'Chainsaw' producer likes being underestimated

Many industry pundits underestimated the prospects of "Texas Chainsaw 3D," the horror tale that finally knocked "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" from the top spot at the box office. Expected to gross about $16 million in its debut, the Leatherface sequel fared much better than predicted, selling an estimated $23 million of tickets.

The film's commercial appeal wasn't the only part of "Texas Chainsaw" that people sold short. Producer Christa Campbell, a former pin-up girl and B-movie actress, said that Hollywood executives also assumed someone best known for her body couldn't have any moviemaking brains.  

"I love that people underestimate me," said Campbell, who with producing partner Lati Grobman secured the roughly $20 million from Millennium Films to finance the movie, which was released domestically by Lionsgate. "They assume I'm stupid -- that I'm not on it."

In her acting career, Campbell has had roles in an array of horror tales, erotic thrillers and crime dramas, including parts in "The Wicker Man," "Finding Bliss," "Hero Wanted" and "Erotic Confessions." She and Grobman's new production company have several movies in development and post-production, among them Anna Paquin and Ryan Phillippe's "Straight A's" and the mental institution drama "Eliza Graves."

Grobman said she and Campbell have to prove themselves more than most male producers. "It's a very tough town for women," said Grobman, whose background is in producing with Millennium Pictures head Avi Lerner. "So we have to be stronger and prove ourselves more than men."

Campbell said that thanks to her long career in horror flicks, she has a long list of helpful contacts. "I love the genre and know everybody in it. It's one big, happy family," Campbell said. "I can reach out to anybody, and they know me."

One of Campbell and Grobman's toughest tasks as executive producers of "Texas Chainsaw" was convincing Millennium, which favors star-laden action tales, to underwrite a genre title cast with young unknowns.

"Millennium doesn't understand horror," Campbell said. "A lot of people there thought the movie was stupid. But they didn't understand the genre. People love this movie because it's Leatherface," she said of the masked killer at the center of the story.

No one has announced firm plans for another "Texas Chainsaw" sequel, but Campbell and Grobman are confident another film is more than likely. "I think the new movie sets it up for new films that can come afterward," Campbell said. "Leatherface needs to be likable and he needs to be humanized. If you're just a guy waving a chainsaw around, no one is going to connect with you."


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