Dinner with Leatherface: Michael Kallio’s saga to honor Gunnar Hansen

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Michael Kallio – Gunnar Hansen – Courtesy of Michael Kallio and Kim Simms

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1428 Elm: You met Gunnar Hansen doing that film and Bruce Campbell was on board as a producer. How were you able to interest both of them in Hatred?

MK: For Bruce, I think it was the determination and passion he saw in me as a young filmmaker. I can only assume it was the same for Gunnar. I met Gunnar at a convention in 1990 or 1991.

We had a long discussion about sound design, especially in the scene where he slams that horrifying steel door shut after he skull cracks one of the boys on the head with a hammer in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He was impressed I was so young and so knowledgeable about very specific things in that scene.

I had been working on “Southern Hospitality,” the script I mentioned before, and told him he would make the perfect villain in the movie. We exchanged information and stayed in touch. He really enjoyed “Southern Hospitality” and was looking forward to the project.

We had paid him a very small fee to use his name and get a Letter of Intent for us to use his name to raise money. We talked on the phone often and I kept him updated on the status of the project.

At the time, he was also working on the Michigan made film, “Mosquito” directed by our pal, Gary Jones. When he was in town, there were times I’d pick him up from the airport and we would have dinner and drinks. We became fast friends.

1428 Elm: You were working with two legendary actors on Hatred, that sounds like a potentially pressure filled situation. Was it stressful?

MK: It was never really stressful in regards to Bruce or Gunnar, except my insecurities trying to “impress” them. I still had some “fan boy” traits so, I was always shocked and grateful at the same time that these iconic people were even talking to me.

It was overwhelmingly exciting to be working with these legends. The only time it was “stressful” was when the “Southern Hospitality” project fell apart. I was concerned about the letter of intent we had paid for.

Bruce was very supportive but I was afraid I might lose Gunnar and the initial money we got from our one investor. Raising money was and still is a bitch. I needed that loot.

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I finally got the nerve to let Gunnar know that the production had fallen apart and that I wouldn’t be working with certain parties anymore. “SoHo” (as I called it) was, at that moment, officially dead but I was working on another script and was writing a part specifically for Gunnar. I asked Gunnar if we could change the Letter of Intent for the “Hatred” project but I was strapped for cash so I couldn’t pay him right away.

Being the mensch that he was, he asked to read the script before he made his decision. I, of course, understood and sent him the first draft… Then I waited. After about a week and a half, I returned home to a blinking answering machine with a message from Gunnar and listened.

The only thing he said was to “watch my mail” and to “contact him after I received it.” The next day was not only a new Letter of Intent with the title of the film changed to “Hatred of a Minute” but also a letter that read “Love the script. Get that money!” He never charged me another fee for the new letter.

I called him and thanked him tremendously. He laughed, thanked me and said that it was HIS pleasure and that he was looking forward to making the movie and how he really loved his character. The next day, our one investor gave us permission to use the money for the next project so, it all worked out… ALMOST stress free.