Love him or hate him, you can’t deny director Tom Six created a pop culture phenomenon with his dark concept — The Human Centipede. His films continue to polarize audiences and spawn legions of dedicated fans around the globe. Weathering the storms of success and criticism, Six remained focused, inspired and unwilling to bend to pressure from the censors. In talking to Tom Six, several things become clear: his passion to create original content, his love for the horror genre and its dedicated fanbase and his passion for filmmaking. Now is the time for him to unleash the final piece in his disturbing trilogy, “The Human Centipede: Final Sequence.” The film focuses on bully prison warden Bill Boss (“The Human Centipede Part I’s” Dieter Laser). He is a man with many problems, prison riots, medical costs, staff turnover, but foremost he is unable to get the respect he thinks he deserves from his inmates and the state governor (Eric Roberts). He constantly fails in experimenting with different ideas for the ideal punishment to get the inmates in line, which drives him completely insane. Under threats of termination by the governor, his loyal right hand man Dwight (“The Human Centipede Part II’s” Laurence R. Harvey) comes up with a brilliant idea. An idea based on the notorious “Human Centipede” movies, that will literally and figuratively get the inmates on their knees, creating the ultimate punishment and deterrent for anyone considering a life of crime. The film serves as Six’s most ambitious, challenging and button-pushing project to date. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Tom Six to discuss the origin of “The Human Centipede,” the success of the franchise, his evolution as a director and where his dark imagination will take him next!
Let’s go back to the beginning and focus on your early years. What was it that intrigued early in life about the world of filmmaking?
When I was a little boy, I walked around with my grandfather’s 8MM camera. I was fascinated by making my own little films. I saw tons of films in the theater as well. I think it is like a virus. I don’t know where it comes from but, when people have that, they just want to make movies! I really want to dedicate my life to making movies. I started out in television but there came a time when I had to quit. I said, “I have to quit. I want to make movies.” My sister, who was in law school, we said, “We are going to make movies!” That is how we started!
Ultimately, that decision would pay off and lead you to the creation of a cult phenomenon. How did the concept for “The Human Centipede” come about?
One time I saw cowboys on television and one was a really nasty guy. He got a very low punishment. I was with a couple of friends and said, “They should stitch his mouth to the anus of a fat truck driver! That would be a proper punishment.” Everybody was like, “My God! What kind of imagination is that!” That idea kept lingering in my head and I thought it might be a genius idea for a horror film. Starting from that idea, you can imagine, it was really tough to get it off the ground. You have to be like a heavyweight boxer. You have to fight investors, censors and the whole gang to make it happen. As you can imagine, it was a rough pass but I believed in it so much and I believe it will be a virus that will spread over the whole world once it is out there.
What do you think it is about these films that resonates so greatly with audiences?
It is the idea of punishment. You can imagine colleagues from work or anyone being put into a Human Centipede. It is a sadistic pleasure. You can imagine your own person in a Human Centipede which gives you much more pleasures, whether it is friends you hate or people you hate. The idea of being attached to someone’s anus and having to live on the turds of another person, is very sadistic, crazy and out there that it sticks in your head. It is so global, from Japan to Australia to Chile and so on. Everyone has that same reaction to it and I think that is why it is so successful, I think.
“The Human Centipede: Final Sequence” is the final entry in this franchise. Did you have goals you wanted to achieve as a director with this film?
Yes! What I wanted to do is be original. When I had the idea of making a trilogy, I wanted each film to be completely different in style, way of acting and look because I want to challenge myself. I think a lot of sequels or films that get made are just films that are the same one done again and a lot of times even worse. I think it is great to get a fresh start, so part two is totally different than part one. Part three is so much different than parts one and two. This time I really wanted to go out with a bang! I wanted to go full force and do it XXL American style! It is all shot in a very Hollywood kind of way, the music is very Hollywood and I hadn’t made a film like that! It was a big pleasure to make!
What can you tell us about the casting of this film and how the process changed since you started out on this trilogy?
You can imagine the casting for part one was so hard! Once the popularity started, everybody wanted to be in “The Human Centipede.” I had no problem at all! Everyone wanted to be on their hands and knees! When I went out looking for actors for part three, we had so many offers from actors saying, “I want to be in! I want to be in!” It was amazing! This time I needed so many actors to be in the Human Centipede, so it was good to have so many requests from actors and extras. Finding the amount of people was no problem at all. For example, Eric Roberts was very easy to convince to play the part. I think he was made for this part because he loved the films so much. He knew about the films and he wanted to be on board. I had no trouble at all getting the right people for part three. Part one was a whole different story! [laughs]
Looking back on the trilogy, what is the biggest thing you learned about yourself as a director?
