Sunday, 20 April 2014

The young man behind the old mask - An interview with 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' star, John Dugan.

"Pam! I shouted... Pam, where the hell are you?!" 

She been gone for an hour now, our car had broken down on the way to a party and she went to ask for directions at this house we'd passed along the way... It looked creepy, but she wasn't scared, not like me... I didn't want to go there so I opted to stay with the car... With the radio on full blast, praying that someone would pass and give me a hand... Anything not to have to go to that weird looking house... But now, here I was, making my way there... Pam and I had been friends for too long for me to leave her, although admittedly it had crossed my mind.                                                                                                                                                                I walked through the gate, There was something sticky on it, I wiped it on my trousers, probably oil, I thought, damn these were new jeans....

I tentatively stepped onto the old porch and knocked on the door... I could here laughing inside, my heart raced, I wanted to tuen and run, but I thought of Pam... I heard foot steps and a male voice proclaiming "I'll get it"... And then the door handle turned and my heart felt like it would explode in my chest... The door jarred and who ever was behind it started struggling to open it... This was my chance I thought, but no... I must stay and find my friend...

The laughter continued inside the house and the man struggled with the door, I couldn't distinguish male from female and certainly couldn't pick out Pam... 

Tears of utter fear welled up in my eyes as the door suddenly broke free of its jam and sprang open... I looked up at the figure... Oh god I thought, was this the end?

I looked up, closed my eyes for a second and looked again... Oh my god... Oh my freakin' god... This was no slacked jawed yokel, ready to chop me up... 
This man in front of me, of whom I was so terrified, was none other than John Dugan, star of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre... And behind him laughing and joking was Pam and others... "Sorry!" Called Pam "did I worry you? I was having such a great time, come in and chat!"  

John Dugan (born 1940) is an American actor, best known for his role in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) as Grandpa Sawyer. He also did a cameo as a police man at the end of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994). [Wikipeadia] 

 John passed me a beer and we started chatting... Well I started asking questions...

Now, you were only a kid when you played the old man...     you were actually younger than your on screen 'grandson'
"I was the youngest cast member, at 20 years of age, playing the oldest
cast member."

I heard that after getting into the old-age makeup, you decided that he did not ever want to go through the process again, meaning that all the scenes with him had to be filmed in the same session before he could take the makeup off. Exactly how bad was it?
"Firstly, they only had two sets of the make-up prosthetics, and I shot for two days. It was extremely uncomfortable. The summer Texas heat plus the added heat of all the lights and the lack of ventilation made it damned near unbearable. 
I would actually be afraid to attempt the same thing at my age now, for fear of heat stroke."

... and on top of that, you were in make up for five hours!?
"Actually, the first time it took seven hours, and the second time they got it down to five hours to apply."  

Did you ever think you would pass out? 
"I never really thought I was going to pass out at any point during shooting, I  was in great shape being 20 years old."  

You filmed for 36 hours straight, how many breaks did you take?
"There were a lot of setups, so we took breaks often.  However, I couldn't  remove the makeup.  
Did you manage to get any sleep in all that time? 
I did not sleep at all during that time, but I could get into a meditative sleep and kind of "zone out" if I needed to."

We both suddenly became aware of a faint wurring sound, like a food mixer... Time for Magarita's maybe? 

The film was shot in chronological order, apart from your part, did the rest of the cast mind?
"I didn't realize that the film was shot in chronological order, and films are  rarely shot that way.  I don't believe anyone minded but you would have to ask them to be certain." 

How was Tobe Hooper to work for? How did he feel after 36 hours?
"Tobe was great!  Tobe knew what he wanted and he was very focused to get what he wanted out of us. And after 36 hours, he probably could have gone another 36."

But Edwin Neal, who played the Hitchhiker, said that making the film was more miserable than his service in Vietnam and said that he might kill director Tobe Hooper if he ever saw him again.... How do you feel about him?
"I was angry for years about not having been asked to do any subsequent films, but at this point in time I would be very happy to see him." 

That's nice, I thought...

The script was entitled "Leatherface." At various points before the film's  release, the title was switched to  "Stalking Leatherface", "Head Cheese" and  finally "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre", which is the title you prefer? 
"Head Cheese, absolutely, because that was the title page of my script."

