Dan Yeager Talks Landing the Role of Leatherface, the Power of the Mask, His Respect for Gunnar Hansen and More on the Set of TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D

     October 20, 2012


Anytime you have the opportunity to sit down with Leatherface himself in full, bloody costume (save for the mask & chainsaw) on the set of a Texas Chainsaw movie it’s a pretty good day. That’s exactly the situation I found myself in last August while visiting the Louisiana set of Texas Chainsaw 3D. The man behind the mask, Dan Yeager, is physically imposing to say the least. Even now, I’m having a hard time believing that the clean cut guy pictured above is the same blood/dirt covered man I met over a year ago.

All of this in mind, Yeager was undoubtedly a great interview. Soft-spoken, eloquent, and personable, he is the antithesis of everything his chainsaw-wielding character embodies. During the sit down, Yeager covered a range of topics including how he initially landed the iconic role, the undeniable power associated with wearing the mask, the influence Gunnar Hansen‘s original performance has on his own, avoiding his fellow cast mates when the cameras aren’t rolling, and more. Hit the jump for the full interview.

Question: [Yeager approaches the roundtable, in full, bloody costume save for a mask] You look like you’ve been doing some work.

DAN YEAGER: Yeah, it’s a lot of bloody, hard work. But, after doing one particularly exciting scene, which I’m not allowed to disclose anything about what that was, I said to one of the crew members who was covered in sweat too, I said “I’ve got the best job on the movie”. There’s nothing like it. As much as I prepared for this, I was totally unprepared for what it is to actually do the job. It’s phenomenal.

Can you start off by talking a little bit about how you got involved in the project. I’ve been covering the film for a couple months and every time I read about your casting it’s mentioned that John “discovered” you. Can you elaborate on that?

YEAGER: Well, I actually knew Carl Mazzocone, I guess I had actually met him a couple of years ago so it was after he actually started prepping this project. He had been working on it but I don’t think he had any scripts done at that time, but he was busy working on it and we were, you know, friends. I do know he was really in the thick of it last fall, getting this thing ready to go and it came last Christmas. Carl’s the kind of guy who, if you don’t have any place to go on Christmas, you’re always invited to his house and John happened to be there. One of Carl and I’s mutual friends mentioned jokingly once, this was well over a year ago, “You know who’d make a good Leatherface?”. So, you know, we never really entertained it. It was really when I had met John at that Christmas party. I had no idea he was actually the director of this movie when we met and, I have a rather severe demeanor I admit that even at parties and can intimidate people which, you know, I often get asked “What’s wrong?” and nothing is it’s just when you have a heavy brow like mine I think people worry. Since I heard the story repeated I swear I remember John actually looking at me from across the room, but I think that’s only because I read it. I don’t think that really happened. It was a great party. I knew half a dozen people there and that was pretty much it and, you know, it was shortly after that we actually discussed it seriously. They came and saw a little play I did and I think that sold it. It was just this little amateur theater thing we do in North Hollywood and I played Herbert the Horrible Ogre.

I’m sorry, you played what role?

YEAGER: Herbert the Horrible Ogre [laughs]. In the British pantomime Puss In Boots. We put on a British pantomime. It’s a British, ex-patriots social club in North Hollywood and we do one every Christmas because that’s their tradition. I only did it because it was a very small role that didn’t take a big time commitment. I figured I could walk in, walk out, I’m done and it was easy. But it was one of those really meaty ones that I just knew, a friend of mine produced and directed it, so I just knew I would just knock it out of the park for them. I guess I did. In all modesty.

Moving back to Chainsaw, is it tough working in the mask?

YEAGER: It is difficult. You’re robbed of some senses. You’re robbed of some ability to breathe. And it’s hot. It hasn’t been a hindrance, though. I kind of accepted that this guy has a difficult life anyway and it’s just one more thing, you know, heaped on.

So, from a practical point of view, you’re running around with a chainsaw with limited peripheral vision-

YEAGER: It’s not that limited. Fortunately, the mask they, I think they must have taken some consideration into that and my head is the right shape to throw a mask on so it worked.

[Yeager consults with an ever-present publicist to make sure he can talk about his next point. After receiving approval, he speaks.]

YEAGER: Well, there are two different masks. And the one is certainly, the one I have one tonight is certainly more forgiving than the other. But it’s not that big of a deal.

We’ve heard a little bit about some of the different masks. Is there a particular favorite that you have and, if so, why?

YEAGER: No, I think they both really serve their purpose in the story. Leatherface is the mask, I mean that’s his face, that’s his emotional expression. I think they did a great job in using that. You know, the one mask is his basic outlook on the world and the other one we started calling the rage mask because he’s, that’s his state of mind. He’s been pushed beyond.

You said you prepared for the film, but were still totally unprepared. What type of things did you do to prepare for the film?

YEAGER: Spent a lot of time in the gym. Really, I found myself at somewhat of a loss. I realized that horror itself is kind of an odd form of entertainment. I don’t know why we like to be scared, but we do so I kind of studied what the emotional connection that we have with horror is and, you know, got into the history which is rather convoluted. I tried being silent and I think that’s the most horrifying thing about this character is his silence. I think it informs his mental state more than anything else. Just that fact that he doesn’t speak. He has his mask and he has his saw and that’s his connection to the world.

What was it like the first time you put on one of Leatherface’s masks?

