Man in Suit! Man in Suit! : An interview with Tom Six

[Our thanks to Joshua Chaplinsky for taking the time to conduct and transcribe the following interview.]

At this point in his fledgling international career, the name Tom Six should be instantly familiar to most genre fans. Hell, even my mother is aware of The Human Centipede, and it repulses her to no end. Lucky for her, the purveyors of gastric horror have set the publicity machine in motion yet again, releasing the first teaser trailer for The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, on this, the eve of the original's DVD release. The dastardly Dutchman was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with me via Skype, all the way from Amsterdam, to discuss the cult of the centipede, successful sequels, and topping the indomitable Dr. Heiter.

JOSHUA CHAPLINSKY:
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. I didn't realize this was a video chat. Can you see me?

TOM SIX: I can't see you, but that's okay. No worries.

JC: That's good, because I'm sitting here in my underwear.

TS: Haha, no worries.

JC: How are you today? Are you enjoying all the accolades and the vitriol that come along with being the director of The Human Centipede?

TS: It's incredible. I enjoy every day.

JC: The film comes out on DVD and Bluray on October 5th through IFC. Were you closely involved with the DVD release?

TS: Yes, we're very involved with the distributor, absolutely. We follow every step-  talk to each other, see what the best plans are- and they are doing a really amazing job.

JC: What kind of extras can we expect? Was there anything really horrific that you left out of the film?

TS: I have a very cool deleted scene with Dr. Heiter. There is an audio commentary. There is a really cool making of, where people can see what the human centipede looks like behind the scenes. We have a casting tape of Ashley and Ashlynn from when they auditioned that is very funny. We also have a foley session, so people can see how we made those awful sounds you hear in the film.

JC: The Human Centipede is your 4th feature film. Is it fair to say it is your most popular?

TS: Definitely. Because the other films are Dutch language films, and Dutch language films don't make it very far abroad. But this is my first international film, so I'm really proud it has spread so well.

JC: Did you have any idea it was going to be such a breakout hit?

TS: You always hope that, of course. I knew when I wrote the story that people would talk about it. When the trailer came online, so many people watched it, and everyone was talking about it. It is the ultimate dream for a filmmaker I think.

JC: This is your first horror film. What made you decide to make a horror film at this point in your career?

TS: I always loved horror films. I loved watching them and would have loved to make one, but in Holland the horror climate is not very good. Most of the time there are comedies and dramas made here. So I always knew my first international film had to be a horror film. This is really my thing, I think.

JC: The Human Centipede has really entered the public consciousness. Stephen Colbert referenced it on The Emmy Awards, American Comedian Daniel Tosh did a 20 breakdown of it for his TV show, there is a porn parody called The Human Sexipede, people have gotten tattoos, there was a video game online, you can buy human centipede cat toys on Etsy. Why do you think that it's resonated with people so much?

TS: I think the sick and crazy basic idea- sitting on your hands and knees, sewn to an ass in front of you- that's something that somehow scares people and repulses people. But at the same time, everybody wants to speak about it. It's really fascinating that something that sick spread so well.

JC: I found a lot of humor in the film. Was that intentional?

TS: I have a very dark sense of humor, but when I was writing the script I never intended to use any humor at all. But the situations in the film are so surreal that dark humor gets out somehow. That's how I like horror films, with a layer of dark humor. It must not be intentional, because then it doesn't work.  This way, it is really funny, I think.

JC: Is the humor necessary to make the horror of the film easier to swallow, so to speak?

TS: Ha ha, I think so. The character of Dr. Heiter is so strange. You have to laugh about it, because he's so damn serious. The humor adds those relief moments.

JC: What do your friends and family think of the film? You seem like such a nice normal guy. Do they look at you differently?

TS: Strangers think I'm an escaped mental patient, but my family are just as crazy as I am, so they absolutely love it. But there are a lot of people out there who think I'm crazy. People on Facebook want to sterilize me, or say that I'm worse than Hitler, or want to shoot me. But that's all part of the game, I think.

JC: Let's talk about the sequel, Full Sequence. IFC just released a teaser trailer in which you reveal your new villain, Martin, only his face is hidden by a box.  Why are you teasing us like that?

TS: So many people want to know what I'm gonna do next. Part two is gonna be very different than people expect it to be. I have this really cool character in the film, and he has such a remarkable face that I didn't want to reveal it just yet. You get a little bit of an impression of what he's like, but I keep that for later.

JC: You say he is the sickest bastard of them all, but how do you top Dr. Heiter?

TS: That's the thing. What he [Maritn] does to his twelve person human centipede is unbelievable. Part one is my little pony compared to this.

