Leatherface is a fictional character in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre film series created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper. He first appears in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a cannibalistic and mentally unstable mass murderer who, alongside his family, kidnaps, kills, and cooks unsuspecting travelers who venture near their ranch in an unidentified part of Texas. The character's name comes from the human skin masks he always wears , which hide his deformed face. Leatherface's signature weapon is the chainsaw, though he has also used other tools, such as cleavers and hammers, to kill his victims. The character was largely inspired by real-life murderer Ed Gein, who also wore masks made of human skin.
The character is the only one to have appeared in all installments of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, though never as the main antagonist, due to always acting under his family's orders. Since Gunnar Hansen's portrayal of Leatherface in the original film in 1974, numerous other actors and stuntmen have assumed the role of the character, sometimes more than one in a single film. Outside of the films, the character has appeared in several spin-offs, primarily comic books, and has been referenced and parodied in other feature films and television series. In 2015, Leatherface appeared as a playable character in the video game Mortal Kombat X, and in 2017 as a playable character in Dead by Daylight.
Due to the different continuities within The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, Leatherface's character has suffered several changes throughout his appearances, the only constant attribute being his skin masks (often wearing more than one in a film). Most notably, his real name has been changed thrice: in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, his name was revealed to be "Bubba" Sawyer, but in the 2003 remake of the original film, it was changed to Thomas Brown Hewitt, and in Texas Chainsaw 3D, the character was renamed Jedidiah "Jed" Sawyer. Across most versions, Leatherface is depicted as a "big baby" who is under the complete control of his family and kills because he is scared of the outside world, which is why the audience has also shown sympathy towards the character.
Leatherface has become a widely recognized figure in popular culture, gaining a cult following. He has been credited as one of the most influential killers of the slasher genre for inspiring the stereotype of the hulking, masked, and mostly silent killer, which includes other horror icons such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees.
Prior to the events of the first film, Leatherface presumably used to work as a butcher at the meat processing plant alongside his brother, "The Cook" (referred to as Drayton Sawyer in further films), as his other brother, "The Hitchhiker" (later identified as Nubbins Sawyer), claims he did not work at the slaughterhouse, but that "My BROTHER worked there. My grandfather, too! My family's ALWAYS been in meat." Leatherface's family has ethnic heritage from somewhere in Europe, as Drayton tell Sally that his brother is good at making headcheese which originates from there. He uses the bones and skin of the people he kills to create furniture for the inside of their house, along with some animal bones for decoration. They process the victims' flesh into barbecue and chili, which Drayton sells at his restaurant/gas station, "Last Chance Gas." Drayton also enters the human flesh chili dishes the brothers prepare at cook-offs, feeding it to unsuspecting customers and judges without telling them what they are eating, past the point of saying it is "prime meat," and that the key to his recipe is to "never skimp on the meat" (according to the sequel, Drayton has won two cooking awards doing this). Aside from Leatherface, Drayton, and Nubbins, the Sawyer clan includes several additional brothers: Nubbins' identical twin and a Vietnam veteran known as Chop Top, a hitchhiking cowboy named Eddie/Tex, a hook-handed man named Tech/Tinker, a deranged pervert named Alfredo/Fred, a tow-truck driver named Vilmer and a redneck know-it-all named W.E. Apart from the brothers, the Sawyer clan also includes the supercentenarian Grandpa, the dead Grandma/Great-Grandma Sawyer (whose corpse has been poorly preserved), a wheelchair-bound mother called Mama who claims to have mutilated and promptly removed her own genitalia as well as those of the family patriarch a number of years ago, and Leatherface's daughter (first names unknown).
