Texas Chainsaw 3D began principal photography on July 18, 2011.
In 1973, the cast and crew of the first movie faced blistering temperatures under the fierce Texas sun while creating their film. Almost 40 years later, and a couple of hundred miles to the east, Shreveport, Louisiana found itself in a heat wave of historic proportions.
Temperatures soared over the 100-degree mark for a record 47 straight days, offering little relief even in the early morning hours. Although everyone on the cast and crew had to endure the extreme conditions, one man was singled out for his dedication and performance. “Dan Yeager was the hardest working man on the set,” declares Mazzocone. “It was over 100 degrees every day he was wearing a winter shirt, with a leather apron on top of that. He was running around with a 30-pound chainsaw and a wearing a confining and restrictive latex mask on his face. He never complained.”
Yeager’s dedication and respect for his fellow cast members showed itself on numerous occasions, but the filming of one sequence went above and beyond. While shooting a scene where Heather and Nikki (portrayed by actress Tania Raymonde) were being attacked by Leatherface in their van, Yeager insisted on being in full wardrobe and makeup/mask despite the fact that the camera would see nothing but his hands, feet and the chainsaw.
“Alex and Tania were amazing. I was so impressed with what they put into their performances, and what they did for twelve hours of torture. Everyone told me I didn’t have to put the mask or full wardrobe on because the camera couldn’t see me. But Alexandra and Tania could see me, and I thought that if they were going to put that much work and intensity into the movie, I wanted to be there for them to react to. I hope I was able to contribute to their work in some small way.”
One of the facilities that provided more than one location for the production was Camp Minden, a sprawling military base to the north of Shreveport. At one time, the base was home to a munitions factory that produced ammunition for the armed forces from the Korean War through the Vietnam War and beyond. That shuttered facility was transformed into a slaughterhouse set for one of the climactic confrontations.
The company would also utilize many of Camp Minden’s back roads for the entrance to the Sawyer mansion as well as the setting for Leatherface’s pursuit of the escaping van. An open field in Camp Minden was also the location of what Mazzocone considered one of the most crucial sets.
As they had planned to begin their story moments after the end of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the filmmakers would need to recreate the iconic farmhouse of the Sawyers. “There’s a saying—‘God is in the details,’” reflects the producer. “Although it’s not in the same place, the original house still exists. It was moved from its original site and is now a restaurant. We sent an architect and art director to measure every square inch of it, and we also scanned the original movie into high resolution so we could get screen grabs. The power of the photograph was amazing. We were able to get the proper scale off of it, as well as the original colors. We replicated that house down to scale perfection along with the set dressing. The true litmus test that we got it right was when Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen and John Dugan arrived at the house and their jaws hit the floor.”
“It’s strikingly accurate,” says Hansen of the set. “When I first got here, Carl walked me through the building, and we discussed a couple of little things, like a chicken cage, which needed to be down about eight inches and a little closer to the window, but otherwise, they really had it dead on.” “It speaks to the dedication of the entire production,” adds Marilyn Burns. “If they’re taking such painstaking efforts to detail for this small piece at the beginning of the film, it shows the level of respect and love they have for the film that started it all. They’re very serious about wanting to make a film that will be appreciated by the fanbase, and attract new audiences as well.” Even though Burns was not involved in the filming at the Sawyer compound, and not scheduled for filming for several days after, the actress made a special trip to the Shreveport location to see the amazing set created by the production, and reunite with fellow cast members Hansen and Dugan.
Hansen was not only impressed with the recreation of the set, but also delighted with the role he was asked to undertake in the film. “I play a character named ‘Sawyer number one,’ and he’s the one who wants the family to give Leatherface to the Sheriff. One of my lines is ‘You know, he’s never been right, even for a Sawyer.’ The wonderful thing about me doing this is that I get to make fun of the character I played, and be the one who supposedly sends him off to his fate.”
Burns wasn’t the only cast member to visit the set on the days that the company shot the films’ opening scenes. Although he was shooting with a second unit all night long, Dan Yeager made sure he was present to meet the man who first brought to life the role of Leatherface. “I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to meet one of my all time screen idols, Gunnar Hansen,” says Yeager. “It was an overwhelming experience.”
The two men discussed how they each approached the role of Leatherface, and how he has changed over the course of the decades. “My concept of the character was that if you take the mask off, there is no face,” says Hansen. “I always felt that it was what made him so frightening and unnerving, because you had no idea what you were dealing with. On one level, he’s a human being with an attitude, but on the other level, he’s like some force of nature. Something that’s not human.”
Offers Yeager, “I would describe the original Leatherface as a lethal instrument of the will of others. He was not autonomous in any way. He took orders and he fulfilled them, and those orders were basically to kill and butcher. As time progresses to where we pick up our story, all of that has changed. His abusers were no longer there, and there was no longer anyone to tell him what to do. He had to grow from an instrument of violence to seeking vengeance in the people who slaughtered his family. That was the last thing anyone told him to do, so he’s spent decades contemplating and carrying out that mission. I’ve tried to remain faithful to what Gunnar had created. He is the character. The only difference is that now there is a face behind the mask. That’s what this story is about.”
After six weeks of sweltering days and nights, production wrapped on Texas Chainsaw 3D, and filmmakers hope they have created a film that will excite fans of the original, and attract a new audience as well.
“Great cinema is something that manipulates all of your senses,” says Mazzocone. “I believe that what’s going to make this movie stand out from all other horror movies is that we’re not relying on gimmicks to make it scary. We tried to make a smart horror film, a classic modern day monster movie. And it’s in 3D!”