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.
I 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
What was the most difficult thing for you to do as
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
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
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.
And Alfredo says, "Hey, Eddie." And Tex
replies, "G--dammit, call me Tex."
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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.
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
Do you remember what the episode of "Highway To Heaven"
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?
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
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
Did he and Jeff ever in conflict about what would look
better, like a "Maybe this angel would look better than this one" type
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
My pleasure, Royce, my pleasure.
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