SHOOTING THE FILM
With the core cast members on board, filmmakers turned their attention to developing the chemistry between them. "It came together fairly quickly, compared to other movies we've done," says Fuller. "And the overall chemistry of the kids was tested with the first week of the movie because the first scenes between both couples were the more intimate sequences. The movie sinks or swims based on the audience's ability to believe they care about one another."
After watching all the dailies from Marcus Nispel's 2003 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, director Jonathan Liebesman was particularly struck by the dedication of the actors. He soon learned there was a Platinum Dunes method for establishing the bond between cast members.
On The Texas Chainsaw Massacre the filmmakers made sure Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel and Eric Balfour spent significant time together before a frame of film was shot. The results of that effort were so positive the filmmakers were adamant about repeating the exercise with their new cast and have since adopted it as company policy.
"It's very important to take the time for something like this, especially when the characters have a solid connection, bonded by lifelong friendships or strong relationships," says Michael Bay. "Sometimes it takes weeks to get that kind of genuine feeling between actors, so I'm pretty adamant that we get people hanging out together early on so that they can start to become friends and get to know little nuances about each other. It makes the group more cohesive."
Brewster, Baird, Handley and Bomer joined the filmmakers in Austin, Texas two weeks before principal photography. "We all spent a lot of time together," explains producer Andrew Form. "Not rehearsing, but going to lunch and dinner, seeing movies, shopping, going out at night, spending some quality time, just so that everyone could get to know each other. We've been lucky that the bonding we encouraged made a difference on screen."
The Sunday before cameras rolled, Bay, his partners and director Liebesman took the young cast members out to the Hewitt house - the same house used in the 2003 film. Built in 1854, the house sits on a 750-acre farm in Texas. Vacant since the 1960s, the house remained untouched since the film company last shot there in September of 2002. Happily for the producers, it had lost none of its creepiness. This time around, audiences will be able to see more of the property, including the upstairs bedrooms, a small, detached garage and acreage surrounding the house, all of which were not used in the first film.
"We gave the actors an initial tour, and then Michael, Brad and I went off and discussed some scenes and let them walk around by themselves and explore and get the lay of the land," says Andrew Form.
"Going there without crew, without lights and equipment and 100 people running around and all the distractions really set the tone because it's such a spooky place," he continues. "That house has a history and you feel it when you're in there. Filming at the house just elevates the material."
After the first movie, fans sought out the house, prompting the owners to call local authorities from time to time to get people to leave the property.
Another favorite location to which the filmmakers returned was an 1887 cotton gin 45 minutes south of town in Martindale. Used as the Hewitt basement as well as the slaughterhouse, the location offers both exterior and interior possibilities. It also afforded the cast and crew a beautiful, peaceful spot on the water (where the opening lake sequence of the first film was filmed in 2002) to sit and breath between constant takes of torture and pain.
"You take off the headphones, walk down to the water and remind yourself that you're just making a movie," Brad Fuller laughs. "It's a beautiful location and we just couldn't bear going back to the actual slaughterhouse we filmed in on the last show."
"We put Jessica Biel in a real meat freezer and that was tough because the entire place smelled," explains Andrew Form. "It was hard on everyone and we didn't want to put people through that again. Besides, the place looked too modern and this film opens in 1939, so we needed to create a slaughterhouse from that period that we could transform into a rundown, rickety version 30 years later when it goes out of business in the late 60's."
To create the look of the film, Marco Rubeo, the son of eminent production designer Bruno Rubeo (Driving Miss Daisy), was moved up the ranks from art director to production design his first major motion picture. The producers recognized his talents after he acted as the art director on The Amityville Horror and thought it was the right time for Rubeo to step up to the plate. Not only did Rubeo have to replicate many of the sets from the 2003 film, he also had to take them back in time a few years, making slight yet noticeable changes, as well as create some of his own, new sets.
The filmmakers gave Rubeo and his design team, as well as director Jonathan Liebesman and director of photography, Lukas Ettlin, copies of the DVD of their first film to study the locations and the overall look of the movie. They needed their new team to take over where director Marcus Nispel, cinematographer Daniel Pearl and production designer Greg Blair left off - a big challenge to be sure, given the many accolades the 2003 film earned.
Once Jonathan Liebesman had been hired, discussions began about who to hire as the cinematographer. He was quick to ask for his good friend and long-time associate, Lukas Ettlin, who had shot every student film Liebesman made, garnering both of them numerous awards over the years.
