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“Buddy I’ve got the best job on the movie,” Dan Yeager says to Mike Morraco, one of his friends and P.A.’s on the set of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D. This was in response to Morraco looking at Yeager who appeared scared and asking if he was alright. Yeager was recently in a scene where actress Tania Raymonde blasts a shotgun at him through a barn door. The crew wants to blast a big hole in the door, and to keep it as real as possible they wanted Yeager to stand behind the door and pull the chainsaw out. They set up an explosive charge in the door and his buddy Steve, the stunt coordinator, was right there with a plexiglass shield. Wearing no protection except for some ear plugs, the blast goes off and Yeager rips out the chainsaw and runs away. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have a charge go off right next to you. I remember thinking, ‘This is insane but it’s so awesome to do.’”
There are many famous slasher film villains—from Ghostface delivering that dreaded phone call, to Jason Vorhees attacking young college kids at Camp Crystal Lake, to staying awake just so Freddy Krueger doesn’t get you. Even though we all know and love these great characters, there is only one original. The one man who is deranged and psychotic enough to wear other peoples skin as a mask! Of course I’m talking about Leatherface. Everyone not only got their first glimpse of this larger than life chainsaw wielding killer in 1974, but also their first glimpse of a new film genre—the Slasher movie. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has six films in it, and even helped launch Jessica Biel’s career.
Well guess what?
And, this time in 3D, so you can get up close and personal with Leatherface. And, behind every great character there is an equally great actor bringing him to life. Stepping behind Leatherface’s mask this time is Dan Yeager.
Growing up in Ohio with his brother and sisters, Yeager began enjoying horror movies by watching them with his father. “Back in Cleveland there were three weekly horror/monster movie shows on.” Among those were Hoolihan & Big Chuck, The Ghoul (Ron Sweed), and Saturday mornings was a guy who called himself “SuperHost.” Real name Marty Sullivan, he was a nerdy guy who dressed up in a Superman costume and showed a lot of Japanese monster movies, including classics like Wolfman and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Among those included Yeager’s favourite horror films 1931s Frankenstein and 1935s Bride Of Frankenstein.
Watching all these great classic films helped Yeager choose a career path. His brother and he would spend a lot of time down in the basement haunting it for the benefit of the neighbours. “We would invite them over and try and scare them. So I’ve always been playing someone else, I guess. That’s where it really started.” Many of his first “acting” roles came as an extra on various films in the mid ‘80s; he was determined to get on the set of anything that was being filmed in Las Vegas. Yeager later tried his shot at community theatre in Los Angeles at the Mayflower Club and the Moose Lodge. Although he enjoyed live acting and being rewarded in a much more immediate way, his passion has always been film, where he finds himself today.
While building sets for a friend on an ill faded television project, he met Producer Carl Mazzocone. They hit it off instantly having many things in common, one of those being their love of building stuff. Mazzocone who always has projects going on at his house invited Yeager to help him out, ignoring the fact that he was an actor. “I always saw how people, if they met a producer they just can’t seem to help themselves to beg them to put them in a movie. That’s just not me at all.”
While this was happening, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D was beginning to evolve. The first person to bring up the idea of Yeager playing Leatherface was Jeff Celentano, while the three of them were sitting in a cigar shop over in studio city. Celentano, who was also Yeager’s former acting teacher said, “You know who would make a good Leatherface? Dan over there.” Everyone nervously laughed it off but the seed was planted. A few months later Mazzocone talked to Yeager about the idea of playing the main role to kind of feel him out, and, of course, he said he could do it.
It was Christmas time and Mazzocone invited Yeager to a Christmas party at his house. He had already selected John Luessenhop to direct the film and they were already working on a script together. At the party, Yeager with his very serious demeanor, made an impression on Luessenhop. Even though World Wrestling Entertainment offered some of their talent for the Leatherface role, as well as some football players, that wasn’t the physical presence they were looking for. They wanted someone who looked like they grew up on a farm. During the party Luessenhop was talking to Mark Burg and he kept looking over Burg’s should at Yeager, who was standing across the room. He began to annoy Mark who said, “Man she better be good looking.” John told him he wasn’t looking at a woman but he was looking at Leatherface.
Receiving the honour of such a big role, Yeager put a lot of preparation in by studying the original Leatherface, actor Gunnar Hansen. “I studied everything he did because I thought it was important that we play the same character and people believe it’s the same guy.” Yeager took everything he could from Gunnar’s character and ran it through the filter of the new script. “This movie puts Leatherface through some profound life changes, but there are still some foundational elements to his character.”
Running with a chainsaw is a physical challenge, so after hitting the gym, he headed out to the movie set. Yeager arrived a week early in Louisiana with Stunt Coordinator Steve Griffin to detail the way Leatherface walked, as well as a few stunts—Yeager does all his own stunts in the film. There was one stunt the insurance company didn’t want him to do. The scene got cut, but it involved Yeager on the top of a swerving van.
For long time fans of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, Yeager promises that this film will be one of the best 3D movies you’ve ever seen. The story line is more in depth than just a regular slasher film. Plus if you are a returning fan, this film starts off where the last one left off, and the first few minutes of the film features footage from the original movie, which has also been transferred to 3D. If you’re looking for authenticity, well, look no further because they used the original set which was a highlight for Yeager. “You know one the surreal experiences of this movie was walking into the original Sawyer house.” Oh, and if Leatherface does survive this Massacre, Yeager is willing to reprise his role.
Next for Yeager are the fans. There is a huge appetite to meet Leatherface and he doesn’t plan to disappoint. He will be hitting the horror convention circuit very soon. After that he would like to take his talents behind the camera and make his directorial debut. “I hope that somebody will give me the chance to actually take the reins of a small inexpensive movie.” On Yeager’s list of projects, he would also like to remake the original Alastair Sim’s Christmas Carol. In my opinion I think he could pull off the role of “Scrooge” (I say that in a nice way, of course) just as well as he pulls off the role of legendary horror villain Leatherface.
By: Michael Ramey
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My family Christmas tree. Can you tell we like Supernatural? This years Christmas Angel is Castiel.
I wish it was Christmas today