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Home | Interviews | Interview: Teri Mcminn (Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

Interview: Teri Mcminn (Texas Chainsaw Massacre)


DAVE GAMMON: I just wanted to extend a very warm welcome in a much anticipated interview Ms. Teri McMinn with Horrornews.net. Director Tobe Hooper had first discovered you in Austin, Texas in 1973 after seeing a local news paper article. Reflecting back on that fateful evening then flash forward to a precarious predicament of in the clutches of one Leatherface, did you have any idea at that point in time what you were getting yourself into?

TERI McMINN: No I didn’t have any idea! They’d been all over Texas looking for some characters, you know and casting it. I’d met them here in Austin I guess you could say in an apartment complex or something. They were reading people. Then we’d filmed probably about a month later.

DG: Portraying the character of Pam in the opening sequence you’re often reading astrological forecasts. It illustrates a very effective impending sense of doom to the audience. Were you a fan or a follower of astrology at the time?

TM: Well I did. I mean I would certainly get my horoscope. I just remember the word malevolent kept coming up. I wasn’t completely aware of what was going to be happening with me. We did a lot of ad-libing. I wasn’t really aware but I thought it was really cute that she’d shown astrology and tried to get everyone else on board with it.

DG: I think it was a really popular thing for the era as well too. Did you find it enabled or enhanced your performance in any way following astrology?

TM: I’m not going to say it really helped or whatever. I was working a lot of the time. I was doing a play in Austin with Peter Breck, the guy that was in The Big Valley. He played Nick Barkley one of Barbara Stanwyck’s sons. He and I were doing The Rainmaker. So when we finished filming I’d go to rehearsals and then eventually….because the film was postponed several times, they’d shut down numerous times. They’d go on for two weeks, then they’d go on for six weeks. So it was a long, long film and filming.

DG: I’d heard there were a lot of obstacles and a couple times it’d been shut down as well. Were there any sleepless nights when filming Texas Chainsaw Massacre? What sorts of obstacles did you face getting in and out of character?

TM: Some of the main obstacles at that time was they’d placed us on deferred money. So unless you had a job I couldn’t support myself. So it was rough that way because I mean you have to pay the bills. That was very tense. It was the same for everybody. Allen had started his business, you know Allen Danziger. But it was the same for everybody. We were all struggling actors. So when they ran out of money after a couple of weeks they’d have to regroup and then we’d kick back. So it was very challenging for all of us. It was extremely hot and that was very challenging.

DG: The Texas heat, absolutely.

TM: But we all took it very seriously. I look back on it and we had a lot of fun doing it. There was a big peach tree at the front of the house, in the scene where I walk up to the house. And we all sat under that peach tree in the shade waiting for our shots. It was great comradery.

DG: The one scene where you have the tooth dropped in your hand? Yeah I recall that scene perfectly, yeah.

TM: Right! Exactly the one up on the steps.

DG: What was the general mood on set and what were some of the infamous out takes?

TM: I’d say that basically we were all excited to be doing the project. We didn’t know much about it. It was my first film. I just didn’t know what was going to happen with it after it came out. Certainly none of us knew that it would become the cult classic that it is. So that was a nice surprise. It took about ten years for it to develop into the classic that it had became.

DG: That’s actually a good sequay into our next question too. Many people regard Texas Chainsaw Massacre as an absolute classic. Film makers and fans alike still rank it among the pinnacle of sheer terror. From personal experience I known I’ve seen it about a dozen times and each time I’d seen it from years as a teenager until current it still gives me the creeps to this day (laughs).

TM: Right! (laughs)

DG: Spawning sequels, parodies and remakes did you ever for see this production erupting into what it has become today?

TM: No, no did not. I don’t think any of us did really. It was kind of a shock. They did a super job of editing. I think one thing and its been written about over and over again is you don’t see the blood as much as you do imagine it. So I think that’s the powerful part of it, is you’re imaging it. Also it sets it up as a true story in the beginning. Anytime something starts as a true story it takes off on a greater magnitude.

DG: I actually just watched it again last night. And one thing last night that really stood out in my mind that hadn’t before was really on a conscious level the sound of rattling bones and sound effects and that sort of thing. The use of darkness and shadow creates a very creepy mood I would say.

TM: Very, yes. I would have to say the scenes inside the house were, the death scenes and all of that were very well done. The sequence where I shoot with Gunnar, the death scenes when I’d entered the house. Those were pretty grueling. That went on all day. I mean we’d stop for lunch but that was the only time we’d stopped. By the end of the day I really didn’t have any voice.

