Viewer discretion is advised.
|The Texas Chainsaw Massacre character|
|First appearance:||The Texas Chain Saw Massacre|
|Last appearance:||Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning|
|Created by:||Kim Henkel & Tobe Hooper|
|Portrayed by:|| Gunnar Hansen|
(The Texas Chain Saw Massacre)
(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2)
R. A. Mihailoff
(Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III)
(Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation)
(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning)
Viewer discretion is advised.
Leatherface is the main antagonist from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre horror film series and its spin-offs. He wears masks made of human skin (hence his name) and engages in murder and cannibalism alongside his inbred family. He is considered by many to be one of the first major slasher film villains alongside Michael Myers and Norman Bates. Leatherface first appeared in the first film in the series and in its five subsequent continuations and remakes. Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein, who wore a mask made of human skin, partially inspired the character.
The original film never shows Leatherface without one of his human-flesh masks on. He differs from other horror film killers in that the film does not portray him as sadistic or as a rapist, but as mentally challenged. Leatherface does his killing at the behest of his family. Hansen has stated that Leatherface is "completely under the control of his family. He'll do whatever they tell him to do. He's a little bit afraid of them." In the documentary The Shocking Truth, Tobe Hooper portrays Leatherface as a "big baby" who kills in self-defense because he feels threatened. In the first film, Leatherface shows fear when new people enter his home.
Leatherface's family uses the bones of the people he kills (along with some animal bones) to build the inside of their house. They process the victims' flesh into barbecue and chili, which Leatherface's oldest brother, Drayton Sawyer, a skilled chef, sells at his restaurant/gas station, the "Last Chance" gas station. They also enter human-flesh dishes at cook-offs (according to the sequel, Drayton has won two cooking awards doing this). Aside from Leatherface and Drayton, the Sawyer clan includes several more brothers, a hitchhiker named Nubbins Sawyer, a Vietnam veteran known only as Chop Top, a hitchhiking cowboy named Eddie/Tex, a hook handed man named Tech/Tinker, a deranged pervert named Alfredo, a tow truck driver named Vilmer and a redneck named W.E., and asides from the brothers, the Sawyer clan includes the supercentarian Grandpa, the dead Grandma/Great-Grandma Sawyer (whose corpse has been preserved), a wheelchair bound mother called Mama and Leatherface's daughter (first name unknown).
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, a direct sequel to the 1974 film, has a more campy and over-the-top atmosphere than the original. Tobe Hooper said on The Shocking Truth that he wanted to expand on the dark comedy in the original film, as he felt no one truly picked up on this element. In this film, Leatherface develops a "crush" on one of his victims, and in one scene, removes the skin from the face of her still living friend and places it on her to hide her from the rest of his family. At the end of the film, he apparently dies in an explosion after being impaled with a chainsaw in a fight with the uncle of his previous victims from the first film.
In Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III the filmmakers attempted to make the series darker and grittier (much as the film-makers of the original had intended), but interventions from the MPAA had them tone it down and change the ending. New Line released an uncut version to the home-video market in 2003. In this film Leatherface has an extended family and a daughter - possibly from a rape. A four-issue comic series based on the film, entitled Leatherface, was created; notably, portions of the comics are narrated by and shown from Leatherface's point of view. It should be noted that famous horror actor Kane Hodder also played the stunt double Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation also apparently takes place in its own continuity, although the original film is mentioned in the opening prologue, in the same prologue it also references the other sequel films, as "two minor, yet apparently related incidents". The film features Leatherface as a yelping, pizza-eating transvestite involved in an Illuminati conspiracy to provide society a source of horror, and, again, with a different family, probably due to the fact that in the first three movies, the rest of his family has been killed or imprisoned.
Marcus Nispel directed a remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. Its success greenlit a prequel, released in 2006, which delved into the origins of Leatherface and of his sadistic and cannibalistic family. In this continuity, Leatherface has the name Thomas Brown Hewitt; his mother Sloane (last name and the identity and status of his father unknown) dies giving birth to him on August 7, 1939 at the Blair Meat Co., a slaughterhouse where she works, and her uncaring and cruel unnamed boss leaves the infant to die in a dumpster. Luda May Hewitt finds him and takes him home to raise him.
