Two days after The Human Centipede: Full Sequence premiered at Fantastic Fest 2011, I got a chance to sit down with director Tom Six and star Laurence R. Harvey over a cup of coffee to discuss the on-screen insanity that permanently seared itself into my brain. It’s no secret that the film was almost unanimously disliked at the fest, but Six and Harvey seem to be relishing in the hate and, from the sounds of it, it’s motivating them to go to the extreme with the next and final entry in the trilogy, The Human Centipede: Final Sequence.
Tom Six: Absolutely, it was definitely a part of it. I thought it was so stupid that we got death threats all the time and people thought I was worse than Hitler. That’s a really big part of it.
BD: Did any of the threats get really serious? Did the police ever get involved?
Six: There was one guy, I believe he was from England, and he kept putting threats on the Facebook fan page for me. He kept coming back and saying, `No worries fans, he’s going to be dead.’ But, he kept doing it and we were going to inform the police but he stopped before we did. That was pretty serious. Usually, when someone says `If we ever meet in person, I’m going to cut you with glass,’ they do it one time and then it’s over. It’s usually only nerds that do that, but that one guy was just a little too much.
BD: So, you’re not only insane in the movie, but you’re insane in real life to get involved with something like this.
Laurence Harvey: (laughs) Yeah, I suppose.
BD: The other night at the Q&A, you talked about how there was a lot of ideas left over from the first film that you used for Centipede 2.
Six: The general idea about a human centipede construct is, you can imagine, a lot of things. In my first idea, I was thinking about a huge centipede with lots of people. But I first wanted to make a film where the process was seen, so I wanted a short version. In that version, those people really are one system, they cooperate and they move around as one. I wanted it to be psychological for most of the time, because I wanted the audience to get to the sick idea – that already made people so upset. But now, I could show the shit and the blood. That was really my goal: to get people used to it and then go full force.
BD: This movie had 12 people in the centipede, so the next one is going to have how many?
Six: You have to wait for that! It’s different; I have something different up my sleeve.
BD: Before you got involved, had you seen the first one? Were you a big fan?
Harvey: I hadn’t seen the first one when I got called for casting. I just got a call saying someone was interested in making me the lead character in a film that was in the horror genre and did I want to be in it. I’m really interested in extreme cinema anyway and I’m a big horror fan, so I thought I should go for it because as a character actor, there are so few times you’re given something as good as this that’s a huge platform. At the time, I had heard of Human Centipede because it played a couple of festivals in the UK and there was a reaction to the screenings. It never really got its momentum until it got released in America. It was before the craziness erupted and it was this interesting, quirky film. There was literally an hour and a half between me seeing the film and going to the casting meeting.
Harvey: I just kept thinking to myself, `Shit. Shit.’ I had such big shoes to fill and I really, really wanted to be in the film. I thought that I would never get the part. It was such a great chance and a great opportunity that Tom gave me.
BD: Martin was the highlight of the movie for me. He never talks, yet he gets across his sliminess and emotions just by oozing in and out of the frame. You squeal and grunt and just really capture that dirty feeling. How did you approach the character?
Harvey: When I went to the casting, Tom said that there was very little dialogue for the character. I think originally, he was just copying Dr. Heiter’s lines aloud to pump himself up and build up his nerves. But I ended up doing the casting without any dialogue at all and then Tom cut all of it out.
Six: Laurence is such a brilliant actor. When you put a camera on his face, he has so much personality and charisma. He did the audition without speaking and not many actors can do that, and he filled an entire movie doing that. It’s brilliant, I think.
Harvey: Also, I thought about silent films and I approached some of the early violent scenes in the way I thought a deadpan comic would.
BD: With the black and white aesthetic, I got the sense that it was kind of representing this rift in reality between the first film and the sequel and how they have a meta relationship.
Six: That’s one of the reasons; I just wanted to make a completely different film. With the first movie, the film looks clinical with the set design and cinematography, and I think it helps Dr. Heiter’s story. In part two, I wanted a completely different look. It’s all handheld and dirty looking. I love the way the second one ended up looking. Like you said, it gives it this bleak reality to work in.
Harvey: One of the first things that struck me when I saw it in black and white is that it highlights the underlying silent comedy aspects and it kind of makes it look like one of those old Japanese splatter films that have been copied over and over again until the color bleeds out of it and it starts disintegrating.
Six: It adds to the creepiness and atmosphere, I think.
BD: Did you shoot in black and white? Did the aesthetic help you go full force with the special effects?
Six: I shot everything in color and when I was editing it, I had the idea in my head already but I hadn’t told anyone. I played a clip for myself in color and then in black and white, and saw so many beautiful things happening in black and white. So, I graded the whole film in black and white.
BD: Well, not the whole film. You do use one color…
Six: (laughs) I kept thinking about Schindler’s List and the girl with the red dress.
Harvey: It comes along just as you’re thinking about how awful it is. And then that color comes up! (laughs)
BD: You mentioned the other night how all three films are going to be connected like a centipede. The second film begins where the first one ends, and the third film will begin where the second one ends. Does that mean that the second film with become meta in the next one?
Six: Yes, exactly. Something like that. Part three is going to be a completely different story again.
BD: Martin really has no opposition in the film. There are certainly people holding him back, but nobody to really stop him in his tracks.
Harvey: The opposition and authority have already made me what I am. In the first film, Heiter is the sort of power, but the police do show up. But in this, the authority is the doctor figure or Martin’s mom. They’re the ones who really fucked him up. And everything that comes is because of that authority.
Six: It makes it scary that there are absolutely no police around.
BD: Martin’s a security guard, watching recorded security footage at night and absolutely no one checks it!
Harvey: He’s on his own and he’s technically the authority. He has no way of actually handling that authority, except in this pre-adolescent power-fantasy sort of way.
Six: It’s a very strange world where this is happening. There’s no authority from the police or anything.
Harvey: When I worked in Bulgaria, the police men were the most corrupt people there. And they kind of style themselves after American cops; they’re all leaning against their cars with a cowboy hat on in the middle of Bulgaria. It’s sort of seems like those kind of people can’t handle the authority they’re supposed to have because they’re indulging in their own power fantasies, and that’s what Martin is going through.
Six: How many serial killers do you have that kill for years before the police catch up?
BD: Going back to you secretly wanting to switch the movie to black and white, you did a lot of things in secret when working on the film, including the actual production.
Six: It was very cool. Very cool. Some locations didn’t even know what we were doing there. We just rented the place and shut the set down so no strangers could wander on, and then we could do whatever we wanted.
BD: Was Human Centipede 2 shot independently like the first film, or has IFC been on board since the beginning?
Six: IFC was on board.
BD: Are you teaming up with them again for Part III?
Six: Presumably, yeah. Part III is going to answer some questions that are raised in the first two parts and the films are going to be connected again like one and two are. It’s going to have a happy ending. Well, a strange happy ending. I don’t like happy endings in films, only massage parlors. (laughs) I really wanted a happy, strange ending at the end of the trilogy.
BD: When do you plan on starting production?
Six: The beginning of next year.
BD: After the trilogy is over, any idea as to what you’re tackling next?
Six: I have a really great idea for a new psychologically horror film again, with the same kind of idea that was in Human Centipede. Something like the ass-to-mouth idea that made it so big. It’s a new specific idea that has nothing to do with that, but it will be a psychological horror with a team no one has seen before. It’s going be really fucked up again and more in the style of Part I. It won’t have anything to do with human centipedes but be psychological like Part I.
BD: Does that mean another South Park parody is in your future?
Six: (laughs) I certainly hope so!