Celebrating 30 Years Of ‘Fresh Air’: Remembering Horror Film Director Tobe Hooper

Hooper, who died Saturday, wrote and directed the 1974 cult classic film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,which helped inspire a wave of slasher films that followed. Originally broadcast in 1988. 

GROSS: Your movie is very threatening. It’s very ugly. It’s very hard to sit through in some ways, but it’s really not that explicitly gory. It’s not as gory as you’d expect it to be. Was that intentional on your part, or have standards just changed since 1973?

HOOPER: No, that was intentional. And it also had to do with my awareness of getting a rating on the picture. And I actually set out to get a PG rating.

GROSS: Are you kidding?

HOOPER: No, I’m not kidding. In fact, when I was shooting the picture, I called the MPAA and told them what I was doing. And I said, “Now, how can I make this PG?” You know, I know the concept is rough, but let’s hypothetically talk about a sequence that I have. A sequence, for instance, where a girl is – a big guy hangs a girl up on a meat hook. And if you don’t see penetration and you see the girl hanging on the meat hook and you’ve suggested penetration in a kind of Hitchcock way, you know, what will I get? Does that get an R? Does that get an X? Or how about PG?

So over the phone, talking the MPAA all the way through while shooting, I was trying to do what they suggested so I could have a PG rating. Well, when the film was finished and they saw it, it was really amazing. They have these little clipboards, you know, with lights on them in the dark room. And every few seconds, those lights would pop on. And they were making notes. And I thought, oh, that’s trouble. That means they’re talking about cuts. Well, ended up not having to make any cuts, but, of course, we took the R rating. And I don’t know, however, had I not sincerely tried to go for PG, the picture may have been an X.