During the Empire Big Screen weekend I was lucky enough to attend a press conference with Human Centipede director Tom Six. Given his films, Six is a surprising person, less scary than you might expect; relaxed and funny, he sat back in his straw cowboy hat and took questions on how he got started, the UK banning of Human Centipede 2 and his future plans. There is some strong language in this article.
Tom Six: The idea started very simply; I saw a child molester on television, I was with friends and they said ‘they should stitch his mouth to the ass of a fat truck driver as a punishment’. I thought; that is a good punishment, and it’s also a very good idea for a film. So I started thinking about that, and that’s how the whole process started. That’s why we are where we are now; it all started with a very simple joke.
Q: A simple joke, but one that shocks a lot of people. Did you really think it would become a real movie that people would go to the cinema and watch?
Tom Six: I knew it would be a movie people would talk about, but it spread like an aggressive virus across the world, and as a filmmaker you dream about that. I knew I had to fight to make it, because when you come to actors and investors with an idea like that they all think you’re crazy, of course. But we pulled it off, and I’m very happy we did.
Q: How easy was it originally to get actors and actresses to be in the film, was it an easy sell?
Tom Six: For the first one, we cast in New York for two beautiful actresses, and almost seventy percent of the girls walked off immediately when I explained the story. They thought I was some European idiot of course, but the smart ones stayed. But it’s quite something if you did drama school for years, and then your mother sees you behind some ass, it takes balls to play that, you can imagine. But now they’re so happy they did it; they are famous now and everybody wants to make films with them. For the second one, casting was not a problem, because all the actors knew the success of part 1, so they happily went on their hands and knees.
Q: Have you got anything to say to the BBFC?
Tom Six: Oh, I’ve got lots of things to say, you can imagine. When I first heard it I wanted to thank them so much for their incredible publicity, but now I’m getting really annoyed. They didn’t agree with our appeal, so it’s looking not good, and I’m really angry now, because how can they say to adults ‘you can’t watch this film’? It’s incredible, and I’m really sad because the UK is the country that gave the world the black humour of Monty Python and Little Britain, and in my film; part 1 and part 2, there’s a lot of black humour. I’m so disappointed they’re so humourless.
I’m also very angry that they printed the entire synopsis of the film on their website, when the film isn’t released yet. I’m also very unhappy they are in favour of illegal downloading, because if the world; America, Australia, can see the film and people in the UK can’t, the fans want it so badly, so they have to turn to illegal downloading, and of course for a filmmaker who doesn’t work in Hollywood, that’s very tough for us, because you have to have a paying audience to get your investors [money] back, so they are really helping illegal downloading.
The distributor and I won’t stop until we get this damn movie out here. For me I can’t believe that it would be illegal to show this film here. It’s crazy. I think Harry Potter is much more damaging, they say that my film may cause harm to viewers, but I think if some child out there jumps off a high building in London with a broom and thinks he can fly… that’s much more reasonable I think than some nutcase out there making his own human centipede.
Q: While the ban is annoying, is it also a source of pride for you?
Tom Six: I’m very proud! I’m up there with only eleven films that they’ve banned [he may mean 11 that remain banned here, BBFC have rejected many more than 11 films over the years] and Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and so it’s really cool as a filmmaker that your film is banned, but up to a certain moment; now I’m really pissed.
Q: If you had the opportunity to go back to when you were first making the film, knowing it would be banned, would you take out the scenes that most offended the BBFC?
Tom Six: Oh no, never, no no no. They say it’s uncuttable; whatever you take out we won’t accept it. In A Serbian Film they did cut things out, and it’s now in stores everywhere, so that’s even crazier. The BBFC also misjudged my story, they say it’s the story of a man who is sexually obsessed with making a human centipede. That’s not true, it’s a man who is obsessed with making a human centipede, and the sexual elements in the story are very few, but they blew it up like it was something huge, and that’s why people get a very wrong impression of the film.
Q: The film has been released uncut in Australia, so why do you think it’s okay for Australia but not for the UK?
Tom Six: I don’t understand it at all, because I used to think Australia was much more tough on..
Q: It is.
Tom Six: So what is happening? I don’t understand, the distributor doesn’t understand, It’s crazy. The Americans, they release it; a cut and an uncut version, but the Americans used to be much more puritan, and I think its unbelievable that they release it.
Q: Do you see the BBFC ban being lifted any time soon?
Tom Six: Well, they have rejected our second appeal, so now the distributor has to go to a barrister or court, I’m not sure how that works, so it looks not very good. The film is not obscene, a lawyer said that and we have to get a barrister saying that. We have to find a way, I’m fighting my ass off with the distributor to find a way to show the film in the UK. You have councils and it’s all very complicated, I don’t understand it [the ultimate decision on a film's certificate lies at local council level, however, they almost never contradict BBFC]. But we will go on.
Q: If you’re offered a cuts list is that something that is acceptable to you, or will you only release the film if you can put it out uncut?
Tom Six: No no, I hate if they cut a film, but I would prefer that to a total ban, because there is always the uncut version available somewhere, but then people can see most of my film, and that’s worth it, even though I hate cutting.
Q: As a filmmaker you’re both artist and businessman, and you’re actually faced with this decision of whether art is more important than commerce, because your film is banned. Would you rather people see it, or would you rather earn money from it in the UK?
