as they were developing the story of Leatherface and who he was, I think Carl began to see him almost kind of like how I am in real life and so it all just began to come together at the same time. I believe he mentioned me to John Luessenhop early on and said, "You know, I've got someone I've been thinking about for Leatherface." But then he invited us both to the same Christmas party and just let it happen.
You know, I used to be a lot less lighthearted and gregarious than I am now so I confess that I was probably standing there scowling at everyone at the party. I used to tell people that whenever I walked into a room, I'd size it up first just so I could make sure that I could kill everyone in it if I had to (laughs). But John saw me across the room that night while he was having a conversation with Mark Burg, who did all the Saw movies, and he said to him, "Oh my god, I think I'm looking at Leatherface!"
And a lot of what has been done with the character since the original movie came out was where they cast more of the "bulked out" big guy types, and I have never really been one that has spent a lot of time in the gym; I can push cars and lift stuff, but I've never been into body building or anything like that. Plus I've always carried a few extra pounds- John calls it the 'farm boy' look (laughs). But it needed to be someone who looks like they work for a living, like Gunnar did, so they didn't want Leatherface to be this oversized monster. He needed to look like a real person, and ultimately, I think that's what makes this character work in this movie.
Dread Central: How challenging was it for you having to always wear a mask in Texas Chainsaw 3D and getting your performance as Leatherface across then? Especially considering we see the character a bit differently in this story than we ever have before.
Dan Yeager: In cinema it's moving pictures that tell a story and everything means something so if you kind of have that and if you know that, if you don't manifest something physically in some way, you'll lose the audience. You have to rely on things like how you carry your hands, how you stand and how you're moving and use all that when you're juxtaposed within a scenario and give it all meaning. When we shot a certain scene where someone touches Leatherface's face, we have a moment of fear from him that's all in a head movement that's only just a few inches. But you can see all that just from him moving back and that was the thing - when you have a monster that moves back from, or retreats from, something - that's a jarring image. It's very subtle and there's a lot of moments like that that you can tell the story with.
Plus all of it was in the script so we had a lot to work with already just within the script, which was very well written. So we always knew the images of Leatherface that would tell his story in this movie. But there are also those moments of tension where you can see what's going on inside him just from the way his hands are moving, too- they begin to tighten and clench up, and you know it's coming. And a lot of it involved some pretty big physical moments, too, but there was a lot of subtlety to Leatherface this time around to balance those bigger moments out.
Dread Central: For my last question I wanted to talk about the psychology of the masks in Texas Chainsaw 3D. Was that something that you, John, Carl and the rest of the team were conscientious of and went over early on?
Dan Yeager: Oh sure, of course. And that was a problem that we were up against on this- the other movies never really tapped into that psychology at all. That was only one part of the problem of the sequels; they overlooked those little things that were in the original movie. Even Tobe's sequel, which was more of his own reactionary piece he did in response to the absurdity of just how seriously people took the original movie when it first came out. He always said that no one laughed at any of his jokes in Texas Chain Saw Massacre so that's why he made the sequel a comedy.
So over time the original character that Gunnar played became more and more of a caricature. Actually most of the characters did in those sequels become really over-the-top. So we always intended to get back to the feel of the original. And Leatherface, the original Leatherface, really was an interesting guy to watch; everyone always refers to him as the monster, but you have to remember that he is still a complete human being, too, which makes him that much more horrifying or even terrifying.
So everything with our approach to this character all came down to believability; John mentioned earlier that one of the earlier drafts of Texas Chainsaw 3D had Leatherface walking down the street, deflecting bullets with his chainsaw as the police are shooting at him. And sure, it would have been fun "movie stuff," but that's not what we wanted to make. We didn't want to betray what had come before us so everything about this character, including the different masks and the reason why he'd wear them for whatever moment he was involved with, had to honor Gunnar's Leatherface from the original. Everything came down to that.
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