Form and Fuller readily admit that his request was not taken all that seriously at first. "We laughed," confesses Fuller. "We told him, 'That will never happen, so get the idea out of your head.' It was a stretch to give a director who has only made one film a DP who's never made a major movie, but Michael Bay was not as worried as we were. It just seemed like a very challenging and demanding proposition."
"We sat down with Lukas and found that he had a great take on the film," Fuller continues. "He understood the look we went for in the first film, but at the same time, he wanted to make this movie his own. Andrew and Michael and I discussed it for a while and just decided to roll the dice and go for it, which was a really smart decision because Lukas delivered, and it gave our director a shorthand and a sense of comfort in taking on a camera crew entirely unknown to him."
Ettlin traveled to Austin early in pre-production to interview potential crew, and in the process, learned a great deal about how the first movie was shot. He also relied on the experience and skill of his two seasoned camera operators, Michael Scott and Brown Cooper.
"I brought a lot of enthusiasm to the project, but as you've heard a million times before, movie making is a team effort, and I really depended on the entire crew," says Ettlin.
Liebesman, Ettlin and Rubeo decided on a red, white and blue color theme. "We talked through a lot of conceptual ideas about the innocent, hard-working farm family, making little to nothing through some very lean years, and what came out of those discussions was the idea of using a desaturated American flag for our color pallet," says production designer Rubeo. From there, we added some ochre and sepia tones used in the previous film in order to tie some elements of both movies together."
Liebesman remembers looking through a book of photographs from the 1940s. "They were old faded photographs of what America wanted to be, and what this family was trying to be, but failed to manage. The fading color seems almost to represent the decay of the American dream, the family that's gone off the rails."
Liebesman also credits set decorator Randy Huke, who previously worked on the 2003 remake, for her attention to detail and her ability to keep the art department on track. "It was a great group effort, and a testament to Randy's patience and professionalism to be able to work with all of us new guys," Liebesman says.
"We took our lead from the 2003 movie," Ettlin says. "I think it was so popular because it felt real to people. It was shot so that the audience felt like they were in the middle of the action, almost cinema verité. That's why it's such a cult movie. You never know where things are coming from and you never have a chance to relax. That's something we wanted to continue in this installment; we never want the intensity to let up so the camera never settled, it just keeps moving. This idea evolved through the shoot."
"As the story progresses and we move from romance and beauty lighting to the car crash that begins the horror, we changed the shutter angle from 180 to 90 degrees to make everything staccato," he says. "So the action becomes more hectic and extreme, which informs the audience that they're about to start a wild ride."
Most films are not shot in chronological order. Between location availability, talent schedules, time and weather constraints, it is simply too difficult to plan production around the sequence of events as laid out in the script. Be that as it may, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning was filmed in as close to chronological order as possible, which meant the company began working days and slowly moved into night shoots for the last several weeks of production.
"When you're making a film like this, you want to ease your actors into it," explains Andrew Form. "By the end of the movie, the characters have been through so much that they're exhausted. You also need to let the emotion and terror build. It's important not to throw someone into a death scene on day two, especially given the physically taxing nature of the film."
"I heard Brad Fuller try and persuade some of the actors not to take the job," Form recalls with a smile. "That's how physically demanding the movie is. Brad would say, 'Are you sure you want to do this? Because it's going to be hot, it's going to be cold, you're going to run like crazy, you're going to fall down. And we need you to do it a thousand times. So are you sure you want to do this?' Commitment, that's what we're looking for."
Jordana Brewster was amused by the warnings. "It shocked me how low their standards were in terms of what Brad and Andrew thought I could handle, as if I were this princess," she says. "Andrew made fun of the way I ran because I was used to running on a treadmill which forces you to have good form. The first time I was running away from Leatherface, he told me that I looked like I was running in Chariots of Fire. He explained that he wanted me to run 'messy,' you know, with your arms up in the air," she laughs.
"But sometimes you do have to remind the crew that we're not machines and we can't fall down 10 more times after doing it all day, but I hope I've proven the princess idea wrong. Actually for me the hardest thing was shooting in 30-degree weather wearing jeans and a halter-top," she confesses.
The film takes place in summer, but because many of the night scenes were filmed in November and December during a record-breaking cold front that hit Texas and much of the south, the film's first assistant director, K.C. Hodenfield, asked the actors to suck on ice cubes before each take so that their breath would not be visible. An uncomfortable task, to say the least, especially because the actors were constantly running and breathing as though they were terrified.
Although you'd never think lying down could be difficult, Matt Bomer spent several punishing days on a hard wooden table, remaining still for hours at a time. As Bryniarski does his Leatherface worst to Eric, Bomer is chained to a table in the Hewitt basement, with no shirt, covered in fake wet blood, even during a freak ice storm that sent temperatures dipping into the teens.
