Who is Leatherface based on: Nearly half a century has passed since the premiere of Tobe Hooper’s horrifying horror film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and in that time numerous sequels, reboots, and remakes have appeared, each featuring a new group of teens pitted against the chilling flesh-wearing villain Leatherface.
The most recent of these is Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which premiered on Netflix last week and follows a group of young businesspeople who unwittingly reawaken the serial killer to carry out another bloody killing spree with his trademark chainsaw.
Some viewers are asking if the film is based on genuine events because, like the original film in the series, it begins with a news story outlining the original killings.
Is Texas Chainsaw Massacre Based on a True Story?
We all know that Leatherface, Sally Hardesty, and the rest of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre are fictional. All of the preceding films in the series, including this one, are works of fiction. But! The real-life serial killer Ed Gein served as inspiration for the original film. Gein, originally from Wisconsin, was known as “the Butcher of Plainfield.”
When authorities investigated Gein in the late 1950s, they found that he had murdered two women and was suspected of killing his own brother, though this was never established. Gein had apparently been exhuming bodies from local graveyards and turning body parts into souvenirs that he stored in his home. After his mother’s death in 1945, Gein moved out and began robbing cemeteries and defiling the remains.
Authorities searching Gein’s house discovered a skinned face and several severed heads of women. A confession from Gein revealed that he had used several of the severed heads as masks and that he had been working on a “woman suit” made of human skin to serve as a surrogate for his mother. (File under things I will always think of when I’m trying to sleep.)
Not only did Gein’s story inspire Norman Bates in Psycho and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, but Leatherface’s mask is an obvious homage to Gein’s human skin masks. Similar to how Leatherface’s crimes are very different from those of Gein. Leatherface’s weapon of choice in the first film was… you know; he and his cannibalistic family hunted, slaughtered, and often cooked their prey.
There is zero indication that Gein ever committed a murder with a chainsaw. And what of Gein, who, half a century later, feels the urge to write a sequel fuelled by his bloodlust? The good news is that he spent the next two decades of his life in a mental institution after being sent there in 1968 for his atrocities. So: no. Unless?? But no.
Just, Who is Leatherface?
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies feature a villain named Leatherface. Gunnar Hansen played the character for the first time in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), where he debuted with the masks and chainsaw that would become his trademark.
The Wisconsin murders of Ed Gein and the confessions of serial killer Elmer Wayne Henley served as inspiration for Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s creation of Leatherface. The character has now been adapted into novels, video games, and comic books, and has made cameo appearances in all nine films in the series, but usually not as the primary antagonist.
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The actor portraying the character had to not only accomplish the actions involved with the role but also offer emotional depth to the character while wearing a mask that substantially hid most of their features, earning the part a reputation for being physically and emotionally demanding. Gunnar Hansen, an Icelandic-American actor, became a prominent supporter of the character after playing him for the first time. There have been many additional actors and stuntmen who have played Leatherface since Hansen’s original depiction.
How Ed Gein inspired Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
WI serial killer Ed Gein was also known as “The Butcher of Plainfield.” He not only murdered villagers but also exhumed their remains and used various parts to make things like clothing and furniture.
Leatherface and his family were inspired by Gein, as Hooper explains in the video below. The story haunted him since he was a kid.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Plot
A grave robber takes multiple bodies from a cemetery in the early hours of August 18, 1973, in Newt, Muerto County, Texas. A local homeowner finds the robber’s macabre exhibition, which includes a decaying body and several body parts tied to a statue, as the sun rises.
Five young people, including Sally Hardesty, Jerry, Pam, Kirk, and Sally’s disabled brother Franklin, take a road trip throughout the area in a van. They make a pit stop at the cemetery to see if someone has touched the grave of Sally and Franklin’s grandfather, but it looks like they left it alone. Franklin tells the narrative of how the Hardestys came to be involved in animal killing as the group drives past a slaughterhouse.
During their ride, they pick up a hitchhiker who claims his family has slaughtered animals for generations. The hitchhiker hits Franklin and smears a bloody symbol on the side of the vehicle as he is kicked out of the van after the gang refuses to pay him for a photograph. The van pulls over to refuel, but the station owner informs them they are out of gas. The gang investigates the Hardesty family’s deserted home.
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