In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Leatherface is living with his brothers Drayton Sawyer and Nubbins Sawyer and Grandpa on their farmhouse in Texas. Siblings Sally and Franklin Hardesty go out with their friends to investigate the robbing of a local cemetery in order to make sure their grandfather's grave has not been violated. They run afoul of Nubbins and eventually the rest of his family, culminating in Leatherface killing everyone in the group except Sally. Leatherface and Drayton bring Sally into their home, intent on killing and eating her. She escapes by jumping out of the window, with Leatherface and Nubbins in hot pursuit. She manages to elude Nubbins, who is run over by a passing truck. When Leatherface arrives on the scene, the trucker throws a pipe wrench at him, causing him to fall backwards and cut into his leg with his own chainsaw. The driver panics and runs off, and Sally dives into the back of a pickup truck, narrowly avoiding Leatherface's chainsaw as the truck drives away. Enraged, he swings his running chainsaw around in all directions in a macabre dance.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, a direct sequel to the 1974 film, featured a more campy and over-the-top atmosphere than the original. Tobe Hooper stated on The Shocking Truth that he wanted to expand on the dark comedy in the original film, as he felt no one truly picked up on this element. In this film, the late Nubbins is replaced by Chop Top, but the family remains otherwise the same. During the film, Leatherface develops a "crush" on one of his victims, and in one scene, removes the skin from the face of her still-living friend and places it on her to hide her from the rest of his family. At the end of the film, Leatherface is impaled with a chainsaw in a fight with the uncle of his previous victims from the first film, and both of them, as well as Drayton and Grandpa, are apparently killed in an explosion. Leatherface's clan's last name of Sawyer is also revealed in the film when Drayton wins a local cook-off.
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III is the second sequel in the series, continuing on from the events of the previous installment. Leatherface is revealed to still be alive and now has an extended family, who affectionately call him "Junior", as well as a daughter, possibly the product of a rape. The filmmakers attempted to make the series darker and grittier (similarly to the original film), but they had to tone it down and change the ending after interventions from the MPAA. New Line released an uncut version to the home-video market in 2003. A four-issue comic series based on the film, entitled Leatherface, was created; portions of the comics are narrated by and shown from Leatherface's point of view. Kane Hodder choreographed the stunts and played the stunt-double Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation apparently takes place in its own continuity, although the events of the first film are mentioned during the opening scene; the events of the second and third film are also described as "two minor, yet apparently related incidents". In this film, Leatherface (simply called "Leather") is apparently involved in an Illuminati conspiracy to provide society a source of horror, and, again, has a different family, called the Slaughters instead of Sawyers.
Marcus Nispel directed a remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. Its success greenlit a prequel, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, released in 2006, which delved into the origins of Leatherface and of his family. In this continuity, Leatherface's real name is Thomas Brown Hewitt; his mother Sloane dies giving birth to him in August 1939 at the Blair Meat Co., a slaughterhouse where she works, and her uncaring boss leaves the infant to die in a dumpster. Luda Mae Hewitt finds him and takes him home to raise him.
The Hewitts worked at the Blair Meat Co., but after losing their jobs they switched to kidnapping people, murdering them (often by chainsaw or shotgun) and butchering their flesh, as family member Charlie claims that he got the idea from eating human flesh in the Korean War after he became a prisoner of war. The prequel reveals that they do eat the meat of their victims; the remake only implies this.
Leatherface in this continuity suffers from a facial disfigurement and a skin disease that caused severe deformities and tumors to his face. Due to this disfigurement, other children often bullied the boy. He wore a small leather mask to cover up his deformity, and worked at the same meat factory where he was born, for the same boss as his mother. He also had a tendency toward self-mutilation, and a doctor diagnosed him as suffering from a type of neurodegeneration at age 12.
After health inspectors shut the factory down, Hewitt's boss and a reluctant co-worker ordered him to leave. When Hewitt didn't, the boss and the co-worker bullied him, calling him a "retard" and a "dumb animal". Acting on long-burning rage, Hewitt killed his boss with a sledgehammer. He later discovered the chainsaw he would use as a weapon after searching the now abandoned factory. When Winston Hoyt, the local sheriff, tried to apprehend him, Thomas' uncle, Charlie Hewitt came to his aid and killed the sheriff with his own gun. Charlie later assumed the sheriff's identity.