The filmmakers depended on celebrated stunt coordinator Kenny Bates and his second-in-command, coordinator Kurt Bryant, to create the most critical moments in the film, while keeping the cast and crew safe at all times. The two coordinators and Michael Bay have a long history together working on many movies, videos and commercials. When it comes to action, they speak the same language.
"Kenny can take the most complex stunt and break it down to make it understandable for everyone, including the novice," says Brad Fuller. "He's known for the quality of his work, and Kurt just continues that practice, plus he is meticulous about safety. On shows like this, it is inevitable that people get scratched and bruised, but we never worry about someone getting seriously injured, and that's the comfort zone we have working with Kenny and Kurt."
Bryant worked tirelessly with the cast: coordinating the car accident that begins the kids' downfall; helping Andrew Bryniarski pull Diora Baird out of a moving vehicle; hanging Taylor Handley and Matt Bomer from beams in an empty garage on the Hewitt farm; staging a complicated fight sequence between Handley and R. Lee Ermey; and, of course, designing the menacing dance of the ever present chainsaw.
For Brewster, there was an additional challenge of working without a partner, acting directly to camera. "I've never done that before," admits Brewster. "I've never had a director talk to me during a take. I'd be sneaking around, hiding, or looking around corners and Jonathan would say, 'OK, now you see this, now you see that. Look left, move a little to your right.' It's incredibly technical, and as an actor, you'd think it would be boring, but it wasn't."
In discussing the physical aspects of filming a horror movie, it is impossible not to look at the concept of torture. Where do the filmmakers draw the line? Does a line even exist? It was a constant conversation on set between Form, Liebesman and Fuller.
"Jonathan and Brad never thought there was enough torture," claims Form, before Fuller can cut him off.
"Torture is a really difficult thing to watch," Fuller explains. "I'm not going to make any bones about it. I am squeamish. And when it's on the monitor, there were times I had to walk away because it was so brutal. But that's what this family is into, and as a viewer, it wouldn't be effective if you didn't care about the people being victimized."
"Torture is a main component of the film," he continues. "But you don't want torture to be more important than the actual story, so if it takes you out of the moment, then it's too much. But we can't know that when we're filming individual scenes, so we pushed it as far as we could."
"And it's not about the blood," Fuller declares. "We're not gratuitous because the horror and the terror come from the situations, not the amount of blood flying around."
KNB Effects, Inc. was in charge of the special effects makeup, the prosthetics for Leatherface and all the blood work. With over 500 movies under their collective belts, Greg Nicotero, Jake Garber, Kevin Wasner and the other artisans at KNB were always prepared for anything thrown their way during production.
Jordana Brewster was especially stunned with the amount of blood work her scenes entailed. She jokingly says that she enjoyed the first three days of production the most when she and her cohorts were clean and dry.
"I was really affected by all the blood at first," she says. "Emotionally, I was taken aback, but after a while, the blood lost its shock value and just became annoying because it was wet and cold, and really sticky and sweet. You're basically fly paper attracting insects. It's just gross, especially when you have to walk around in it all day and night."
Most of the cast spent their fair share of time dripping in blood, some of them having been fitted with molds for latex appliances and prosthetics at KNB's shop in Los Angeles prior to start of principal photography in Texas on October 10th, 2005.
KNB not only supplied gallons upon gallons of fake blood and prosthetics, they also designed two new, early versions of the famous Leatherface mask.
"One of the big storylines in the movie is the evolution of the mask," says Andrew Form. "During the first half of the movie, Thomas Hewitt wears what he had probably made as a child to cover his scarred and blistered face and protect himself from ridicule. We made a choice to go with what we called a 'half-mask' for this."
"KNB took a long time designing that mask," affirms Michael Bay. "In my mind, I always saw it as a leather strap that he had around his nose to cover a skin disease. From there I imagined him using animal skins which evolve into human skin."
"About three-quarters of the way through the movie, Thomas puts on a full mask that he's made after a kill," Andrew Form continues. "He's obviously less skilled than he is in the 2003 movie because this is the first time he's peeled off the skin of someone's face."
In keeping with the idea that Leatherface has three years less experience in the art of murder, the filmmakers were vigilant about keeping actor Andrew Bryniarski in check, especially when it came to his skill at wielding the chainsaw.
"These are his first kills," director Jonathan Liebesman would remind Bryniarski. "This is not an art form yet. You are clumsy and stumbling through it. Thomas is not aggressive and ready to kill at the drop of a hat. It takes him a little while to get wound up and become Leatherface."