Tom Six: I want people to see it, if you’re involved with the business side you want people to see it, but also as a filmmaker you want them to see it, on the big screen or on a proper DVD, no illegal downloading, so from all perspectives I want people to see it here. Of course there’s the romantic idea that people watch it under the counter, and in secret little caves somewhere in the UK, but that’s not what I want.
Q: How interested are you in the film’s effect outside the viewership, in terms of the cultural effect. How interested are you in creating a bit of a ruckus in culture?
Tom Six: I love it. That’s why I make these kinds of films, because I want people to talk about it, I love controversy, and I play a little with that fact of course. But I love the fact that it grew so big; South Park, and now Beavis and Butthead are going to talk about it.
Q: Is that part of your goal in making the film?
Tom Six: Oh yeah, sure, because I’d rather make the films I do than something everybody forgets about the moment they see it, as a filmmaker it would be terrible if that happened.
Q: You said before that people are unlikely to go out and copy this film, and make their own human centipede. Do you think that this type of violence is less dangerous than that in films that children are more likely to see and to copy?
Tom Six: Yeah. Look at a film like Hostel – great film – but some lunatic can get a toolbox and he can copy the film. For my film, if you want to copy that you need lots of work, lots of people, lots of things. So it’s more likely they copy those kinds of films than a film like mine, which is over the top ridiculous. If you have a film like Irreversible, that’s so real, it makes you cringe. In my film a guy rapes a human centipede, it’s so grotesque, so strange, but they ban that and they don’t ban a real rape scene – almost, it looks like a real rape – and that’s available in stores here in the UK. It’s really strange.
Q: The censors may not like these films, but fans around the world have been enjoying them, what’s been your best or most interesting experience with a fan?
Tom Six: I love every reaction. I have people who absolutely despise me, they were even afraid to look at me because they think I am treating human beings in such a bad way, and I get people who idolise me. I get dolls that are sewn together. I went with Dieter Laser to a big convention, and so many women want to make love to him, because they want to be fucked by Dr. Heiter. We get emails from people who want to be in our films, and they’re willing to eat real shit. That’s crazy, yeah?
Q: Do you think it would help get the film a UK release if there were an organised movement from the UK fans?
Tom Six: Oh, I hope for something like that. The riots are going on now, they’re nothing to do with the ban of course. But yeah, it would really be cool if the press really stood up against the BBFC, which is from the dinosaur era I think, because you can get films from the internet from other countries, so you can’t ban things anymore. The UK people will see the film if they want, so it’s almost a bullshit organisation I think.
Q: I know the BBFC have already spoiled quite a lot of it, but can you give us any hints about what to expect from Part 2?
Tom Six: First of all I can say I have an amazing villain, people who have seen the film – and it’s not many – say he’s going to be a really iconic character, he’s maybe even scarier than the doctor in part 1, and absolutely you’ll be astonished when you see the film by his acting. And what you didn’t see in Part 1 you do see in Part 2, so you see the shit flying around, you see the grotesqueness.
Q: For people who haven’t seen the film, and have only heard about it through the media coverage, what would you like to say about what this film is really about, is there a message?
Tom Six: The story is like they spoiled on the website. It’s about this simple man, who lives a little bit in his own world, who gets the idea of copying the first film, so he wants to be Dr. Heiter and create his own Human Centipede. Of course he doesn’t have the medical skills for that, so that’s why it’s 100% medically accurate. I can really say it’s a horror, but also a drama.
Q: We’ve seen a teaser, but is there going to be a longer trailer?
Tom Six: Yeah, there will be a real trailer. That was just fun when we were shooting around for the fans out there. I didn’t really want to show the face of my character yet, but he has got an amazing face this guy. So soon, the Americans are making the trailer now, because they will release the film in October, so they will release a trailer of course.
Q: As the film is set outside the world of the first film, in this world, do you have a cameo in it?
Tom Six: [chuckles] Maybe, you have to see what happens.
Q: This film has already become an iconic horror film. For you as a filmmaker and as fan, what are the horror films that you have loved yourself?
Tom Six: A film that had a real impact on me is Salo. I don’t really say it’s a horror film, it’s a drama or something, that’s the film that had most impact on me because that guy had real balls to make that, and it gives you an uncomfortable feeling. It’s really out there.
Q: Human Centipede is part of a trilogy, and you’ve said that they connect rather like a human centipede.
Tom Six: Yes they do. All the films can be cut together so, in the end, you have one big film of four and a half hours. All the films are really different from the others, that’s my goal, I don’t want to make a sequel that’s a stupid rip off of the first film. Part 3 will again upset a lot of people, but it’s a story which is again from a completely different perspective, so each film has its own style.
Q: Have you got financing or a script for Part 3?
Tom Six: Yes, we’re going to shoot at the beginning of next year. The second film we shot in London with British cast and British crew, the third film I will shoot in America with American cast and American crew.
Q: Beyond the Human Centipede do you have any other script ideas you want to make?
Tom Six: Oh yeah, definitely. I really think horror films are unexplored territory yet, I have some very cool ideas that people will speak about. After Part 3 I’m going to shoot a film in LA; a psychological horror film with a very original hook and which lots of people will talk about, it’s called The Onania Club, and I think that’s going to be a film I like even more than the Human Centipede series.