Hewitt later made masks of human skin by slicing off the faces of his victims.
Although Leatherface's family still manipulate him in this interpretation, they do show themselves to be somewhat more caring towards him and less abusive than in the original film. Before killing the sheriff, his uncle Charlie even defends him by saying, "He's not retarded, he's misunderstood." The cruelty he suffers at the hands of his peers, in part, inspires his murderous behavior, however it's his uncle, Charlie, who encourages his anti-social behaviour and impulses.
At the climax of the remake, Erin Hardesty cuts off Leatherface's chainsaw-wielding arm with a meat cleaver, and Erin is able to escape him, though Leatherface survives the attack. Leatherface escapes after police discover his ranch house and find the remains of 33 people. The police fail to secure the crime scene properly, allowing Leatherface to attack and kill two officers. Leatherface then escapes and disappears, and the case remains open.
2013's Texas Chainsaw 3D is a direct sequel to the original 1974 film, ignoring the events of the second, third, and fourth films, as well as the 2003 remake and its prequel. The plot follows Heather, who is travelling to Texas with her friends to collect an inheritance from her deceased grandmother, whom she had never met. There, Heather discovers that she is part of the Sawyer family, who were killed by the townspeople following the events of the original film, as well as a cousin of Leatherface. Ultimately, Heather accepts her heritage and helps her cousin exact revenge on the people responsible for their family's death. In this film, Leatherface is identified as Jebidiah Sawyer.
The 2017 film Leatherface is a prequel to the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that deals with Leatherface in his teenage years and depicts his eventual descent into insanity. The film is set in the same continuity as Texas Chainsaw 3D, and Leatherface is again called Jedidiah "Jed" Sawyer, though he is also given the name Jackson after being separated from his family as a child and taken to a mental institution.
Writer Mort Castle based the 1991 Leatherface miniseries loosely on the third Texas Chainsaw Massacre film. He stated: "The series was very loosely based on Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. I worked from the original script by David Schow and the heavily edited theatrical release of director Jeff Burr, but had more or less free rein to write the story the way it should have been told. The first issue sold 30,000 copies." Kirk Jarvinen drew the first issue, and Guy Burwell finished the rest of the series.
The comics, not having the same restrictions from the MPAA, featured much more gore than the finished film. The ending, as well as the fates of several characters, also changed. The roles of the Sawyer family members and their personal backgrounds are also elaborated on, for instance Mama reveals that Grandpa was adopted into the family, Tinker is revealed to be a former hippy and Tex is seen to be the more sane family member, actually showing some signs of remorse. Much of the story takes place from Leatherface's point of view.
In 1995, Topps Comics released the three-issue miniseries Jason vs. Leatherface, a non-canonical crossover between the Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises, written by Nancy A. Collins with art by Jeff Butler. The series' premise involves Jason Voorhees accidentally being placed on a train headed for a dumping ground in Mexico when Crystal Lake is drained of radioactive waste by a company. Running amok on the train, Jason kills its crew and causes the vehicle to crash in Texas, where he meets and befriends Leatherface and his inbred family (consisting of the Cook, the Hitchhiker, Grandpa Sawyer, and several other original relatives, all of them dead). After he lives with the family for a day, relations between them and Jason ultimately sour due to a series of misunderstandings (including Jason seeing a maskless Leatherface's badly deformed face, which greatly angers Leatherface, who is self-conscious), which eventually results in Leatherface and Jason battling to the death. In the end, the Hitchhiker apparently kills Jason with a sledgehammer and the family dumps his body in a nearby lake. However, Jason arises several hours later and decides to begin trekking back "home" to Camp Crystal Lake, away from the place that encouraged dangerous things such as friendship.