I heard that a family was actually living in the house that served as the Sawyer family house.Was it true that they rented out their house to the film crew and continued to stay there during the entire shoot? Is this true, what were they like? How did they react to you guys? 
"No, I don't think they stayed.  I remember meeting some of them briefly, they were kind of an extended hippie family living a communal life. I remember there were pot plants growing the back yard.  They seemed fine having us there."  

 ... And during filming, the crew discovered that one of the residents had been cultivating a marijuana field; fearful that production would be shut down if they were found near the  plants, the filmmakers called the Sheriff, who never arrived to investigate.
"I was fully aware of the marijuana plants there.  I know nothing of the sheriff being called at the time."
I also heard that the human skeleton in the house at the end of the movie was a real human skeleton.
"Yes I was aware that most of the bones on set were human remains and that they were from India.  We were all aware of that."  

During the dinner scene towards the end of the film, you have to repeatedly use a mallet to smash Sally's head in. I know it didn't show an actually contact, but did you use a real mallet?
"The mallet wasn't real but the handle was, and there was an incident where I accidentally cut her scalp with the handle." 
OOOh... was she ok?
"Marilyn was fine, just a small nick with a touch of blood"

And is it true that they actually had to cut Marilyn Burns finger as the prop wouldn't work? Did you suck her actual blood then?
"Yes apparently I did, but I was not made aware of this fact until last year at a convention in Atlanta."

There was that noise again, but no Magarita's... ahh... It didn't matter, I was enjoying that chat and the ice cold beer. 

Some urban legends say that the the "real" Texas Chainsaw Massacre took place near Poth, do you know the truth? Or the supposed truth?
"Yes, I do know the truth."  
Which is...?
"The true story behind the killings is that it is complete fiction..."

Since the film's original release, the location used as the Sawyer family  house has changed completely. It's now an open field, with no indication there had ever been a house there... Have you ever revisited?
"No, but I will be visiting at the end of the summer with the remaining cast for a reunion event."

So, how often do you see the rest of the cast?
"I probably see everyone about once a year, but not always at the same time." 

The film's distributors Bryantson Pictures were allegedly discovered to have Mafia connections, that must have been a surprising discovery... Or were there any hints? 
"The distribution process came after we finished filming and we had no part in any of it.  I didn't find out until years later about the apparent connections."  

According to John Larroquette, his payment for doing the opening narration was a marijuana joint. Did you get a whole bag?! Seriously though, on such a small budget, What did you get paid?
"Suffice it to say, not enough."

How do you think the other films stand up again the original? 
"I haven't seen all of them, but from what I have seen the original is by far the best."

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ranks at #1 in Slant Magazine's Top 100 Greatest Horror 
Movies of all time. What's your number 1 film? Horror or otherwise? 
"I don't really have a "favorite movie."  I love all genres of movies and it would be impossible to pick just one." 

Would you like to work within other genres, or stick to horror? 
"I'm an actor, I will do anything."

But why predominantly horror?
"Because that's what I get asked to do."

So, lastly...  if they were real, what do you think the Sawyer family would be doing today?
"Probably they would own their own meat market.  Hehe..."

I finished my beer, it had been great, but we were still late for the party, I looked around for Pam, had she already called the breakdown service? I thought... But she was not there... No one was there... I looked at John, he looked as scared as me... Those noises were getting louder... That was no food mixer... We ran to the door... Shit, it had jammed again... 

"Pull! pull!" I screamed at John... Finally the door broke free... But not before we had caught a glimpse of what was following us... It was leather face himself, brandishing a chainsaw in on hand and Pam's head in the other... 

We ran out onto the road... this was the part of the movie when a truck was meant to come passed and save us... But there was was no bloody truck... John and I panicked and ran off into the fields with the roaring sound of a chainsaw behind us and I knew for certain that I was never going to make that party....


  1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still one of my favorite movies to this day! Nice post. I'm nominating you for the Liebster Award! To find out more about what this means visit my website:

  2. Nicely done. Great behind-the-scenes anecdotes!