R.A. Mihailoff
Interviewed by Royce Freeman


R.A. Mihailoff, who took up the mighty chainsaw for the title role in 1990's Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part III, was kind enough to participate in a recent interview conducted by Royce Freeman. Many thanks to Mr. Mihailoff for his time and candor in this lengthy and informative exchange.

Describe the situation that led you to your getting the job of playing Leatherface.

R.A. MihailoffI knew Jeff Burr from the time he was a student at USC. And we began a working relationship at that time and it carried out through and until he got Leatherface and then he brought me in.

Why did the filming not occur in Texas?

That question I do not have the definitive answer, but I assume that the production company thought it would be more cost effective to shoot the film in the Los Angeles area.

What production company produced Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part III?

The actually production company that produced it was called Nicholas Entertainment but it was a subsidy of New Line Cinema.

What was the most difficult thing for you to do as Leatherface?

Very good question, Royce, very good question. Let me see. You mean physically or emotionally?

Well, consider it a two-part question. Whatever you care to tell.

Emotionally, nothing was difficult. Physically, nothing of any consequence really. The mask itself limited my peripheral vision, and that was the only bothersome thing.

On the audio commentary over the laserdisc of Leatherface, director Jeff Burr and you are talking about footage that was cut out from the scene where you are trying to seduce the character Michelle? What was cut and why?

I think I was feeling her up, rubbing her thighs.

Was it cut because of being too sick for the screen?

I do not know if it was cut for artistic reasons or if it was cut simply to shorten the film.

Shorten the film? The film was short enough, it was something like 83 minutes. That's short enough, don't you think?

That's true. It was somewhat short.

They were trying to be as short as the first movie, they were definitely accomplishing that.

I can't really say why it was cut. I wasn't involved in the editing and I don't really know.

Well, I am sure Jeff Burr would have the answer to that.

Yeah, I'm sure Jeff would.

Yes, I will be sure to ask him when I interview him.

Can we skip back one question?

Yeah sure, why not? Go right ahead.

As far as difficult, even though the mask was, you know, a bit bothersome. It was by no means, you know, anything I wouldn't do again. You know what I'm saying?

Yes, I do.

It's purely statement of fact, that once you put a mask on, your vision is, y'know --

Cause if the mask moves somewhat in the eye area, it blocks your vision.

Yeah, well it does. It just does by the fact that it is a mask.

Which means you can only see through the eye-holes in the mask.

That's right.

You can't see in the corner of your eye?

Exactly, peripheral vision.

Were there any things that were cut because of time and not the MPAA? I mean were there certain scenes that you remember filming but you never really saw them?

Good question, Royce. Let me see here. To tell you the truth, no. I can't think of anything that I filmed personally that I believe was cut for time reasons other than what you just asked about a moment ago.

Why was Alfredo and Tex's relationship made a mystery as opposed to the original script? Originally, they had Tex come up to Alfredo and say, "Hey, Alfredo, got a beer?" And basically they showed a broader gas station and they also shower a broader relationship with Alfredo as if they knew each other.

You're right.

And Alfredo says, "Hey, Eddie." And Tex replies, "G--dammit, call me Tex."

Ah, yeah.

Did they wanna be more suspenseful like the first? Where you really didn't know who anybody was?

Can't answer. I wasn't part of that decision making process. If it was in fact a conscious decision, I don't know.

Was there anything ad-libbed that you did? Any specific motion. I mean, there is only so much you can read in the script. I mean, the hitchhiker in the first movie. It said that the hitchhiker runs up and grabs Sally. But Ed Neal had the idea, and he just ad-libbed it out of nowhere, and Tobe Hooper keeps the camera rolling to see what is going on. But Ed Neal has the idea to whip out his switchblade and starts to chop at her as he runs. It is his original idea.

There's your answer. That whole scene with the 'Speak And Spell' was ad-libbed.

But you had to tell the director and producer ahead of time. I mean, was there anything that was ad-libbed right on screen. Like suddenly you decide to do one thing and you did it?

Ah, yeah. When I first get the chainsaw in the kitchen--

You start feeling it up and stuff.

Well, yeah but what's adlibbed and what's just acting, I don't know. Ah, there's a little thing that I do when I first grab it, and pick it up off the table and swing it around.

And you point it at Michelle.

Well, no. I almost hit Viggo in the head with the thing and he ducks under.

But that was filmed?

Yes, it was.

Are there any people from the movie that you know personally as friends? Where do you know them from?

Bill Butler, I run into him on occasion. Kane Hodder, I run into on occasion. The special effects guys.

Greg Nicotero.