In 2005, Avatar Press began to release Texas Chainsaw Massacre comics, set in the continuity of the 2003 remake of the original film, but serving as prequels to the film. The comics had a multitude of variant covers, such as "Gore", "Terror" and "Die Cut".
The final release by Avatar Press, the one-shot The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Fearbook, had text written by Antony Johnston with art by Daniel HDR and Mauricio Dias. The premise of this one-shot involves a quartet of friends in the midst of a cross-country trip who run afoul of Sheriff Hoyt, who forcibly takes them to the Hewitt house, where Leatherface kills them all except one, a girl named Lucy, whom he knocks unconscious; Leatherface, when Lucy awakens, puts on a mask created from her boyfriend's face and hammers one of his own masks onto her before forcing her to dance with him as she succumbs to her injuries.
Leatherface became a prominent character in Wildstorm Comics's continuation of the remakes. With the family exposed after the events of the first film, the comics show the Hewitt family living in a series of tunnels in the sewers of Travis County.
As at the end of the remake, Leatherface in the comics has only one arm. Halfway through the first story arc, Leatherface's uncle Monty helps Leatherface build a "prosthetic arm" (consisting of a hook attached to a bone and tied to Leatherface's arm with a belt) to assist with his nephew's handicap. Leatherface later uses this hook in addition to his chainsaw on victims, at one point spearing a man's leg to prevent him from escaping.
The comics also imply that the other people in the town, while perhaps not involved with the Hewitts' cannibalism, at least know of it and have agreed to help them deal with outsiders. In one scene, when a potential victim runs into a bar looking for help, she is stopped from calling the police by the owner and patrons, who tell her that they "don't want no Hewitt trouble." They later reprimand Leatherface for not looking after his "livestock."
Later one-shot comics published by Wildstorm also dealt with Leatherface. One of them, About a Boy, focused on parts of Leatherface's childhood that The Beginning did not reveal. It shows that bullies severely picked on Thomas Hewitt as a child, and thus he spent most of his time alone drawing in his notebook, hunting and skinning animals, and later making clothing out of them. A foreshadowing of his future as Leatherface takes place when, after Chris, the leader of the bullies, throws rocks at him at a swimming-hole, Thomas attacks Chris and skins off his face while he is still alive.
About a Boy also details how the Hewitt family remain for the most part apathetic towards Thomas's actions. His brother/uncle Charlie (the future Hoyt) helps him get rid of Chris's body (his only criticism stating that Thomas needs to "learn how to fix 'em proper", after putting the faceless victim out of his misery with a shotgun). Later, after Thomas's teacher Mr. Hanson questions Luda May about her son's behavior and tells her that he plans to file a report with the city to get him some help, Luda May bashes his head in with a shovel and kills him, stating, "There is nothing wrong with my boy."
Leatherface is the main playable character in the 1983 video game The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Leatherface is a guest character in the 2015 fighting game Mortal Kombat X. He has three different costumes: the 'Killer' outfit based on his standard appearance in the original 1974 film, the 'Pretty Lady' outfit based on his appearance at the end of the same film; and the 'Butcher' outfit based on his appearance in the 2003 remake. Each variation comes with different abilities and fighting styles. He is able to use both his chainsaw and his hammer as weapons. Leatherface's story involves him killing various combatants in a quest to impress Cassie Cage. After Leatherface kills Shinnok, he cuts off his face and presents it to Cage after murdering several of her friends to get to her. She reacts with condemnation, so Leatherface kills her as well and cuts her up into "tiny pieces" for use in Drayton's chili. The story concludes with Leatherface removing Cage's face and setting to work on it for a new mask, deciding that "if she wouldn't be his girlfriend, she could still be his ... in other ways".
The character is also featured as a killer in the 2016 survival horror game Dead by Daylight. He was added in the 14 September 2017 DLC LeatherFace, under the alias "The Cannibal", which is a reference to Leatherface and his entire family being cannibals. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Shadow Company operator Velikan was given a costume resembling Leatherface as a part of The Haunting of Verdansk event.