APRIL MOORE’S STRUGGLE FOR SUCCESS

MARCH 2004

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THE MAN BEHIND THE CHAINSAW
Actor Andr ew Br yniarski talks
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by Stephanie Starr • photos by Jasonellisphotography.com

THE MAN BEHIND THE CHAINSAW
Actor Andrew Bryniarksi wields a mean chainsaw as Leatherface in New Line’s remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but find out what he is really like.

“Bring it!”
The rhythmic thump of a cane connects with the filthy wooden floor. The wheelchair creaks as the old man yells yet again at the top of his lungs, “Bring it, boy!” Then it happens. The roar of a chain saw cuts through the speakers and the audience jumps as Leatherface charges onto the screen full bore at the unsuspecting teenagers. Three hundred pounds of psycho wielding 35 pounds of twisting metal rips through the door and into the room. He towers above his victims at an impressive 6’5” and stares them down behind the eye sockets of a gruesome mask stitched together with the skin of victims past. Who is this creature and what must the actor playing him do to prepare for such a journey?

mals are a joy,” Bryniarski says. At present they have three dogs (pomeranians), two cats, an Amazon parrot, several box turtles and four giant African land tortoises. For a man who’s childhood hero was the nature-loving John James Audabon, jumping into character required that he delve into the darkest areas of his psyche. “I began some intense character studies on psycho murdering types,” he says. “It’s simple psychology, this character’s motivation: Hunt, kill, eat, provide. For necessity first, then followed shortly by release and sweetened by revenge.” Slipping into Leatherface’s skin meant placing himself in the right frame of mind. Bryniarski states that he didn’t play the character for his likability. The character is, in Bryniarski’s words, “a towering, evil, powerful, imperfect beast.” He knew he needed to play that to the hilt and he did what had to be done. But that was only half the journey.

Don’t be fooled. The man behind the mask may be towering, powerful and intense, but that is where the similarities end. Actor Andrew Bryniarski was raised just outside Philadelphia, Penn. by his hard-working father and librarian mother. He enjoys music, reading and spending time with his wife, Gretchen, and the many animals they have rescued together. “She is my love, my sanity and the ani-

“I was born to wear the mask.”

However daunting the mental challenge of playing Leatherface, the physical challenges of the role proved even more strenuous. Bryniarski wasn’t the first choice to play the part. Another actor was originally slated for the performance, but on the first day, during the first

take, he fell injured. Not only did the actor misrepresent his size, he’d now nearly crippled the production by landing in the hospital. Producer Michael Bay knew of Bryniarski’s interest in the role early on and made the call. “I was born to wear the mask,” Bryniarski says. The pressure was on. Bryniarski gained as many pounds as he could to prepare for the physical demands of the part. He managed to add 30 pounds to his frame by stuffing down white bread and brisket. The discomfort of moving around with that extra poundage was nothing compared to the rest of it. Each day he strapped himself into a heavy fat suit, donned the mask and maneuvered a live chainsaw while moving about the set. Smoke coughed out from the machine, often gagging him and drying his throat. Some days he wore the latex mask, other days he endured a silicone one, which did not breathe and contributed to the ever-present problem of him overheating.

“I had to jump off the van’s roof — an 8-to-9-foot drop — with the chainsaw in hand, mask on, running in slime, full speed after people I actually like and respect.”
It was in this condition that Bryniarski did all his own stunts. What stuntman would have volunteered for such a task? Fact is, no one else could have possibly handled them. Running with all that weight strapped to him, overheating at times to the point of his core body temperature going up to 103 degrees and swinging a live, smoking chainsaw while jumping off the hood of vans and muscling through doorways could only be handled by a very large, very masochistic man. A self-described action junky, Bryniarski gave his all to the roll, working his body past the point of normal physical torment. Ironic as it is, he was the most physically uncomfortable of all the actors, even those he pretended to butcher. At least the brutalized victim in the bathtub had a cool place to sit. The suit eventually became so sweltering Bryniarski instituted what he called the “103 degree rule.” If his body temperature went above 103 degrees, he’d stop for the day. However, on many occasions he broke that rule. Taking time out from production is money and the pressure to continue despite the odds is great.

SPEAK N O EV I L
He may have chased after his co-workers with a chainsaw, but Bryniarski has nothing but good things to say about everyone he worked with on the set.

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SEE

HEAR

Each day on the set he prayed he would not drop dead while remaining hyper- sensitive to the real danger one wrong move from him could present to the other actors and the set crew. “You can’t see shit in the mask and the chainsaw weighs 35 pounds,” Bryniarski says. “I had to jump off the van’s roof — an 8-to-9-foot drop — with the chain saw in hand, mask on, running in slime, full speed after people I actually like and respect. That comes with a high degree of responsibility. Any and all instances when you are working with a chainsaw and priceless talent are dangerous and require your complete and total attention in order to control the chaos.”

into so many different things creatively. Gaining knowledge, never getting stuck in one thing, place or train of thought. What is next is always the question burning in my mind. That’s the thrill.” His creativity both on and off the screen has earned him a place on Entertainment Weekly Magazine’s “It” list of the top 100 creative people in Hollywood this year. Had he not ventured into acting, Bryniarski would have most probably made music his full-time love. As it is, he plays in a rock band call The M.F.S. (Musical Freak Show) and they have just finished up a tour. Next step for them is recording an album. Creatively he admits to having been influenced by the band KISS and also by his cousin Jimmy who was always acting in plays and playing electric bass in bands.

Years of being physically active and working out with weights helped him quite a bit. Despite being a large man, Bryniarski is particularly agile and has done everything from motor cross and swimming as a teen to football in high school and college. He used his body “I like to learn,” building lifestyle not as Bryniarski says. his main focus, but to “Anything, from anyone, springboard himself into anywhere, anytime. I try other goals. While the to turn anything I may be face of his training has interested in back into my changed, his consistent business. That brings me focus has not. “Dorian growth, personally and Yates said something professionally.” Aside from his work as an actor, Bryniarski also enjoys playing great about training,” in his band, Musical Freak Show, and spending time with many Bryniarski says, His future projects of the animals he and his wife Gretchen have rescued. “Training is not include rolling his interest instinctive, being lazy is. Training needs to be specific to be into Celtic mythology and literature into a screenplay he’s effective. Set goals, be flexible. My training needs to change writing, continuing to perform with his band, sifting and grow as my goals do. As in life, hard work pays off.” through new offers for acting parts and adjusting his physique to the demands they present. Bryniarski moved to Hollywood in 1990 and soon found himself staring alongside Bruce Willis in Hudson Hawk. If you haven’t had the chance to see the new Texas Later he landed rolls in Batman Returns, The Program, Street Chainsaw Massacre movie I urge you to rent it once it hits Fighter, Any Given Sunday, Pearl Harbor, Rollerball, the shelves as a DVD. Knowing what you know now about Scooby-Doo, 44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shootout and, what it took to make it, I am still willing to bet it will scare the daylights out of you. ultimately, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Years of hard work has made him a versatile actor and he enjoys the challenge a new roll brings. “Part of what I enjoy about the craft of acting is the freedom to segue “I’m proud of this movie,” Bryniarski says “I promise you won’t soon forget it.”

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