They Came. They Sawed.

In 1973 a ragtag group of Texans scrounged up $60,000 and created a film so violent and visionary that it shocked the world. But if you thought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was strange, then you haven’t heard the story of how it got made.

More than thirty years ago the collective might of Columbia Pictures descended on Austin with one of that studio’s blue-ribbon, A-team moviemaking armies: Blythe Danner, Anthony Perkins, Beau Bridges, a hot director named Sidney Lumet, an ingenue named Susan Sarandon, and the same producer who had already made small-town Texas a bankable commodity with the adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show. The prestige project settled in at the Chariot Inn, where Danner had a permanent sign on her door—“Quiet! Mother and Baby Sleeping”—to protect the weeks-old Gwyneth Paltrow. And each day a wagon train of private Winnebagos, Cinemobiles, catering trucks, and Greyhound buses would fan out around Bastrop for the filming of yet another McMurtry novel, Leaving Cheyenne.

On a certain day, the production broke for lunch, and the movie’s proud papa, producer Steve Friedman, noticed a scruffy, long-haired hippie making his way through the food line. Friedman walked over and blocked his way. “Do you work on the movie?” he demanded.

The interloper held a plastic plate with two barbecued

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...