DG: Exhaustion. And tripping over that pail time and again too right?

TM: Thirteen times, thirteen times I’d tripped over that! My leg was bleeding after the first time so if they’d just known to have put something around the bucket so that my leg didn’t hit it every time (combined laughs).

But that’s what you go through when you do a low budget film. You know this was low budget, no budget so it’s pretty miraculous and if people want to know the in’s and out’s of what happened on the financial end of it Wikipedia does quite a job of explaining the struggle in the ins and outs. I mean they brought it to L.A. They couldn’t get anyone to back us and then they took it to New York so it was really something else that they’d even managed to get it produced and done; So definite check points on that one.

DG: Absolutely in a certain sense it might have been somewhat of a tough sell at the time. I mean there wasn’t really a whole lot out there on the market that was comparable in terms of controversy anyway.

TM: Oh it was so controversial. They were really fighting getting an X rating. They were fighting for an R rating because of the content. There was nothing like this at that time. Nobody had done anything with this much terror involved chainsaws, meat hooks, cannibalism stuff like this. They had Day of The Dead and Night of the Living Dead. I think Night of the Living Dead had just come out a few years before. I’m going to have to study my history a little bit more but at any rate it was a forerunner.

It was banned all over the world. Younger people may not know this but at that time it was banned until 1995 in I believe it was in England and the U.K. It was banned for at least ten years after it came out in Italy, France and Sweden basically all of Europe it was banned. So that’s just how out there it was at that time.

DG: Attending the cast reunion at MacabreCon on June 9th in Niagara Falls, Ontario what do you enjoy the most about the conventions? What has been your most bizarre fan encounter?

TM: Oh boy. Well I love meeting the fans because they’re so sweet. They come up and they’re tattooed. I guess the strangest thing that happened to me was the first person come up to be and say, “Hey Teri look at this,” and lifted up his shirt and there I was tattooed all over his body! (combined laughs). And these people that have gone to extents to have themselves pinned time and again all over their bodies….and some of them are fantastic too! But it’s been a lot of fun.

It’s also nice to get together with the cast and remembering things, doing the Q&A’s as well is fun. Hearing everyone’s different perspectives on things and all the different stories; also it’s cross generational you know? You get people from all different age groups who really like the film.

DG: That’s true. That is true.

TM: Yeah so that’s been kind of cool. Also it’s just nice to meet people from different parts of the country. I don’t do too many. This is the first one that I’ve done in Niagara Falls. It’ll be nice because I haven’t been to Canada since I was a child.

DG: Is that right? Wow.

TM: So Marilyn and I are going to stay after for a few days and just take in the sights. So I’m looking forward to that. I like that getting to go to the different places. They’re just so sweet and respectful and it’s just fun to get to meet everyone that has taken the time to get off and go. Generally it’s three or four days when you’re doing them and you work really hard the minute your feet hit the tarmac you’re pretty much engaged and doing different things. I think this one we may be doing a dinner with certain invited guests with VIP tickets? It’s Marilyn (Sally) Gunnar (Leatherface) and I at this one.

DG: As far as I know there is a screening of the film, a brief Q&A, a reception after wards and believe it or not a headcheese and BBQ after that (combined laughs).

TM: They’ll have head cheese at the barbeque? Reminds me of a chili cook off; when we’d finished filming and I’d moved to L.A. a couple years later. There was still just a small cult status for several years. I had an answering service. All the fellows that worked at the answering service were fans of the film. They loved taking any calls that I’d get. They were fans of the film but none of us had experienced anything since its release as of yet. But I had this little fan club and they gave this little chili cook off party for me (combined laughs).

So that was fun. It was just when the videos were coming out. Now from what I understand that was one of the most rented films of the 1980’s

DG: Well I believe it. I totally believe it.

TM: Yeah it was actually cool because I didn’t ever really talk about it. I was kind of anonymous. I was doing other things like I had a business and stuff like that. I couldn’t really go to the conventions because I was busy running my own business you know? Just really when you have your own business it’s difficult to take off the time that you would like to for whatever you’d like to do.

But it was fun to go into the Blockbusters and things after the videos came out. “Oh my God, that’s me on the cover!”

DG: A real sense of surrealism, definitely. Let’s talk about some of your most recent endeavors such as The Cellar, Cousin Sarah and Boneboys.

