Date: November 22, 2005
AUSTIN, Texas — Throughout the history of film, a handful of noises have emerged that are immediately reminiscent of the movies they hail from: the whir of a “Star Wars” lightsaber, the “um-hum” of Billy Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade” character and the whistles in “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” to name a few.
Similarly, when you walk onto a dilapidated movie set and hear the “chugga-chugga-ROAR” of a chain saw, you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. And in case you need one more auditory clue, give it a few seconds — the familiar, terrified shriek is sure to follow.
“That’s the first chain-saw kill,” reported producer Brad Fuller with a deranged glint in his eyes. “You will also see the first murder for the Hewitt family, which is part of this movie.”
It’s just another day at the office for the crew of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” the prequel currently shooting in a small Texas town near Austin. Set four years before the Jessica Biel-powered remake of 2003, this film will slash its way into theaters next year after taking on the intriguing assignment of giving us the back story of the franchise’s homicidal Hewitt clan.
“It’s a prequel to a remake,” laughed Matthew Bomer (“Flightplan”), one of the movie’s aforementioned shriekers. “A lot of what we’re doing is answering questions people may have about these characters. How did they get to be as maniacal as they are? We’re definitely upping the violence factor and the gore factor [and] taking that to the next level.”
The film begins with Eric (Bomer) driving his brother Dean (Taylor Handley of “The O.C.”) to enlist in the Marines during the Vietnam War. Looking for one last fling before they leave, the boys talk girlfriends Bailey (Diora Baird of “Wedding Crashers”) and Chrissie (Jordana Brewster of “The Fast and the Furious”) into taking a drive across Texas. After some troublesome bikers run them off the road, Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey, returning from the previous film) encounters the group and murders a biker while the hidden Chrissie watches. Soon, Hoyt and young Thomas (Andrew Bryniarski, returning as Leatherface) have lured the group back to their sinister home, where the entire family has begun its descent into homicidal madness.
“I wanted to tell the story of a guy who gets pushed to kill,” director Jonathan Liebesman (“Darkness Falls”) said of Leatherface. “It’s a story about how he gets pushed to that point.”
That story might even include flashbacks to earlier moments in the life of little Leatherface. “It does start early on,” he said. “There may be some of that. Wait and see what survives the edit.”
“I handle the chain saw, which I did for the first time two days ago,” said Brewster, scabs and dried blood accentuating her designer jeans and red (possibly once white?) tank top. “My mom was on set that day, so she was a little scared. She didn’t realize that the blade wasn’t on there.”
On this particular day a veritable cornucopia of major “Chainsaw” moments is being committed to film. We learn how Monty (Terrence Evans) loses his legs, how Leatherface chooses his first skin mask and how the group comes to justify its cannibalism.
“The Tea Lady [is back],” said producer Andrew Form of the returning cast of creeps. “Henrietta from the trailer, Luda Mae, Old Monty — the whole family’s back.”
“You learn how R. Lee Ermey becomes the sheriff,” said Fuller, offering another one of the movie’s revelations.
But, as all are quick to point out, such prequel details won’t get in the way of the expected screaming, sawing and suffering. “I basically get tortured the entire movie, in so many different ways,” Baird said. “I mean, in the car accident I get pretty messed up. Chrissie’s kind of out and about doing her thing. And I’m really the only girl in the house. So I’m like the doll that gets tied up.
“I’m tied to a hoe,” she continued. “I tried to get away from the house, so they kind of teach me a lesson.”
“There’s a scene where my brother and I are being tortured pretty violently,” Bomer said, not wanting to be outdone. “It doesn’t involve a chain saw. It’s more brutal than that. It’s R. Lee with several different weapons — homemade weapons, on my brother and me while we’re tied up.”
Fans of the original 1974 “Massacre,” meanwhile, will be pleased to hear that the filmmakers hope John Larroquette will deliver another trademark opening scroll-reading. (“We’d love to,” Fuller said. “That’s like, 4,000 problems away.”) Series originators Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper have both given the production their blessing (Henkel has visited the set; Hooper is making plans to do the same). And, if the result of their efforts is a success along the lines of the 2003 film ($28 million opening, $80 million total U.S. gross), the filmmakers insist that there’s always room to wedge in at least one more movie that could occur between ’69 and ’73.
“If there was another movie, that’s where it would go,” Form said.
After thinking for a moment, Fuller chuckles and offers a breakdown: “It would be a sequel to a prequel of a remake.”