The writer-director talks about what will surely be one of the most controversial films of the year
I can't quite put a finger on when I started hearing the buzz about Tom Six's utterly unique/insane film The Human Centipede (First Sequence), but I would truly never forget about this film after I saw it with my own eyes. The squeamish and the faint of heart will likely want to stay far away from this film, but those who are willing to risk some of the most truly disturbing images you'll likely ever see on the silver screen... well you're in for quite a crazy little trip with the film, which will be available on video-on-demand platforms on April 28 before hitting theaters this Friday, April 30. I had the opportunity to speak with the writer-director of this one-of-a-kind film (CLICK HERE to read my full review of the film) and here's what he had to say.
I went to see the film and I wasn't quite sure what to expect... and I'm still not quite sure what I saw, to be totally honest (Laughs).
Tom Six: (Laughs) Oh, no problem.
I was reading the production notes and it talked a bit about how you first came up with the initial concept for this. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Tom Six: The original concept? Yeah, sure. It started with a very sick joke I made with some friends. We were watching television and we saw like a child molester or something and I said that they should stitch his mouth to the ass of a very fat truck driver for punishment. Everybody said that was such a horrible idea and, of course, it is, but it's the perfect idea for a horror film. That's how it started.
When you decided to flesh this out into a story, can you talk about how these characters came together? I absolutely loved Dieter Laser in the film as well.
Tom Six: Sure. Of course, I had to create this idea that they're on their hands and knees and this crazy surgeon with this operation. I had to find a really good surgeon and I saw a couple of DVD's of Dieter Laser in various roles and I thought he was the best guy that could play Dr. Heiter. So we called him and flew to Berlin to meet him. He's like an acting dinosaur because he's been working for over 40 years. He's worked with Burt Lancaster and John Malkovich, big actors. I told him the script in detail and he absolutely loved the idea and the story.
I read that this is also 100% medically accurate as well. Can you talk a bit about the people you talked to, the surgeons you consulted with about making this accurate, and also how these surgeons first reacted to the idea, when they first heard about it?
Tom Six: I made storyboard drawings of how I would like the centipede to look like and, the first thing he said, of course, was that it went against his medical oath and his medical ethics. But he's a really big movie lover as well, so after a while, he thought, 'Well, film is art and not real, so I'm going to help you.' He created this operation, like it's explained in the movie, so a surgeon could actually perform an operation like this and make The Human Centipede construction. That makes it 100% medically accurate, the operation itself could be performed. Then, of course, you have to figure out how to keep them alive. In the film, they're attached to IV's with fluids. You could actually eat feces, you could eat it, but of course it's not healthy. You can be kept alive like this.
Did they say how long someone could be kept alive like this, in this situation?
Tom Six: Nobody knows exactly how long you could live like this, but the idea is doing it medically, really well. I have no idea how long, but I think you could live for awhile like this.
I have to say these have to be some of the bravest performances I've seen in awhile. Can you talk about finding your two American girls (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) and the Japanese guy (Akihiro Kitamura) as well? I loved them in the film. Can you talk about finding these actors and what their initial reactions to the script were?
Tom Six: We went to New York to do the casting for the girls and we asked for very daring and very pretty young actresses. I made storyboard drawings of The Human Centipede construction, because a picture is worth a thousand words, so I showed the actresses the drawings I made. A lot of them went crazy. They thought I was some kind of a nutcase and left immediately after they saw the drawings. The smart ones, they stayed and I explained what it was going to look like and what the story was about. Then, at the moment of truth, I had to get the actresses on their hands and knees and put them very close with the mouth to the ass, of course. Some of the actresses couldn't handle the pressure and they left and it got down to our two beautiful and daring actresses, Ashley and Ashlynn. I'm really proud of them because most actresses only want to be pretty, especially when they're young, but those two dared to be very ugly in this film. And Akihiro, we first had a lot of actors that had knee problems, and of course that would be impossible to play in this film. Then we heard from a casting agent in L.A. that said, 'I have a very daring, great, young Japanese actor for you.' So we Skyped with him and had a terrific conversation and audition via Skype. He really liked the story and we liked him a lot so we made the deal and he came to Amsterdam for the shooting.