TM: Right! Cousin Sarah, they’re still gathering money for that one. But it’s a really good role. It’s really well written. The part that I play her name is Anastasia. She owns a cult book store. It’s a really, really juicy little character. I’m very excited about doing it. So I hope it happens. Patience is a virtue. It could happen, we’ll see.

And yes I shot in San Antonio with Kim and his son Ian. It was great, great fun. Wonderful. Lots and lots and lots of fun. I loved everyone that worked on the project. It was really nice. That was a fun cameo to do.

The Cellar didn’t take off but it was an interesting shoot. I was in L.A. and they invited me to come and on MySpace there is a tiny little trailer of it. I play a woman named Sylvia and it’s sort of a comedic role. So it’s been fun in dabbling in doing different things.

DG: Was there ever a perception or a resistance initially after the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in getting type casting in the horror genre?

TM: Well you’ve got to understand. It’s so hard to really understand this but nothing happened for ten years. Basically for any of us; now Marilyn did The Manson film and she did Eaten Alive with Tobe. But to be honest with you it was a cult, a small cult following.

So not until the horror genre really got moving in the next ten years and then the video cassettes came out. There were no video cassettes available for 10 years after the release in ’74. I mean, it only went to video cassette, in what, the mid eighties?

DG: True and the home video cassette recorder wasn’t really popular until maybe 1983 or 1984.

TM: Yeah, exactly! See what I’m saying? So Chainsaw came out in ’74 and videos weren’t popular until ’84.

DG: Makes sense….yeah.

TM: So it’s a bit much to wrap your mind around that but it’s the way it was. We used to mail our pictures and resumes out.

DG: Wow.

TM: Right? (combined laughs)

We’d spend a fortune mailing out. That was part of your thing. You moved to L.A. and you’d sit around and mail out three to five a day, an assignment for yourself you know? And mailers were the big thing. I mean you didn’t have emails!

(combined laughs)

DG: It’s a double edged sword in a certain sense. I think the internet and technology of today has kind of destroyed and ruined things but at the same time it’s made the world a much smaller place and allowed many opportunities to exist because of it. I have mixed feelings about it really.

TM: Oh I love it. I mean I’m all over the computer. I’m really into the computer thing. I just think sometimes can we exist without it? It was really fun because when I’d first come out I was really scared about being able to use the computer like younger people who are used to using it like come out of the womb already connected and online. (combined laughs)

But when it’d first come out I’d go to YouTube and I’ve never seen myself on YouTube but there were several videos out there. So I had a good time reading people’s comments and things. It was kind of fun in the beginning. I think it’s really brought everyone closer together.

I think it’s wonderful. It’s enabled people to get things out on film that they’d never be able to get without it.

DG: What I do like about it is it presents a lot of opportunities to people where it wouldn’t have ordinarily too. Definitely.

TM: Definitely so and I think that if people just mind their P’s and Q’s and don’t get too rude or mean. I think at times people feel like they can say whatever they want on the internet. But I like the idea to be supportive of people’s projects. You see people get into squabbles but I don’t allow that on my Facebook page. (combined laughs)

I just don’t allow it. I don’t think it’s right. People want to get into big arguments on my page…if they want to argue on their own page I’m okay with that.

DG: Just juvenile really. Well it’s good to hear you have a Facebook page. I’ll be sure to let the fans know about that too. How does Teri McMinn like to unwind and what are some of your favorite past times?

TM: I still love flowers. I’m a big reader. I read a lot. I like to travel. Recently I took a trip through California through New Mexico and kick back to visit friends in Texas. So I’m really basically between Texas and L.A. I still love Austin. Maybe I’ll settle back in Austin but I’d miss the California weather. It’s always a tossup. I’ve been living at the beach for a very long time so I miss that. Yes but please let everyone know to visit my Facebook page. I also have TeriMcMinn.net which my webmaster is supposed to be redoing that. I have a link to my merchandise line. I sell pictures and T-shirts and different things of that nature. Magnets, a friend of mine did the magnets. I mean the last place you saw Pam was in the freezer. (combined laughs) So the magnets are pretty popular too. My friend Lisa the Magnet Queen had did them and she’s linked to my site. They do really cool work. And I have artists that send me things. I have a wonderful artist from Mexico Mendoza did some wonderful images for me. He did all my T-shirt images. Don England from Slaughterland Studios did some wonderful work. He’d done several of the characters from Chainsaw. I think Pam is one of his best images. And there is another guy that shows lamps called Morbid Décor. Dave sells lamps and there’s a wonderful one of Pam walking up to the house. There’s another one of Pam on the meat hook.