The Hewitts worked at the Blair Meat Co., but after losing their jobs and becoming poor they switched to kidnapping people, murdering them (often by chainsaw or shotgun) and butchering their flesh, as family member Charlie claims that he got the idea from eating human flesh in the Korean War after he became a prisoner of war. The prequel reveals that they do eat the meat of their victims; the remake only implies this.
Leatherface in this continuity suffers from a facial disfigurement and a skin disease that eats away most of his nose. Due to this disfigurement, his muteness and mental retardation (carried over from the first series), other children bullied the young Hewitt. Every day, kids would laugh at him and make fun of his mental retardation, which had the biggest impact on his life. When he was 15 years old he was walking to school when four kids ran up to him, threw him to the ground, took his lunch, dumped it on him and stole his face mask. When he went to school, he walked in and a few kids laughed at his face. He went to the kid who had his mask and tried to get it back, but the kid threw it in the garbage can, which made him furious. At age 17 he stopped attending school. The other children would beat him up and the teachers would ignore it. Hewitt's boss constantly made him angry by yelling at him for no reason. He wore a small leather mask to cover up his deformity, and worked at the same meat factory where he was born, for the same boss as his mother - the same man who had left him for dead. He also had a tendency toward self-mutilation, and a doctor diagnosed him as suffering from a type of neurodegeneration at age 12.
After health inspectors shut the factory down, Hewitt's boss and a reluctant co-worker ordered him to leave. When Hewitt didn't, the boss and the co-worker bullied him, calling him a "retard" and a "dumb animal". Acting on a long-burning rage, Hewitt killed his boss with a sledgehammer (he let the co worker, who was not present during the murder, live, and killed the boss after he left). He later discovered the chainsaw he used as a weapon after searching the now abandoned factory. When Winston Hoyt, the local sheriff, tried to apprehend him, Thomas' brother/"Uncle" Charles "Charlie" Hewitt Jr. came to his aid and killed the sheriff with his own gun. Charlie later assumed the sheriff's identity.
Hewitt later made masks of human skin by slicing off the faces of his victims.
Although Leatherface's family still manipulate him in this interpretation, they do show themselves somewhat more caring for him and less abusive than in the original film. Before killing the sheriff, his brother/uncle Charlie even defends him by saying, "He's not retarded, he's misunderstood." The cruelty he suffers at the hands of his peers, inpart, inspires his murderous behavior, however it's his brother/"Uncle" Charlie who encourages his violent anti-social behavior and impulses.
At the climax of the remake, protagonist Erin Hardesty cuts off Leatherface's chainsaw-wielding arm with a meat cleaver, and Erin is able to escape him, though Leatherface survives the cleaver attack. Leatherface escapes after police discover his ranch house and find the remains of 33 people. The police fail to secure the crime scene properly, allowing Leatherface to attack and kill two officers. Leatherface then escapes and disappears, and the case remains open.
Andrew Bryniarski, who played Leatherface in the remake, states: "In my estimation, Leatherface is like a beaten dog--he was ostracized and ridiculed, and treated harshly by his peers. The psychological damage they inflicted was immense--there's no chance for him." Terrence Evans, who played Leatherface's uncle Old Monty, says, "I think there was a chance Thomas' life could have been different. But the teasing he suffered, coupled with a bad temper, and following Hoyt around like a puppy dog, left room for Hoyt to get absolute control."
Leatherface became a prominent character in Wildstorm Comics' continuation of the remakes. With the family exposed after the events of the first film, the comics show the Hewitt family living in a series of tunnels in the sewers of Travis County.
As at the end of the remake, Leatherface in the comics has only one arm. Halfway through the first story arc, Leatherface's uncle Monty helps Leatherface build a "prosthetic arm" (consisting of a hook attached to a bone and tied to Leatherface's arm with a belt) to assist with his nephew's handicap. Leatherface later uses this hook in addition to his chainsaw on victims, at one point spearing a man's leg to prevent him from escaping.
The comics also imply that the other people in the town, while perhaps not involved with the Hewitts' cannibalism, at least know of it and have agreed to help them deal with outsiders. In one scene, when a potential victim runs into a bar looking for help, she is stopped from calling the police by the owner and patrons, who tell her that they "don't want no Hewitt trouble." They later reprimand Leatherface for not looking after his "livestock."
