Interview: Tom Six; director of The Human Centipede

Interview: Tom Six; director of The Human Centipede. By Simon Miraudo.

*Warning: The following interview features a graphic description of the events in The Human Centipede. Although the ending of the film is not spoiled, this content is recommended for those of you with the strongest stomachs. Seriously, no complaining afterwards. You were warned.*

I wouldn’t sacrifice my Saturday evening – making multiple international calls too, mind you – to speak with just any filmmaker. It would have to be someone special; someone I needed answers from. The Human Centipede helmer Tom Six is one of those filmmakers. If you’ve not yet heard of The Human Centipede, I can only assume that this is your first time on the internet. Welcome! Feel free to start your journey for all things internety on Google (and remember to stay away from 4Chan!). I kid. Tom Six’s demented horror flick is hardly raking in coin at the box office, but its central hook has dominated the cultural head-space of many an intrepid online explorer since it made a splash at various film festivals in 2009. That hook? Three poor souls stitched mouth-to-anus in a horrific experiment. Yeah. Trailers, clips, images, parodies and cheeky jokes regarding the concept of a Human Centipede have flitted around the international blogosphere. Now, the film has finally arrived in Australia to satiate the curiosity of those of us on Twitter and Facebook who’ve been talking about it for over a year.

I spoke to Dutch director Tom Six about his film’s notoriety, whether or not he appreciates the reactions the film has garnered (including the death threats), the incredulity of his picture’s “100% medically accurate tagline” and, of course, the sequel. (Oh, and don’t forget to check out my review too!)

SM: Let’s start from the beginning. I wanted to ask how you got into filmmaking.

TS: Yeah, as a little boy I always wanted to make films; it’s some kind of a gene you must have or something. I saw a lot of films and with my grandfather’s Super 8 camera I made films. And then I started in television; I was one of the pioneering director’s on the first Big Brother show which started in Holland. I set that show up in a lot of countries directing-wise. Then I wanted to have my own company, so I started with my sister a film company called Six Entertainment, and we produced three Dutch-language films and this is our first international film.

SM: Excellent. Well, The Human Centipede has definitely become a sort-of cultural phenomenon, particularly on the internet. I want to ask, first of all, how did you come up with the concept, and secondly, why do you think people are so drawn to it?

TS: The concept is very simple; it’s a joke I once made when I was watching television with friends. There was a very nasty child molester on, and I said they should stitch his mouth to the ass of a very fat truck driver as a punishment. And everybody says “Oh, that’s such a horrible idea”. And I thought, it’s a horrible idea, but it might be a great basic idea for a horror film. I started writing, and then the basic idea of being attached to someone’s ass and having one digestive system is something so repulsive and so universal, and that’s why I think it triggered so many people to think about it. It’s really become a huge thing on the internet. That’s really cool.

SM: It’s not a movie full of jump scares, but it’s certainly horrific. It’s almost like you’re wandering through this nightmare that you can’t escape. It reminded me more of films like Eraserhead and Audition, as opposed to some of the more modern horror films coming out now. What kind of horror films do you like?

TS: I absolutely love the early work of David Cronenberg like The Brood and Shivers [They Came From Within] and stuff; he knows how to create an enormously strange atmosphere in his films and I love his body of horror work. I love the work of Takeshi Miike from Audition; I love the work of David Lynch as well, so I’m definitely influenced by those guys as well.

SM: With the casting of the film, how did you find the actors – or even appeal to find the actors – that would play the links in the centipede?

TS: Yeah, casting the girls was a real nightmare. We went to New York and a lot of actresses came in; beautiful girls. And I showed them a slideshow of the human centipede construction, and like 70% of the girls left immediately. They thought I was some European lunatic, and I really tried to tell the actresses how it would look like; what the story was about. But you can imagine most actresses only want to be pretty in films, and not attached to an ass. So it was pretty difficult. But the ones with the biggest balls were Ashlynn (Yennie) and Ashley (C. Williams), because they trusted me in this film, and I was really happy they took the job in this film.

SM: I think a lot of trust is required, because in general, it’s physically hard to be tied to two people while filming a movie. Did morale ever drop? Did you have to keep spurring them on throughout the shoot?

TS: Oh yeah. They knew what they signed up for of course, but it was really tough for them to sit on their hands and knees for half of the shoot. So we gave them a massage afterwards. But most of the emotions that you see on the film are real; because it’s painful to sit on your hands and knees, let alone have this German lunatic doctor walking around you. It was quite a surreal experience the shooting, and very, very tough on the actors as well.