JC: Any chance on seeing Dr. Heiter in the sequel?

TS: I have to keep that a surprise. I don't want to spoil that. Even what happens to the middle girl [from the first film] you have to wait a little while to find out.

JC: On IMDB, Family Guy creator Seth Mcfarlane is  credited as narrator. Is that for real?

TS: Absolutely untrue. I tried to remove that; I don't know who put it up there.

JC: It struck me as strange, even for you.

TS: Yeah, totally not true.

JC: Have you guys wrapped yet?

TS: We just wrapped in London, so we're now in post production, editing the film.

JC: Do you have a release date?

TS: Not yet. We hope to premiere it somewhere early 2011, and when it's actually released, I don't know yet.

JC: You are the star of the trailer, in which you wear your trademark white suit and hat. I can see from the video that you are wearing it now. What's the deal with that? I've never seen you in anything else.

TS: I have this strange thing- when I was a small boy I already walked around in suits. I love suits; I don't know why. But only linen suits, because it is so comfortable. I don't know where it comes from. It's really strange.

JC: Do you have a closet full of white linen suits?

TS: Yes. And beige ones and light blue. If I don't wear them, I feel very unhappy.

JC: Because people have already started to identify you with that, almost like it is part of the Tom Six brand or persona.

TS: In daily life, I walk around the streets of Amsterdam just like this.

JC: That's fantastic. So when can we expect a full trailer for Full Sequence?

TS: I think we'll start with some stills from the film, because the trailer is made during editing. Once we finish editing, we'll release a real trailer.

JC: Will the full trailer reveal a bit more? Will we get to see to see Martin's face?

TS: Oh yeah. Definitely.

JC: The tagline for the original film was "100% medically accurate." The tagline for the sequel is, "100% medically INaccurate." Will this be a less realistic film?

TS: No, it is very realistic, but it's different. It is the opposite of what happens in medically accurate. A doctor wouldn't do this.

JC: It must have been hard finding three people willing to play the original human centipede, how did you go out and find 12 more willing participants?

TS: Because the first film was so out there, so many people heard about it, so there were a lot of actors who were very willing to audition.  They got on their hands and knees very quickly, because they saw the first one. But then when I told them what was in store for them, they had to swallow a few times, you can imagine.

JC: No pun intended.

TS: Ha ha.

JC: So people were actually excited to be in the film. They were lining up to audition.

TS: Yes, but what they have to endure during the film, that's something that's applaudable. It's really brave of them.

JC: When making the original film, you said you held back some details from actors and producers to get them to sign on. Is that true?

TS: Yes. We told the investors we were going to make a film about a surgeon who stitches people together, but we didn't tell them mouth to ass, because we were 100% sure that they wouldn't finance it. They really liked the idea and said, okay, let's do it.  When they saw the film they were completely shocked, but luckily they laughed as well. Now that they see the success, of course they are really happy, but we had to trick them, because otherwise this would never have been made.

JC: Was there full disclosure the second time around?

TS: Absolutely. They are very excited for more.

JC: The Human Centipede was a very multi-ethnic film and had an undercurrent of sociological subtext.  Will the sequel continue that tradition?

TS: Yes. Again, there are many races in the film.

JC: Some people praised the original film for being more restrained than expected.  You've said the sequel will be almost  impossible to watch.  Are you abandoning the psychological horror of The Human Centipede?

TS: No, no. That's still in there. For me, it was fun to hold back on things, which is an element of horror I like, but now for the second film, I didn't want to copy the first film, so I wanted to make something really explicit. Something that shows everything you didn't see before, which I think will be cool for the audience.

JC: Are you crossing over into full-on torture porn? How do you feel about that label?

TS: I enjoy the label. I think it is very funny and I think there are some cool, original films being made in that genre, like Hostel. I've always liked horror films that are psychological and have some intelligence. I don't want a guy just running around with an axe. That's not my style. But if there are other elements involved that make it more interesting, I'm into that.

JC: What's next? I read you have another horror film planned.

TS: Yes. I really want to explore this genre more, because I feel there are boundaries that haven't been explored. Next year I want to shoot a film in America, in LA. It has a very controversial subject, again, and I'm sure lots and lots of people will talk about it. It's never been done before. Very original.

JC: Is that a film you've written already?

TS: I'm halfway through the writing process.

JC: Any plans for a third Human Centipede?

TS: Maybe sometime in the future, when I have a really original idea. As long as it is different from the first and the second part, I'll do it.

JOSHUA CHAPLINSKY

Joshua Chaplinsky has also written for chuckpalahniuk.net. He is a guitarist in the band SpeedSpeedSpeed and alternately maintains/neglects his own blog at thejamminjabber.com
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