Later one-shot comics published by Wildstorm also dealt with Leatherface. One of them, About a Boy, focused on parts of Leatherface's childhood that The Beginning did not reveal. It shows that bullies severely picked on Thomas Hewitt as a child, and thus he spent most of his time alone drawing in his notebook, hunting and skinning animals, and later making clothing out of them. A foreshadowing of his future as Leatherface takes place when, after the book's antagonist, Chris, the leader of the bullies, throws rocks at him at a swimming-hole, Thomas attacks Chris and skins off his face while he is still alive.
About a Boy also details how the Hewitt family remain for the most part apathetic towards Thomas's actions. His brother/uncle Charlie (the future Hoyt) helps him get rid of Chris's body (his only criticism stating that Thomas needs to "learn how to fix 'em proper", after putting the faceless victim out of his misery with a shotgun). Later, after Thomas's teacher Mr. Hanson questions Luda May about her son's behavior and tells her that he plans to file a report with the city to get him some help, Luda May bashes his head in with a shovel and kills him, stating, "There is nothing wrong with my boy."
In the original film, Leatherface wore three different masks: the "Killing Mask", "Grandmother Mask" and "Pretty Woman Mask". Gunnar Hansen commented: "The reason he wore a mask, according to Tobe and Kim, was that the mask really determined his personality. Who he wanted to be that day determined what mask he put on. So when the Cook comes home with Sally, Leatherface is wearing the 'Grandmother Mask' and he's wearing an apron and carrying a wooden spoon, he wants to be domestic, helpful in the kitchen. At dinner he wears a different face, the 'Pretty Woman,' which has makeup." Also of note, the 'Pretty Woman' outfit consists of a female wig and a black suit, as Leatherface is "dressing up" for dinner, an old deep south tradition which stems from his southern upbringing, and the 'Killing Mask' is the skin mask he wears while chasing and murdering captives. Tobe Hooper also discussed the multiple masks and dinner scene on the audio commentary for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Hansen later added, "The idea of the mask is that there is no personality under the mask. That was the idea in talking with Tobe and Kim. When they created the character, they said he has to put on masks to express himself because he himself can't do it. The way we tried to create him, there is nothing under the mask, which is what makes him so frightening."
The remake offered a more concrete explanation as to why Leatherface wore masks. As a child, a severe facial deformity ate away most of his nose and made him subject to cruel ridicule from his peers. Prior to killing people, he wore animal hides, cloths and leather masks that covered up the bottom of his face. Later he began to skin some of the people he killed and wore their faces as masks. In contrast to the original film, Leatherface does not seem to have different masks for different purposes, although he does change masks occasionally. He appears briefly without his mask on in one scene of remake, his face suffers badly from deterioration and he is missing a portion of his nose.
The Wildstorm comics that took place in the remake's continuity had Leatherface taking off his mask when alone with his family, something that did not occur in any of the original films.
Leatherface never spoke in any of the films or comics, which portray him as mute. In the first film he tells his brother Drayton Sawyer (who confronted him about a missing door) through gibberish about how he killed everyone and broke it while chasing them—he spoke no English (except "uh uh," meaning "no," when Drayton asked if any of them "got away"), but Drayton appeared to understand him. Often in films Leatherface would yell and make strange sounds as a form of communication. He was notable for being one of the few silent horror-film villains that makes noise: compare Michael Myers, who remains almost always completely silent (the only two exceptions being the remake where Myers speaks as a child for the first few minutes of the film before becoming silent altogether and in the director's cut of the 2009 sequel in which he yells "Die!" before stabbing Dr. Sam Loomis in the chest), and Jason Voorhees, who didn't speak except in a flashback to his childhood and in a brief scene in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan while in the sewers facing a torrent of toxic waste coming right at him, and unmasked Jason screams out in a child's voice. Another silent movement similarity between Leatherface and Myers involves the "head tilting sideways": Myers tilts his head two or three times while observing a corpse or after someone addresses him. Leatherface does a slightly different tilt: he licks his teeth while doing so.
Leatherface's grandfather also exhibits the trait of muteness: unlike Leatherface, Grandpa never makes any vocal sounds. How his family understand him remains unknown. Though Leatherface tries to speak, he cannot due to his limited intelligence (which causes various characters in the films to call him a "retard"). He cannot enunciate comprehensible words, and only his family understands his yells and grunts.