Yeah, all the KNB guys I run into on occasion. David J. Schow, and I make an effort to get together once and while. Joe Unger.

Dwayne Whitaker.

Ah yes, I see Dwayne every once and a while.

And that cop guy, the state patrol man.

The cop guy is one of my best friends.

Y'all are college buddies, right?

No, we basically began our careers, professional careers together.

Was there any film that you all worked on before this?

Not before, many years before. Myself, David Cloud, one of the guys in the body pit, and Mike Wiles the Texas Ranger.

So, Dwayne Whitaker and the other guy in the body pit were both people you knew.

David Cloud. I met Dwayne Whitaker a few year later.

What was the film you worked on together?

The three of us worked on Jeff Burr's student film at USC. A film that he co-directed with another person named Kevin Meyer.

What do director's do with their student films if they are any good?

Well, the film we just spoke of, the name of it is Divided We Fall. And they sent it to several festivals. And it we given many awards.

Do student film ever get picked up and released on to home video nationwide?

A perfect explain would be George Lucas' very first film (THX-1138). It began as a student film at USC.

Did Jeff's film ever make it video?

That I don't know. He'd have to answer that question.

Have you ever considered playing Leatherface again?

Absolutely, I'd love to.

You're a little more enthusiastic about it than Gunnar Hansen? He's like, "If the price is right." And you're more like, "If the story's right."

Yeah, exactly.

The original cast from the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre all seem to be living as hermits, hiding from the public. Well, not totally, but for the most part keeping from the spotlight.

I don't know, I know Gunnar. I like him, I like a lot. I consider him a friend of mine.

That's good. I emailed him about an interview and I was talking with him and he said we could chit-chat back and forth via email, but there would be no interview at this present. He said he was taking a long hiatus from interviews for a while. But when I asked him if would ever consider playing Leatherface again, I mentioned how I was writing a script just to see what he'd say, and he said to me that he'd see what happens when the script get accepted.

Right.

On to the next question. What are other films that you have done and what are your thoughts on them?

Let's see, other films I've done. Let's see, I did a movie called License To Drive with Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. I did a movie called Moving Violations. I did a movie called Pumpkinhead 2. One called Stripteaser. I didn't know I'd have to have my resume in front of me for this. I've done T.V. shows. I did "Highway to Heaven."

Oh, you did.

Oh, yeah. I did an episode of "Highway To Heaven" and an episode of "First and Ten," that football show on HBO.

Do you remember what the episode of "Highway To Heaven" was called?

Yeah, it was called "Dolphin Song For Lee."

And your views on these projects.

What's my thought on them, well, I'm happy. Glad to work whenever I can.

What actually makes you decide whether you want the part or not? Your agent, you, or money? I mean everyone has to eat, so money is a factor.

Basically whether it's a picture made under the Screen Actor's Guild is a major consideration.

To make sure you're not cheated?

Basically. To have that union protection and things like that. The union provides a certain set of standards that have to be maintained and followed. And so those are important things to consider.

What would you have thought if Leatherface was released with an X-rating? I mean they could have done it right?

Personally, I don't think if Leatherface had been released X-Rated or NC-17 I don't think it would have affected my career at all. But I don't think it ever would have been released X-Rated or NC-17 for the pure and simple fact that with an X-Rated film or a NC-17 film, certain theaters will not play the movie, certain video stores will not rent the movie, and certain newspapers will not advertise the movie. And therefore to get a wide release of any kind and to maximize the return on their investment. Y'know that was out of the question.

Was there any gore that should have been cut by the MPAA but was not due to them overlooking it?

I can't answer. I've never personally dealt with the MPAA and I have no idea how things go when you do meet them, so I have no clue; I have no answer.

Do you know who brings the film to the MPAA? Is it the producer or director?

That's another question for Jeff Burr.

How old were you when the first Texas Chainsaw came out?

Let's see, what year did it come out?

1973.

So that would have made me twenty years old when it came out. I probably saw it within the first year or two after it was originally released. So, I had to be around twenty or twenty-one when I saw it.

Gunnar Hansen once said in an interview that took this woman he liked to see the original Chainsaw in 1974. After seeing the film he took her home. And she stepped into her doorway and slammed the door in his face, never speaking to him again. Has this given you popularity or scared people away from you?

It's only increased my popularity.

Have you ever acted with any other people who have been in any of the Chainsaw films? If so, what films?

Mike Wiles, the guy I mentioned earlier, of course we did that student film together. We also did a Full Moon Entertainment movie called Trancers 3. And Caroline Williams when she did the cameo apperance in Leatherface. Dwayne Whitaker actually wrote Stripteaser one of the films I mentioned earlier. He actually was in it, and wrote it. He played a small part in it. Joe Unger and I were in Pumpkinhead 2. Kane Hodder was in Pumpkinhead 2.

