Human Centipede franchise director Tom Six may make torture porn movies in which people are forcibly joined together rump-to-mouth. But even he has limits.
“I hate cheese, I hate it,” says the Dutchman, after ordering a fromage-free turkey club sandwich at a New York eaterie. “If I would be in a room alone with cheese, I would go crazy.” So cheese is his Human Centipede? “Absolutely! Especially the yellow sheets. Urggh!”
“Urggh!” is a reaction many will have to Six’s new movie, Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence). The film is his follow-up to last year’s cult hit Human Centipede (First Sequence), in which a crazy German surgeon sewed together two women and one man so they shared a single alimentary canal. The sequel, which opens this Friday, stars the previously unknown British actor Lawrence R. Harvey as a London parking garage attendant who compulsively watches a DVD of Human Centipede and decides to make his own version of the titular monstrosity from around a dozen or so victims.
The film made headlines earlier this year when it was banned in the U.K., a judgment about which Six admits to having mixed feelings. “Immediately, I got two strong emotions,” says the director. “One is like, ‘My god, I’m up there now with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and stuff.’ So that was a proud moment and I knew for marketing reasons that would be amazing. [But] I was really mad, because how can you tell adults not to watch a movie? That’s crazy.”
Below, in an at times NSFW conversation, Six and Harvey talk about making the film, paying tribute to Blazing Saddles, and the “loonies” who will do anything to be a human centipede segment.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tom, you premiered the film just a couple of weeks ago at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Tx. What was that like?
TOM SIX: Incredible. It was really highly anticipated. One lady had to be taken out to an ambulance. The opinions were immediately like, halved. People hated it. Other people thought it was genius. There was nothing in between. Some people see the humor in it and the intentions I have with the film. Others don’t, and only see the gore. The film is an answer to the public. They wanted more after the first one, so I really gave it to them, really over the top, so people can really see it’s a movie. If I get death threats because people take [the first movie] so seriously, this is my answer: Guys, it’s only a movie. It’s a roller coaster ride into the darkness. Just experience it.
What happened to the woman who was taken out to the ambulance?
TS: She was alright. She fainted. Her body said no and she fainted. The next day she wanted to have a picture with me.
When did you decide to make a second film?
TS: When I was writing Part 1, I had so many ideas and I couldn’t put them all in one film. I knew of course that it was a crazy idea. I had to get the audience used to the idea first. And I knew, in Part 2, I would go full force, because that’s exactly what the audience wants. They want to see the gore, more operation stuff. And I also knew that I was going to totally swap the story. It’s like completely the opposite from Part 1, the way it looks, the way lead character is, the way the story is built up. Because I didn’t want to make a copy of my first one. That would have been boring.
Laurence, what’s your acting background? The only credit you have on IMDb.com is Human Centipede 2?
LAURENCE D. HARVEY: I was going to put up the TV stuff and short films that I’ve done. But we were trying to keep my involvement a secret until as late as possible. I started out in performance art. My own work started out being a very kind of Spalding Grey, monologue-at-the-table thing, and then went darker. I’ve done lots of children’s TV. I did a number of short films. I did a series of adverts for AT&T that never got shown. I keep getting these moments where everyone says, “Ooh, you’re gonna be huge after this! Huge!” And then it never kind of happens. [Laughs] This is the first time that it’s really sort of exploded for me.
Were you familiar with the first Human Centipede film?
LDH: It was on my radar. Then my agent rang me. He thought it was a porn film. He was like, “I’m not sure, but these guys have been in touch and it’s a lead role, so what do you think?” I said “Yeah, definitely.” Tom arranged a screening and then I did my casting.
At which I believe he asked you to rape a chair?
LDH: [Laughs] Well, there was a build up! First off, Tom gave this very detailed, scene-by-scene analysis of what happens in the film. He was also explaining how he wanted Martin to behave and what Martin’s background was, that he was abused. We were trying out different scenes, like when Martin has to deal with a bad customer in the car park. And then it was, “We would like to see how you would approach the rape scene.” I just looked around the room — coming from a performance artist background you use objects in ways that they’re not meant to be used — so I just flipped the chair straight over and went for it. With such extreme material, you can’t hold back, really.
I understand it was much easier to get actors to play segments of the centipede than it was on the first film.
TS: It was hell the first time. This time, because of the cult success, we got so many actors that wanted to be in the centipede. When they came in they immediately went on their hands and knees and started acting. We had actors that emailed us, they wanted to be in the centipede and they willing to eat real s—.
Presumably you didn’t employ them.
TS: No, no, no. There are loonies out there!
Of course a lot of people would say that you are one of them.
TS: Yeah. And I am a victim of a happy childhood. I couldn’t hurt a mouse in real life.
Much of the film is set in a grimy and, as the movie progresses, increasingly gore-drenched warehouse, where Martin assembles his “centipede” out of a dozen or so basically naked people. What was it like filming those scenes?
LDH: For the guys in the segments, it must have been tough. They’re going around with all this liquid and the liquid’s rubbing the dirt out of the wooden floor, because it’s an unvarnished floor. So they had it the toughest. But Tom takes such a boyish glee in everything. As we were filming, Tom would go behind the camera and go, “Ah! That’s so nasty!” And you know he’s really enjoying it.
TS: Filmmaking like this, is so much fun. We are all like little children playing with blood and fake poop and stuff. If I see something in real life, if I see a guy bleeding on the street, I faint. I can’t see that. But your own work is, for me, like comedy.
So when you called “Cut!” did everyone immediately put on robes?
It didn’t get to the point where anyone was totally comfortable standing around naked?
LDH: Well, one guy was. He was an exhibitionist.
