Gunnar Hansen, ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ villain, dies at 68

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Actor Gunnar Hansen, who played the villain in 1974's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," has died at 68

The Icelandic-born actor was an unknown Texas graduate student when cast in the low-budget horror film

CNN  — 

Gunnar Hansen, who terrorized moviegoers as the psychotic, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface in 1974’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” has died at 68.

Hansen died Saturday evening of pancreatic cancer at his home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, according to his agent, Mike Eisenstadt, who described Hansen’s “Chainsaw” character as “one of the most iconic evil figures in the history of cinema.”

The Icelandic-born actor was an unknown graduate student in Texas when director Tobe Hooper cast him in the low-budget horror film, which became a cult hit and spawned three sequels, two remakes and a prequel.

Gunnar Hansen in 2004 at his home in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

In the film, Hansen’s Leatherface character and his relatives torment five young people who stumble upon their remote Texas home in search of gas for their car. Inspired partly by real-life serial killer Ed Gein, Leatherface wears a mask of human skin and uses a chainsaw to butcher his victims.

The movie’s final scene, where Leatherface dances maniacally on a lonely highway while spinning his chainsaw over his head, is one of the most indelible in horror-film history.

After the movie’s release, Hansen began a career as a writer and editor, although he eventually returned to acting – mostly in low-budget horror movies with titles like “Chainsaw Sally” and “Swarm of the Snakehead.”

At the time of his death he was developing “Death House,” a horror film he had written about a prison break at a secret underground government facility. The movie will be produced next year in Hansen’s memory, Eisenstadt said.

Hansen, left, as Leatherface in 1974's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Hansen was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, and moved to the United States when he was five, eventually settling with his family in Texas. In 2013 he published a book, “Chainsaw Confidential,” about his work on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” In the book Hansen wrote he was paid $400 for the film.

He is survived by his partner of 13 years, Betty Tower.

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