Gunnar Hansen Completes Private Signing with MEARS
On Saturday, October 18th, 2014, the MEARS Pop Culture division conducted a very limited private signing with horror movie icon Gunnar Hansen, “Leatherface” from the 1973 movie, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Although he does make the rare appearance on the horror circuit show scene, his traveling schedule is becoming more limited, and his agent confirmed he had never conducted a private signing. This was his first dedicated private signing and MEARS was honored to have been the host.
The movie had some special local interest since it was loosely based on Wisconsin’s first serial killer Ed
Gein, the cadaver skin wearing maniac who was a grave robber and murderer from Plainsfield, WI. Chainsaw’s villian was christened as Jedidah Sawyer, who favored a chainsaw to brutalize his victims in the movie.
As part of our dedicated effort to continue to meet with legends of TV & Film and conduct supervised autograph sessions, we contracted with the horror genre legend Gunnar Hansen. Born 1947 (currently 67 years old) in Reykjavic, Iceland, Gunnar moved to Maine when he was 5 years old. Some years later he moved to Austin, TX where he finished High School and attended the University of Texas.Shortly after finishing graduate school, Hansen auditioned for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and won the role. The character of Leatherface was brought to life by Gunnar’s own interpretation of the character. The speed, movement, and texture of the character were directly related to the movie making process. The scorching Texas heat, limited vision allowed by the ill fitted mask, small no frills budget and size of Gunnar Hansen (6’4” tall) gave life to the leatherface character. A basic human need, Hunger, was the impetus of Leatherface’s motivation to kill. Like any of us would do, the chainsaw wielding killer needs to provide for his family. Leatherface is not seeking revenge; he is not mad, jealous, or ambitious. Victims are simply lured, killed, butchered, and eaten. With no ulterior motive, he is simply trying to provide for the family that nurtures him. Gunnar Hansen purposely kept the character void of emotion; Leatherface remained hollow and black, almost work like.
The viewer never understood the being behind the mask. What we don’t know scares us, and Leatherface remained unexplained, so we will forever be fearful of the original version of the character.
During the day, I had the honor of hanging out with Gunnar for nearly 10 hours. During that time I was able to speak to him about much of the background history of the Chainsaw Massacre movie. For instance, the boots that he wore for filming he owned for nearly 20 years after the movie wrapped. For a decade following the filming, the boots were worn for gardening and house work. After being stored in the closet and becoming moldy, Gunnar, without giving them any thought to their historic and valuable nature, simply threw them out with the trash. It is estimated they would bring $20,000 in today’s collectors market.
During the signing, Gunnar signed (100) limited edition 16×20 photos for MEARS. Each one was
accompanied by his character’s name, “Leatherface”. Mr. Hansen took great pride in the signing,
consistently providing us large, clean, bold signatures. Pens were routinely switched, insuring a high
The main killer did not use a gun, knife, or ax. Instead, a vintage chainsaw was his preferred machinery
of mayhem. How was the chainsaw chosen as the weapon of choice? According to director Toby
Hooper, he was sitting in a crowded department store during the holiday rush and was wondering how
to get through the crowded space. He then glanced at the hardware section, and a classic was born.
With its repeating noise, smoke, and cutting blades, a chainsaw would easily cut through the mass of
holiday shoppers and provide an immediate path to exit. Toby Hooper’s signature statement would be
To honor the theme of the movie, 9 chain saw guides were autographed by Gunnar. With the cutting
chain removed, each saw guide was taken from a vintage Poulan chainsaw, the exact model used during
the filming of the movie. Some restoration is still needed, but MEARS will soon have authentically
signed exact model, realistic chainsaws that were used in the movie. When asked what happened to the
original, Gunnar explained that it was borrowed from the neighbor, and returned after filming.
Finally, we had vintage, onsite movie posters autographed by Gunnar. American and French versions
were signed, carefully chosen for their graphic depictions of the character and overall artwork. Gunnar
explained the difference of the “A”, “B”, and “C” style poster that were issued, and also showed us how
to look for the re-released versions of the poster.
To insure the authenticity of the signatures, MEARS will be adhering a special Gunnar Hansen hologram
to each piece. The holograms are dated October 16th, 2014. This will forever memorialize the date of the
signing. JSA will also be authenticating the signatures for further documentation.
In my opinion, Leatherface has entered the halls of horror royalty. He is our generation’s version of a
ghoul, and even more scary than the Dracula and Frankenstein monsters that proceeded him. His style
and essence is a perfect reflection of the 1970’s, and I think he is going to be remembered by horror
fans for a very long time. I was very impressed with Gunnar Hansen the man, and look forward to
working with him on some future projects.
October has been busy for our pop culture division as we have scheduled signings with David Hedison
(The Fly, 1958), Cast of Good Times (Jimmy Walker, John Amos, Bern A’Dette Stanis, & Ralph Carter) and
the stars of Adam 12 (Kent McCord & Marvin Milner). Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca, has just completed a
very special signing for us in London, England, while filming on the set of Star Wars 7. To my knowledge,
this is the only private signing by a Star Wars cast member which took place on the set while filming.
Rounding out 2014, we are negotiating with many additional legends of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Troy R. Kinunen
From Mears Pop Culture Divistion – JR The King of Pop Culture, with Gunnar Hansen At the Recent Signing.