In comparing The Beginning to the 2003 hit, Liebesman says he was "inspired by director Marcus Nispel's style, but didn't want to duplicate it. We went for a bit of a documentary feel," he says, "less stylized than the first movie. Certain shots were iconic and we paid homage to those images of Leatherface."
"Jonathan made his own movie," says Michael Bay. "He really did. I think The Beginning has more personality than our remake of the original, because it was just that, a remake. Jonathan focused on different things and made his own unique horror film."
Although Bay only visited the set twice during production, he watched dailies and spoke with Liebesman on a daily basis. "It's better for me not to be on set," he says. "But I remember what it was like to be a new director and get those calls from the producer. I would dread them, but they were useful because the advice is helpful and you become better at what you do. It's difficult to use the palette of one movie while trying to step away from it to make your own mark, but Jonathan has done just that with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. It's a new look at a favorite, time-honored masterpiece of horror."
The filmmakers anticipate that audiences will be excited and terrified to discover how the Hewitts became a clan of crazed murderers, and hope that lovers of their 2003 film and the 1974 original will embrace this new story and enjoy a new chapter of brutality and terror so emblematic of the genre.
Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Jonathan Liebesman was always interested in the arts and dreamed of someday working in the film industry. After high school, he attended the South African School of Film and Drama before moving to the U.S. to study at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. While at the prestigious university, Jonathan wrote and directed the award winning short film Genesis and Catastrophe based on Roald Dahl's short story. His short thesis film won top awards at both the Hollywood Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival and has been used as a teaching tool at his alma mater.
In 2003 he directed his first feature film, Darkness Falls, for Revolution /Sony Studios which debuted at #1. The film was nominated for Best Horror/Thriller at the Teen Choice Awards, while the film's star, Emma Caulfield (Caitlin Greene), won Face of the Future from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films that year.
Liebesman's next film, Rings, which he co-wrote with Ehren Kruger, was a short that garnered high praise from fans of both feature length films, The Ring and The Ring 2, as it offered an insightful transition between the two movies.
Producer Michael Bay hand picked Jonathan to direct Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning for New Line.
Sheldon Turner wrote Paramount Pictures' 2005 summer hit The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler. The popular remake grossed more than $189 million worldwide. He also did an un-credited rewrite on Platinum Dunes' Amityville Horror, which has earned box office receipts over $106 million to date and is still in theatres.
He is presently developing a thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio to star, entitled In Dark Woods, as well as writing a drama, Wanted, for Meryl Streep and Jennifer Aniston, both for Warner Bros.
Delving into the world of television, he has recently partnered with Jerry Bruckheimer Productions on "The Business," chronicling the gritty life of a private eye. They are in talks with NBC to distribute.
Born and raised in northern California, the 31-year-old presently resides in Los Angeles. With a law degree from New York University, the former college football player chose to try his hand at screenwriting after graduation, undeterred by the fact that he knew no one in the Hollywood. Driven, in retrospect, by "an unadulterated love of movies and a dangerous blend of ignorance and stupidity," Turner worked as a bartender at night in order to spend his days writing before selling his first feature script six years ago.
David J. Schow is a short story writer, novelist, screenwriter (teleplays and features), columnist, essayist, editor, photographer and winner of the World Fantasy and International Horror Guild awards (for short fiction and nonfiction, respectively).
His association with New Line Cinema began with horror icons Freddy Kreuger (A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy's Nightmares), Leatherface (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) and the eponymous Critters (Critters 3 and Critters 4). In 1994 he wrote the screenplay for the modern classic The Crow and has since worked with such directors as Alex Proyas, James Cameron, E. Elias Merhige, Rupert Wainwright, Mick Garris and William Malone.
He wrote 41 installments of his popular "Raving & Drooling" column for Fangoria magazine, later collected in the book Wild Hairs. For the premiere season of "Masters of Horror" he adapted his own short story "Pick Me Up" for director Larry Cohen, and for Season Two he wrote "We All Scream for Ice Cream" (based on a John Farris story) for director Tom Holland. Among his many books are his fourth novel, Bullets of Rain, and seventh story collection, Havoc Swims Jaded.
As expert witness he has appeared on many documentaries and DVD supplements, contributing material to Creature From the Black Lagoon, Incubus, Reservoir Dogs, From Hell, The Shawshank Redemption, The Dirty Dozen and the 2-disc reissue of Dark City. As co-producer or cameraman he shot much of the material that appears on the DVDs of I, Robot and Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning marks his return to the New Line fold.
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