So that keeps me pretty busy. It just keeps me busy planning. I’m going to these two and possibly a couple more in the fall. I’ll be going to more I think. This will be a good opportunity for people that enjoy Chainsaw to come and meet us and Pam has never been in Canada so it should be a whole new group.

DG: I think you’ll really enjoy Niagara Falls too it’s a very accommodating city. It’s very down to earth and I hope you enjoy the fan base the demographic here.

TM: Yes and Dave Daniloff, Annessa Allen and Mike Sage have been so accommodating and so kind. We’re really looking forward to it. Marilyn and I don’t get to see each other very often. It’s always fun to see Gunnar. They both are going to be writing some books you know so from what I’ve heard. There’s been some talks of some books coming out. Maybe they’ll be telling some more secrets? (combined laughs)

DG: I did hear something funny about the legend of the spiked brownies on set….

TM: Oh brownies? (laughs) Yes we did definitely have some brownies (combined laughs). They probably made the day go a little bit better that day.

DG: Oh I imagine….

TM: You know any film that is shot there is a lot of sitting around and waiting for them to set up. So I think that came in handy. The food was wonderful on set. The food was prepared by a woman named Sally. It was Ted in sound I believe, his wife, great food. So we always had a good lunch to look forward to. And the day that we were shooting the meat hook scene Sally had arrived with lunch and there I was suspended on the meat hook and she walks in with her little girl that was three years old. I hope the child is alright (combined laughs)

DG: Not too traumatized I hope.

TM: It was pretty wild that day. But we got it shot in one day so that was good. Yeah it was no fun hanging on a meat hook.

DG: I don’t imagine, no.

TM: Nope, no. I can’t say that was too fun. But at least it came out well on film. Everybody put their all into it, everybody took it very seriously. Dale who plays my boyfriend in the film we hung out a lot together and discussed our characters and worked on that when Tim was all wrapped up in the technical with Daniel. You know Daniel Pearl the VP on this film? His work since the film has been incredible. He’s done a billion commercials and videos.

DG: Very talented, for sure.

TM: Oh my God you should go and see his site. People will be amazed by his work. He’s done everyone…Janet Jackson….you’ll be amazed. A lot of people don’t know that because they didn’t follow it but a lot of the shots were due to Daniel’s brilliant work.

DG: A lot of unsung heroes on the set for sure.

TM: That’s so true, so true. Well I’m so glad that you’re a fan, thank you so much. That’s really nice to hear. Did you get to watch it on Blu-ray as well?

DG: I watched it on DVD. I haven’t seen it on Blu-ray as of yet. I look forward to seeing it on the big screen at the MacabreCon.

TM: Yeah, you haven’t seen it on the big screen right? You’re going to be in for a treat. It’s really something else on the big screen. It’s very powerful. That shot were Pam is walking up to the house with the sky looming and the big house looming and the shorts (combined laughs)

DG: It’s very effective…

TM: The whole thing is really well done. The Blu-ray is amazing. Actually the Blu-ray release in 2008 was my first interview since the ’74 release, that I’d done. It’s a 20 minute candid interview. Pam finally speaks!

I must say it hasn’t been anything but wonderful getting to go to these. It’s the people that are there. Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Tippi Hedren (The Birds) is supposed to be in Cousin Sarah and Linda Blair that’s everybody’s three.

DG: It would make for a very interesting dinner conversation.

TM: Right? I think so too. I look forward to getting to meet them. I never went to Horrorhelm but I understand Marilyn went. I’m a big fan of Pam Grier whom Quentin Tarantino had rediscovered in Jacky Brown.

DG: The blackplotation films, yes.

TM: I loved her work and especially in Jacky Brown I loved her work. So yeah maybe Quentin Tarantino can revive my career (combined laughs)

DG: In anticipation of MacabreCon is there any special message to your fans?

TM: I just can’t wait to see you guys. I’m going to post some things on Facebook so anyone that is coming please post on my page and on Marilyn’s page. We’re always on there and everybody get ready and they can have my share of the headcheese. No problem, Pam is happy to give her’s up and show the scar on my back from the meat hook.

DG: It’s been a real thrill, a real delight Teri

TM: Thank you. I really appreciate your interview Dave. You’re going to come and see me at the MacabreCon right?

DG: That’s a given, count on it.

Interview: Teri Mcminn (Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

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