As an actor or just as a stuntman?

As an actor, actually.

What was it like working with the family? Did the working conditions that you were exposed to affect the way the film was presented? Did you in ways become the family?

No.

In the first Texas Chainsaw movie, the actors said that the hot Texas climate and the 110 degree temperature inside the house made them somewhat crazy. They filmed it in an old German house near Austin and the conditions were really extreme, and they actually were experiencing the conditions that the family were.

Our house was a constructed set.

So, you had air conditioning in the house.

Yes, I believe we did. Plus we had sit-down catered meals. Y'know, trailers. All the good stuff that came with the job.

Did you have to put on any make-up on underneath the mask besides the teeth?

Yes, around the edges of my mouth and my eyes where my flesh actually showed through the mask. I had prosthetic application.

Now you have a mustache and beard. Did you have to shave it off for the film?

Yes, I did. But if I could have gotten away with not shaving it off, I would have certainly prefered to keep it. I do not really like to shave.

Who did the opening crawl narration? It obviously wasn't John Laroquette.

No, it was, I believe it was a comany that specialized in looping and voice overs.

How long did the film take to shoot?

I believe including the re-shoots, it took approximately 6-8 weeks.

Have you seen the film with the original ending they shot?

You know what, I don't think that I have to tell you the truth. No, I think I've only seen the finished film.

Do you think the ending that was released matched the theme that had been established throughout the rest of the film?

Well, halfway into filming the President of New Line Cinema, Bob Shaye decided that he liked the character that Ken Foree played so much that he wanted him to live so he could come back in a sequel.

What made them decide not to go along with Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4? Five years after Leatherface came out, Kim Henkel directed the fourth film. Why did New Line Cinema wait so long and end up not making it?

They were scheduled to make Parts 4 and 5, and I had a contract option to return as Leatherface in Parts 4 and 5. I gladly would have played it.

Would David Schow have written these?

That I don't know the answer to. He probably would have been one of the choices I'm sure. Who would have gotten the final nod, I have no idea. But it was my understanding that at the time Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part III was filmed and readied for release, there were individuals inside New Line who wanted to take the company away from the expoit of horror films. And even though Bob Shaye did own the company and was a fan of horror, he did not end up with the final say.

If the film was released totally uncut with everything put back in, how long would it be as opposed to its 82 minute theatrical release?

Another question for Jeff Burr. But it is a general rule of thumb, that for every page on the shooting script, that would equal one minute of film. It is not always the case but it does usually end up approximately a page per minute.

Was it you playing Leatherface at the end of the theatrical cut where he steps into frame and just revs up the chainsaw?

Yes, that was me.

Who paid your salary for that scene, since it wasn't in your original contract?

The producers paid me for one day of work.

So you they paid you by days or hours?

Days.

So, it worked out good.

It's actually worked out very nicely for me. It was a nice little gimme. They didn't really need to bring me back for that day.

Didn't they need you for that scene?

They could have had anybody.

I guess they were just trying to be considerate.

Yeah, they were nice. Bob Engelman was being nice to me that day.

So, is Nicholas Entertainment his subsidary company of New Line?

No, he's a hired hand. Nicholas Entertainment was just a company made up for purposes of book keeping and taxes. It is really New Line Cinema.

You know it's always cool when the director, or writer or someone who works on the film acts in it and gets killed off by the killer.

If you'll refer back to a earlier question. That's exactly what Dwayne Whitaker did on Stripteaser.

Please detail the killer and his motivation in that movie.

The character was a deranged individual who comes into a strip joint and creates a hostage situation.

Was that you?

No, I was the bartender. And Dwayne wrote it and did the same thing, he played a small part in the movie just for a kick.

Do you think that the writer could intentionally write a character to be played by himself, and then tell them that they'll act in the scene for free if they just get screen time? That's usually music to a director's ear.

Producer's ear.

Really, I thought it was the director. Do you think the director's are more friendly and on the set with you, and gets personal. But the producer, is he always on the set? Have any producers you've worked with ever been on the set?

Well, yeah. Bob Engelman was on the set all the time.

Did he and Jeff ever in conflict about what would look better, like a "Maybe this angel would look better than this one" type thing?

I really don't know. Another question for Jeff.

Did you see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part II? And if so, what did you think of it?

Yes, I did see it. But out of the three films I saw, it was my least favorite. Mostly because I did not like some of the humor in the film. I don't really like the mixture or horror and humor.

Well, thank you so much for taking your time and doing this interview.

My pleasure, Royce, my pleasure.



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