SM: Speaking of the ‘German lunatic doctor’, where did you find Dieter Laser?

TS: I saw a DVD of him when I was writing the script. It was a German film, and he played a prisoner. And I thought “What an incredible face that man has!” I looked him up on IMDB, and I noticed he’d never played in a horror film before. He did a lot of films, but never horror. I thought “That man is born to play in horror films.” So I contacted him in Berlin, and we went there, and I explained the whole story and he absolutely loved the story. And a really good working relationship was born at that moment.

SM: All the posters and promotional materials sell the film as being “100% medically accurate”, and I guess my question here is: “How?!”

TS: No, no! I contacted a real surgeon in Holland, and first he says “No Tom, I’m not going to work with you because it’s against my medical oath.” But after a while he says “Well, I will help you, but I will do it anonymous. So he created very detailed operation reports for me, and he said “I could actually make a human centipede in my hospital”. And that’s pretty scary.

SM: It is.

TS: Yeah! My idea was to only do a mouth to an ass, but he said that would rip. He came up with the idea of taking the skin flaps out of the buttocks and attaching them to the cheek so you have a really firm construction. And then if you have – like you see in the film – an IV, and you have nutritions and fluids in there, you could live for a long time. Because the faeces isn’t attacked by outside bacteria; it’s going directly from one system into the other. So…

SM: So there you go.

TS: There you go!

SM: Well hopefully this doesn’t happen in real life, and he doesn’t take this back to the hospital with him.

TS: No, no, no.

SM: I’m wondering, what do you want, or rather, what do you expect from your audience?

TS: I hope they have an experience from something very original, and something they’ve never seen before. I hope it gets a lot of talking. I hope people have the images stay in their head for a long, long time, and it brings them to a world they haven’t seen before. I hope they have a great time. But there are also people who are totally offended by it, and want me dead. On Facebook, some people say I have to be sterilized, or say I’m worse than Hitler killing the Jews. The reactions on this film are phenomenal in each direction.

SM: Well, are you happy with the way the film’s been received, with both of those polar opposites? Is it what you were hoping for? I know you were just involved in a Q&A with another audience. Are you happy with the reception?

TS: Yeah, yeah definitely. I knew of course when I wrote the script, I knew we’d get a lot of reactions. Bad ones and good ones. But what it does is provokes reaction. To me, that’s where all the fun as a filmmaker is. I would not like to make movies where nobody talks about them. So the fun for me is to create something people talk about. So yeah, I’m really happy that the film is going so well, because at the same time it could have been so that nobody noticed the film, but somehow it gets so much attention, and that makes me really proud.

SM: I understand that you’re filming a sequel at the moment. Can you tell me about that?

TS: I just finished shooting. We filmed it in London and it’s going to be a human centipede of twelve people, and Part One will really be My Little Pony compared to Part Two, because Part Two is going to be really nasty. I had so many ideas which I couldn’t all put in Part One, because at first I wanted the audience to get used to this sick idea. And now that they’re used to it I can go full force. So it’s going to be pretty amazing. It’s going to be 100% medically inaccurate.

SM: That’ll be a nice change.

TS: I can’t say if the doctor returns or what happens to the middle girl. I want to keep that a surprise. But it’s going to be pretty amazing I hope.

SM: Looking past Human Centipede and the sequel, do you have any projects on the horizon? What kind of films you want to make?

TS: I really want to explore horror; the psychological drama stuff. I think there are still some territories left that I haven’t explored yet. Next year I want to shoot a film in L.A., and that’s a psychological horror film and that’s going to be pretty disturbing as well. I would like to continue making films like this a little bit for now.

SM: Excellent. Well Tom I really appreciate your time. Best of luck with your future projects.

TS: Thank you so much.

SM: Hopefully we can speak again for the next film?

TS: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

Check out Simon’s review of The Human Centipede here. The Human Centipede is currently screening in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. It arrives on DVD and Blu-ray October 6, 2010.

One Response to “Interview: Tom Six; director of The Human Centipede”

  1. >Tom Six is a sick individual. Did this movie really need to be made? and a sequel? REALLY?! Medically ridiculous but the concept of man's inhumanity toward man is really whats disturbing. so much suffering.

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