Lionsgate’s Texas Chainsaw 3D picks up where Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic left off in Newt, Texas, where for decades people went missing without a trace. The sequel was directed by John Luessenhop from a screenplay by Adam Marcus, Debra Sullivan and Kirsten Elms.
Last month I spent the afternoon at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills chatting with stars Alexandra Daddario (“Heather”), Tania Raymonde (“Nikki”), Dan Yeager (“Leatherface”) and director John Luessenhop (Takers). After posting a video interview with Daddario and Trey Songz yesterday, I’m back to give you a final roundup of the thoughts of those involved. All of the cast seemed genuinely engaged by the material (and some are primed to come back for more, should that be the case). I also particularly enjoyed my chat with Luessenhop, who is incredibly friendly and laid back (and has an incredible affinity for the original film).
Tania Raymonde on not watching the remake, “Since they were telling us that this was going to directly follow the original, I wanted to pay homage by just sticking to that mindset.” How was it working with [director] John Luessenhop? “It was great! He’s such a southern gentleman. I imagine it’s difficult taking on a franchise that means so much to so many people but the whole experience was profoundly cool.”
Next up was Alexandra Daddario, and I asked what it was like being around for some of the film’s more gruesome moments. “Some of the more gruesome stuff was added afterwards. But it’s definitely a challenge for me as an actress to emotionally reach that level of hysteria internally and then work yourself up physically to that level of panic. Keeping that momentum is a strange challenge.” On her character’s complex arc, “She has this moment where she’s trying to figure it out and it all clicks, and as the mystery unravels she becomes angrier and angrier and more set on doing what’s right for the good guy.”
Has she signed on for a sequel? “It’s one of those things where we cross the bridge when we come to it. But I think it’s a great character. I think she’s definitely in a darker place, but in some ways she feels like she’s more at home than she is at the beginning.”
As I step into the room to speak with the new Leatherface, Dan Yeager, he cuts an imposing figure. I ask him what it’s like stepping into the shoes once inhabited by Gunnar Hansen. “It was daunting. I never really considered the overall cultural import of it until I was well committed to it. I read the script and really loved it. It wasn’t really until I started meeting the mask and wardrobe people that I realized what I had gotten myself into. But I never thought I would fail.” Leatherface actually has a bit of a sensitive side. How did he convey that without words? “He operates largely out of fear. He’s constantly scared, the world scares him. And he responds to that fear with aggression. He has a very simple worldview… people are either family or they’re food. He kills dispassionately, not out of hatred or anger. I love the scene in the original where Leatherface actually kisses Grandpa on the head.”
Next up I spoke with director John Luessenhop about talks about the fact that he made a direct sequel to the original film. One that ignores the previous, more satiric, Part 2. Is he creating a new timeline a la the Star Trek reboot? “I love the original. But I was not a horror guy, I knew stuff like ‘The Shining’, ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Exorcist’. So for me it was great to go back and learn about some of these guys who made low budget movies and could put their own social thoughts into them. Because I was so taken with Tobe’s original, I wanted to ignore the sequels and honor that film.”
How did Luessenhop approach crafting a new Leatherface? “I wanted to continue his humanization. I like in the original when he frets after killing those kids. He doesn’t know what to do, and Dad’s coming home so he might be in trouble. When I came on this project Leatherface was more of a “Terminator”, just a killing machine. So when we rewrote it we intentionally kept the body count low, it had to be someone you knew. It had to have some meaning. We wanted the deaths to be alarming and to get your attention.” Luessenhop went on to elaborate on his approach to 3D, “I wanted you to be comfortable in a 3D world, but not have the 3D in your lap. I wanted to save that for heightened, extreme moments only. I didn’t want the audience to have eye strain.”
Of the deaths that made it into the final draft of the script, he was fairly exacting regarding their criteria for inclusion. “Each of the deaths had to be different. They had to be imaginative and shocking. Like in the first one.”
The film leaves things open for a sequel, does he see himself returning? “I think I’ve teed up a pretty good golfball for someone – whether it’s me or somebody else – to take wherever they want.”