I never bow for censorship. There are a lot of people who will tell you, you should not make the film so horrible so you could maybe reach a bigger audience or things like that. I always stay with my own ideas and I never censor myself. As an artist, I just want to do the film I want to make. I don’t think art should be a democracy. This is really my baby and everything that is in there is because of me and from me, which is the highest goal for me as a director and a writer can achieve.
Was there anything you might not have been able to achieve with these films?
No. Absolutely everything I wrote down I made! There was no holding back whatsoever. I was able to make everything! You can imagine, sometimes you have to convince actors to play it because there are some troubling things in there. If you are charming and know exactly what you want and can prepare the actors for it, they want to do it! I had no trouble getting my things done at all!
Obviously, “The Human Centipede” trilogy features some disturbing content. Do you think that leads to misconceptions about you as a person?
People are really taken off guard when they see me. When they see me I am always dressed like a dandy. I did that from the time I was a little boy. They can’t believe I made these films! Lots of time people who made horror movies wear black, have long hair and look like hard rock fans or something. For me, I like contrast! I think I am a dandy devil, which is a nice exterior but, on the inside, it is very dark and very sick! I can’t help that. It is my natural way of thinking. I think that is a little bit awkward for the audience to understand but I think, for them, it is also fascinating. I am very proud of that contrast. In my work, it is like this, you absolutely hate me or you absolutely love me. There is nothing in between. There is no grey area. I wouldn’t want that because I think it would be terrible if the audience is indifferent about your work. I love that I get such strong reactions to me and my films.
How have you most evolved as a director throughout your journey?
With each film, you learn new things. That is the cool thing about it! With each film, you progress and fine tune your way of working. I think the flow of working with the films became much more easy to do. You obviously get better and better at your job the more you do it. That is a good thing, so I can’t wait to go to my next project that will be even better than “The Human Centipede.”
Where do you see yourself headed in the near future?
Oh, yeah! I always want to explore the dark sides of humanity. I would never direct a romantic comedy or something like that! I like the dark side but with a lot of black humor in it! I think humor is very important. Some people see “The Human Centipede” trilogy as comedies, like myself. I really appreciate that. I am working now on “The Onania Club,” which is a psychological horror film with a lot of comical elements but it will be very disturbing. It is a very original concept, which again, people have not seen before. I can’t tell you exactly what the plot is yet but it will stir up the world again! I bet I get a lot of strong reactions to that one!
Where are you in the process and when might we expect this new project?
We hope to shoot this at the end of the year or the beginning of the next year. It will definitely open by the end of next year.
What can you tell us about the support you received from horror fans? What has that been like?
It has been incredible! I absolutely love the genre fans! They are so dedicated! They have tattoos, make cakes with “Human Centipede” things on them and so on. I am very humbled because the fans have been the ones who have made me so huge. It is very important to acknowledge that! They are so dedicated and I absolutely love that. I don’t want to have other audiences because these fans are the absolute best.
How do you feel about the current state of the horror industry?
I am very disappointed by the unoriginality. It is all about remakes or cheap rip-offs. I am sad that there aren’t more original concepts out there. In the ‘80s, there were so many original things but today it is hard to find original movies. I must be honest, I don’t see many horror films anymore because they don’t spark me in the way they once did. I usually look for comedies and documentaries these days but hardly any horror films.
You are a self-made man and the driving force behind your own content. What is the best lesson we can learn from the story of Tom Six and your journey so far?
I think you should always write your own work. Write, direct and produce, if possible. When you write, you should always aim for originality. I would say to young writers, if you write something down that resembles something else or is a copy of something else, burn your script immediately! It will take longer but when you find something original, you know the world will be pleased to see something new and you will be noticed. If you make another film about a guy with a chainsaw chasing teenagers, you know it won’t be picked up because it has been done before you and, most of the time, it has been done better. Come up with something original and then direct it yourself so you don’t have to compromise with studios or other people who fuck up your ideas. Then go to the festival circuit. If it is original and out there, you will get noticed! That is the most important tip!
Thanks again for you time, Tom. I really appreciate your honesty and originality. I wish you continued success!
Thank you, Jason! I appreciate your continued support!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.