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Interview with Paul Partain
Reviewed by Nov 16th, 2001

VoodooGirl: What’s it like having been in one of the most influential horror films out there? And how did you feel about the controversy about it when it first came out? I’ve always read about people leaving theatres during previews of TCM!

Paul Partain: It is really neat to have been a part of a film that is known world wide, not just by people in the horror genre, but by almost everyone above 12yrs of age. There is an old joke about how you become an actor. The answer is that you just say “I am an actor”. Then the only thing left to find out is if you are a good actor or a bad actor. The work we did in Chainsaw answered that question for actors, writers, directors, cinematographers, make up artists, set designers and every craft associated with the endeavor. As an actor, you know that you are not going to be a fit for every role you pursue, but at least when the director sees you and knows Chainsaw, there is a level of credibility that tags along with you throughout the interview process.

When the movie was released, there was some controversy. I never quite understood it. People got very upset. My response was and still is….”nobody made you pay money to go see it!” People would say that they were shocked.. they were stupid. I mean think about it, you decide to go to a theatre. If you did not see an ad or hear something from one of your friends or had no clue as to what this movie was all about, then I guess you could be shocked at the big poster out front with a blood splattered Gunnar wearing his leather apron and somebody else’s face and ignoring Terri hanging on a meat hook and then seeing the big screaming words THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Then they stand in line and pay their money and expect to see LITTLE MARY SUNSHINE. Give me a break. The trailer was pretty good as I recall. I never saw anyone walk out, but I remember when I first saw it. I was at the Village Cinema in Austin, just munching on my popcorn and WHAM! there it was. Total surprise. I remember thinking Wow, it looks just like a real movie. You would never know it was made by a bunch of good kids with not enough money and a suitcase full of dreams.

VoodooGirl: On all accounts, it seems to have been pretty intense on the set. Did you do anything special to get into the Franklin character?

Paul Partain: I might take issue with “intense”. It was focused, and that probably should be intense. The film makers here were young professionals. All had some experience and they all had worked together in the RTF department at UT Austin. Tobe had made one “Art Film” and used some of the same crew. I think Kim had a writing credit on “eggshells” but I am not sure. Chainsaw was their first semi-large budget opportunity. It broke them out of the “student film” category. The crew was focused, but when things went wrong, discipline broke down somewhat and they reacted more like students than a professional crew, but there was that core of competence that hung them all together into a pretty solid crew.

After I found what I thought was the key to Franklin, and I knew I had him, my problem became, how do I keep him. Franklin was a “whiny bastard.” We all know him or someone like him, and I found a piece of him within me. Normally when we realize that part of us is coming to the surface, friends, family or your own inner voice will tell you to get real and rejoin the human race.

Franklin was not so lucky. My training was in the theatre. There you begin an hour or two before curtain putting on your costume and makeup and as you add each piece, you add a little bit of the character until the lights go up and a believable persona walks out on the stage. It is amazing that the act of looking in a mirror and applying makeup, a fairly intense operation, will get you focused on the job at hand and the role you are about to play. So, with Franklin, in the morning, I got into my costume while at home, and I did it very deliberately, putting on Franklin as I dressed. Tobe wanted my hair all windblown as you see it in the movie, so after I showered and dressed in costume, instead of combing my hair, I put my fingers in it and messed it up as much as I could, then I got in my Oldsmobile convertible, put the top down and drove as fast as I could to the set. What stepped out of the car was mostly Franklin.

By the time Dottie Pearl got through with adding the cuts and scratches and final makeup, Franklin was ready to face another day. I for the most part, did not take Franklin off until I got home each night. There are two pictures taken on the set that to my mind define the differences between me and Franklin. In one, Paul Partain is goofing off and showing his make up wounds to the still photographer for a continuity photo, and in the other, Franklin is starting a very bad day. I will attach the two and you can see for yourself.

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