Hansen was born in Iceland, but moved to the United States with his family at the age of five. After studying English and mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, he attended graduate school for Scandinavian Studies and English. Though his first job was as a computer operator, he had been interested in theatre before college and when he heard that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was shooting in the area in 1973, he tried out.
His creation, Leatherface, became an instant favourite, terrifying audiences and cementing his place in horror legend. Yet after one other role – in The Demon Lover (1977) – he decided to eschew acting for a few years, moving to Maine to continue working as a writer. In his time, he was also a magazine editor and wrote several screenplays, books (including his memoir of working on the original Chain Saw Massacre, Chain Saw Confidential), and documentaries.
But he couldn't shake the acting bug entirely, and would appear in more than 20 other movies during a long career primarily filled with genre roles, including Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988), Freakshow (1995), Chainsaw Sally (2004), Gimme Shelter (2007) and one of the more recent takes on the Leatherface legacy, Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). His most recent film, Death House, which he wrote, produced and appeared in, is due to arrive next year. He is survived by his longtime partner, Betty Tower.
Our thoughts are with his friends and family