This has been hitting the festival circuit for awhile and people have been walking out of screenings and things like that. Were those the kinds of reactions you were looking for when you first had this idea?
Tom Six: Yeah, absolutely. As a filmmaker, it's great fun when you make a horror film and people are really horrified by it. If you make a horror film, that's the best reaction you can get. I knew the basic idea of this film would get a lot of reactions like that, so we had a lot of people that walked out of the cinema because they just couldn't handle the film and others would last the whole way through it. There are very different reactions you get from this film at festivals all over the world, in Japan, Europe and the United States. As a filmmaker, it's great when you get reactions on your film and other people say, 'What's for dinner?' and they forget about it.
I thought it was funny that this woman that was sitting next to me at the screening, she went to see the film because she thought it sounded like Slither. I thought that was humorous because she obviously didn't see the trailer and had no idea what she was in store for. It was pretty interesting
Tom Six: (Laughs) I like that, people that have no idea what they're going to see.
I really loved the film and the funny thing is that everyone I tell about the film, since most people haven't heard about it, they're disgusted by it but they still want to see it. It has a train wreck effect, it's horrible but you still want to see it.
Tom Six: Yeah, yeah. You want to know what your friends think about it too. That's the fun of it, I think.
I believe you're getting ready for production on the sequel, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence). From what I read in the production notes, it's going to be 12 people in that centipede for the Full Sequence?
Tom Six: Exactly. It's going to be 12 people and I've been telling people all over the world that The Human Centipede (First Sequence) will be My Little Pony in comparison to this film. In part one, I really wanted people to get used to this idea, this sick idea and in the second part, I can really use all my imagination and everything I couldn't do in Part I, I can now do in Part II. I really tried to make it original, of course, because you see all these sequels that are disappointing. Hopefully it works, creating something really original and something the audience doesn't expect.
One of the really cool elements of the film is you have the two American actresses (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) and the Japanese actor (Akihiro Kitamura) who doesn't speak any English at all so they can't really understand each other. Are you going to have that kind of international dynamic with these 12 people in this new centipede?
Tom Six: No, not really that dynamic. It's going to be completely different. I can tell you that we're going to shoot in London so the whole cast will be English-speaking this time. For me, the first part, that was very necessary because the girls can't speak because they're attached to this ass, and you don't want the foreign guy to be able to communicate with the doctor, that's why I wanted to have that Japanese actor. He's also speechless too, because nobody understands what he's saying.
Will there be more of an interaction with the doctor in the Full Sequence then?
Tom Six: Well, the question is even, 'Is there going to be a doctor?' or 'Is (Dieter Laser's) Dr. Heiter going to return or not?' I still want to keep it a surprise, what happens in Part II. All I can say is they're all English-speaking people now.
I read that you are going to start filming this summer in London. I was wondering if you were planning on a late 2010 release or maybe a 2011 release?
Tom Six: Yeah, later 2010 release. That is our goal to show it at the festivals. We are going to shoot it in June this year so we hope to present it somehow at the end of 2010.
Just to wrap up, what would you like to say to anyone who is curious about The Human Centipede (First Sequence) about why they should check it out when it opens in theaters?
Tom Six: Well, I hope, if you like disturbing films and horror and thriller films, I really hope that you will try to check it out. I hope people will make their own opinion about the film and I hope they enjoy it because I enjoyed making it and showing it to new audiences everywhere.
Excellent. Thanks so much for your time, Tom. I really enjoyed the film and best of luck with the sequel.
Tom Six: All right. Thanks for doing the interview.
You can watch Tom Six's boldly original film The Human Centipede (First Sequence) on video-on-demand platforms starting on April 28 and you can check out the film in theaters starting on Friday, April 30. You can also CLICK HERE to read my review of the film as well.