YEAGER: I was in KNB Studios and it was fascinating really. To instantly become that character, it’s kind of empowering and it does change you immediately. It’s almost like shortcut acting, you know, it’s quick. Boom, it’s instant. You put on that mask and, you know, the guys in the shop responded to it. Subtly, you know, they’re used to the stuff, but you can tell that “Oh, okay, now we see it”. They had been working on the cast of my head for a few weeks and all of a sudden there I am wearing it. It was an interesting moment.

Was that much analyzing of Gunnar Hansen’s original performance?

YEAGER: Oh yeah. You know, I have so much respect for what that man did in creating that character because he was a complete human being in that mask which is hard to do when you don’t have words. He’s so interesting in everything he did. But, of course, the character then goes through some significant changes, but the basis of what I’ve tried to bring to it is all Gunnar Hansen and it’s all his work. I feel like I’m standing on the shoulder of a giant. He’s phenomenal.

Have you had a chance to meet him yet?

YEAGER: Not yet, no. I think that’ll happen next weekend from what I hear.

I’m kind of curious about your interaction with the other people on set. Like between the takes do you kind of stay away from them?

YEAGER: Yes. Mostly for their benefit. Because, like I say, I have this instantaneous shortcut to my character and this huge prop in my hands that just makes it, I mean it’s all right there. I can turn it on like now. It’s easy. Actually we were doing a scene with the two girls which I won’t get into any details beyond, you couldn’t really see me, I was off camera, but they were reacting to me and we shot for an entire day and obviously their reactions were absolute terror and I saw those girls work that hard and everybody kept saying “You don’t have to put the mask on, they can’t see you. It’s hot, you don’t have to put the mask on…” but I kept that mask on because I think it helped them. I don’t know how much it did but, man, I wanted to do whatever I could to contribute to what they were trying to do. You know, I was standing there with my chainsaw. The chainsaw enters the frame a couple of times but that was it. I think you could see my feet at one point too. Anyway, I hope it helps everybody in the film so I try and keep a certain distance when we’re in that mode. I don’t them to get to used to that mask because it is their doom. They need to fear it.

You talked about how much your take on Leatherface is informed by Gunnar Hansen’s original take. What type of, if any, minor deviations can we expect in this movie from the original?

YEAGER: Well, he’s (Leatherface) older by the time I get him. Without getting into plot details I can’t really tell you, but he’s lead a life that he hadn’t lived before this. You know, I think what we know of the original movie, he was, you know, severely abused and all I can say is the circumstances have changed. He got older, he comes under the influence of different people and that changes his life completely. Without telling you plot points, I can’t really describe what that is and why that happens. But he’s a different man.

Do old habits die-hard?

YEAGER: Well, he is fundamentally the same person. But he’s under the influence of different people and it’s so easy to explain. I wish I could. I apologize for that, you know. It’ll make sense. I can’t wait until I can tell the story and my rationale behind all of this stuff.

At this point, how much shooting do you have left?

YEAGER: I’m here until the last plug is pulled. Which is a couple of weeks. Two more weeks. Probably two solid weeks, too, no days off. I think we’re going to push right on through and get it done.

Have you had a chance to go out to the house that they recreated?

YEAGER: I drove past it once. I haven’t seen it since they, I think they’ve made some significant progress on it since I last seen it.

Was that a conscious decision that you don’t want to go there until you shoot there?

[Yeager consults again with the publicist. The publicist interjects]

PUBLICIST: Well actually, he (Dan) doesn’t shoot there because the scenes there are from the end of the first movie. So, it’s a different, younger Leatherface.

YEAGER: It’s Gunnar Hansen’s character. It’s not him actually playing the character, but it’s that character. And, you know, I think it was probably a good choice not to have me do it because, you know, it is different.

Is there another actor in this movie playing Leatherface, then?

PUBLICIST: Yes. And actually that actor was just cast so I don’t even know his name.

YEAGER: Yeah, I haven’t met him either but I understand he is really a nice guy. I look forward to meeting him. We’ve got a lot of things to talk about.

We’ve talked with some of the actors who have watched some of the dailies and described it as very gory. Have you watched any of the footage and, if so, what is your take on it?

YEAGER: Yeah, most of that really gory, over-the-top stuff is the stuff that I did. It was surprising. We just shot some stuff the other night which I won’t tell you anything about but it involved lots of special effects and what not. So, you know, I was using all of these fake props and acting like I was doing something that no person should ever do to another person and it was really fun to do it. That may have actually been unintentionally serving the story somewhat because I didn’t really appreciate how much joy this character would have in doing these things and it kind of surprised me. Anyway, I rarely watch playback or dailies or anything like that but, for some reason, the guy who records everything thought I should see this one particular scene and I was shocked. It’s one thing to actually be handling fake things and doing this stuff. It’s a completely different experience being that one step removed and watching it. You know, you don’t have all of that reminder that we’re just playing around and this guy is still breathing and all of that. It was, I can’t tell you how shocking it was. I don’t know, I had somebody send me a question on one of the websites asking me what the gore level of this movie was. Who the heck knows? That’s up to how they utilize all of this stuff. I know we gave them plenty to work with but, you know, those are going to be editorial choices so we’ll see. I have no idea even what rating they are going for with this movie. I would assume “R”, but I don’t know.

[Referencing Yeager’s extremely bloody attire] Is this stuff easy to get off?

YEAGER: Yes, it’s all water-soluble. Well, the sticky blood stuff is. The dirt under it is alcohol-based.

Does it take a while to get the mask on?

YEAGER: Well, this is just basic makeup. This is what we use, kind of daily wear. It takes them maybe 45 minutes to do and then 15 minutes to take off. The mask goes on and off very quickly. They’re fairly well engineered.

For more from out Texas Chainsaw 3D set visit:

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