TS: Yeah. He was hanging very large. So he enjoyed it. No, what we did, we’d bring in chairs. Because they couldn’t really stand up, so they had to sit in a position that wouldn’t ruin their costumes, and then they’d get bathrobes.
Laurence you look, deliberately, terrible in the film. What was it like the first time you saw it?
LDH: [Laughs] I was fine. I know I’m not “Slim Jim.” The only bit of vanity I felt watching was that there are lots of side shots and I thought I’d plucked my nasal hair. But it’s like two trees growing out of there.
TS: But it fits Martin.
Tom, where were you when you heard the BBFC had banned the film?
TS: I was at home in Amsterdam. That’s from the dinosaur era. Everybody can import films, watch them on the Internet. Banning is not for this time anymore. The BBFC is really promoting illegal downloading.
Were you annoyed the BBFC’s judgment revealed so much of the plot, which up until that point you had succeeded in keeping almost completely under wraps?
TS: At first I was, because they go into so much detail. Everybody was like, “Oh, no!” But it also helped me. I made the joke that Part 1 would be My Little Pony [compared to the second]. And now this came out, and everybody went, “My god, he must be right!”
Are you planning to appeal the BBFC’s decision?
TS: They’re already appealing now.
How much of the film has been cut for its US release?
TS: For America, only a few minutes are cut out. The rape scene is cut out and the barbed wire scene is out. [More details on those scenes are available, a tad ironically, on the BBFC website.]
About half a dozen EW staffers saw the film at a screening recently. We’re calling ourselves the “Human Centipede 2 Survivors Group.”
TS: Brilliant. You should get t-shirts with that.
Tom, are you familiar with the films of Mike Leigh?
TS: Mike Leigh? Definitely, yes.
When I was watching Human Centipede 2, there were parts that reminded me of a Mike Leigh movie gone horribly wrong.
LDH: One of the first things Tom said was that he wanted to make like a British social realism film mixed with a horror film. Ken Loach. A bit of Mike Leigh.
There is also an almost Andy Warhol-esque vibe to the film. It’s beyond good or bad. It’s an experience.
LDH: It’s not like a Jennifer Aniston film.
TS: You buckle up and you sit down and you watch the experience.
LDH: It’s a classic kind of midnight movie. Like George Kuchar’s Thundercrack. Or Eraserhead. Or El Topo. It’s something that mixes high art and low art into this kind of stew. People won’t go to this film to have a good time. They’ll go to be provoked or be intellectually challenged — because there’s a layer of satire and there’s an interesting post-feminist strand to it. People will go in groups and debate with their friends. Films aren’t just something that you passively watch and either enjoy or don’t enjoy. They should be things that provoked different emotions and engage you intellectually or, in this case, physically as well.
For all the film’s bloody mayhem, it has funny moments — if you have a very bleak sense of humor. Was the mass farting scene a homage to Blazing Saddles?
TS: Oh, I love that movie. It’s so good that you see that. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. For me, it’s a Mel Brooks scene. But for other people, it’s so serious and disgusting. It’s just in the mind of the viewer.
LDH: When I read it in the script, I thought of Brian Yuzna’s Society. How it’s so satirical and scatological and ridiculously funny. It’s the comedy highlight of the month. No, the year!
The sound design on the film is remarkable.
TS: They are a brilliant company in London. I really wanted to enhance all the sounds. All the details you hear are a little louder than normal, like the centipede crawling in its cage and all the flies and the moaning. You hear it all. They hung this dead pig up in the room where they Foley sound and during the whole film they slaughtered the pig into complete pieces. They were jamming out the teeth and they were cutting into the meat. So that after the Foley, the pig was gone.
They were pulling out its teeth?
TS: Yeah. They were pulling out the teeth, hitting out the teeth [to match] what you see in the film. They did it to a pig.
So, was it then bacon sandwiches all round?
TS: I don’t know. But it looks gross. I saw some footage. It was a slaughterhouse. It was a mess.
Tom, do you get sent gifts from fans?
TS: Oh, all the time.
What’s the oddest present you’ve received?
TS: Like dolls sewn together, a—to-mouth. Very detailed. A lady gave this to me and she was very serious when she gave this to me. There was no humor involved.
Does that worry you?
TS: Sometimes. I had this guy at the Fantastic Fest premiere come up to me and he said, “You’re Jesus for me.” And another guy during Part 1 screenings said I was worse than Hitler. Yeah.
How are you regarded by the Dutch film scene?
TS: I don’t like the Dutch film scene at all. I am almost this side freak to them. I cause controversy in the film scene and that’s not done anymore. They feel themselves like real stiff upper lips, they feel themselves very important. And I joke around. It’s almost like they are a little ashamed of me or something.
I recently spoke with Trey Parker and Matt Stone who parodied Human Centipede on a recent episode of South Park. They said that the way they felt a lot of people thought about their show — “Why would anyone do this?” — is the way they felt about your movie.
TS: Incredible. It’s such an honor they did that.
LDH: And that’s only the first one, they’re talking about!
TS: I hope they see the second one as well. Beavis and Butthead, after they return, they are going to talk about it as well.
Tom, what’s next for you? Are you doing a third Human Centipede?
TS: The third one is the Final Sequence. I’m really fed up with the centipedes.
A lot of people will be pleased to hear that.
TS: Yeah, yeah. Like Part 2 starts with the ending of Part 1, I do the same transition trick between 2 and Part 3. So in the end you can literally connect the films, like a human centipede. Part 3 is going to be a completely different film again from 1 and 2.
When will you be shoot that?
TS: The beginning of next year, 2012, here in the United States.
America: You have been warned.