DIETER LASER INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Joel Harley
Dieter Laser is a veteran actor of German stage and screen, but best known to English-speaking audiences as the nefarious Doctor Heiter from Human Centipede (First Sequence) and raging lunatic prison warden Bill Boss from Human Centipede (Final Sequence). Joel harley got a chance to quiz the man himself on all things Centipede.
Joel Harley: Thinking back all the way to the first Human Centipede film, can you remember your immediate reaction to reading the script and its central idea?
Dieter Laser: When Tom Six told me the whole story of his film in our first meeting I was simply excited. People being sewn together by a retired surgeon who had been famous for his skills in separating Siamese twins - no problem for me to play that guy! Maybe he is just mad and full of hate and revenge because in Germany, even as a Nobel Prize winner, you have to retire at the age of 65 or migrate to other countries.
But when the script arrived at home I suddenly realized the one digestive tract of the Human Centipede - then I saw the poo flow - and I was shocked and deeply disgusted: “How embarrassing! I am a serious actor in German film and theatre! I have a reputation to lose! And I have already a contract by handshake! I’m in deep shit! Poor Dieter!” Lament, lament... But when I finally sat down on my ass and started to study the script I discovered the hidden subliminal layers under the shocking surface: “Wasn’t it The Angel of Death - the German Nazi-Doctor Josef Mengele who experimented with twins? What about to kick my criminal ancestors - these “anal retentive” Nazi-Clowns in their balls - to expose them to laughter and ridicule!” Phone call to Tom: “May I call him Joseph?” - and the hilarious fun started.
JH: Did you ever picture yourself making a sequel, years later?
DL: Never ever. I always try to ban thoughts, fears and hopes about success or failure out of my mind. And when the wonderful technicians of the crew started to predict “cult” for Dr. Heiter - I just took it as a very kind support of my work.
JH: How different did you find the experience of working on The Final Sequence compared to making the first film?
DL: It looks like a big difference already by the locations: First Sequence was shot in the Netherlands near Amsterdam with a small team - and Final Sequence was shot in Hollywood with a much larger crew. But in fact there wasn’t such a big difference as one would assume. Tom Six and our wonderful producer, his sister Ilona Six have the talent to build a very special and protective atmosphere on location - a kind of “Belle Etage” - with a very calm, very polite, very soft spoken and even tender attitude. There is the precious joy of creativity in the air. And they gain respect in no time at all. I’m very thankful for that, because in this atmosphere you can work at ease and totally relaxed, even in the most hysterical scenes. That did not change in Hollywood - but in the first days I pretended to sleep in the car while being driven to the studio - just to avoid too much of the “Hollywood-Feeling”. But at work with my terrific American colleagues we very soon understood that we put our pants on in the same way.
JH: You play a very different character here. What was your approach to ‘becoming' Bill Boss?
DL: If you read the same novel a 100 times you don’t have to be an actor to know your hero very well. Same with a script. That’s my Bible and first tool. Meditating over the script in the silence of the very early morning hours is always my basic approach. Meditating doesn’t mean anything else than thinking a lot about the secrets of the character, his possible hidden injuries, his kind of inner self talk, his inner justification talk, his inner self pity and most importantly I have to learn to love him even though he is the most stupid idiot, racist, fascist, coward and asshole in the world.
JH: Did you get much input into the character?
DL: As a “starter” for Bill Boss I studied a little bit my “colleague” Joe Arpaio from Phoenix, Arizona who calls himself: “America’s toughest sheriff”. And I had a couple of very creative brainstorming meetings with Tom Six at the Sheraton restaurant in the airport of Amsterdam where I did my “Sheraton Table Dancing” offering Tom different versions how to play my scenes under the worried eyes of other guests who sometimes asked Tom if they could be of some help.
JH: Boss goes through some pretty harrowing moments in the movie. Was there anything you found particularly difficult to film?
DL: When the script for the Final Sequence arrived I had similar problems as before with the First Sequence. I took the “100% Incorrectness” a hundred percent too seriously and even refused to play the part. Thank God, Tom managed to open my eyes for the pitch black comedy. After I had learned that I could go with Bill Boss so far over the top that nobody would want to take his side, that I could shoot back at all kinds of sadists, rapists, racists, fascists and other mean cowards with laughter and ridicule, that I could create an over-cartoonish figure in a hilarious comic strip - then all my doubts and problems vanished into pure easy going professional joy. There was not even the tiniest difficult moment during the whole shooting - everything happened relaxed and at ease.
JH: These are, obviously, very extreme horror films (particularly the second one). Is there anything you would consider ‘taboo' or going 'too far' in a movie?
DL: We are living in a slaughterhouse. Every night we are “entertained” by horror films in our news. War, Terror, Torture, Hunger and Death. Compared with reality, compared with the extreme horror of ISIS you hardly can go “too far” in a movie.
JH: How did you get on with Laurence R. Harvey?
DL: I love Laurence! He is a very sweet man and a brilliant actor. We deeply respect each other. He knows that I hardly talk during work, saving energy in a “stand by mode”, avoiding “chit-chat” and small talk - but I love to sit peacefully with Laurence close to the camera, waiting together for our next shot, watching the hard working crew... now and then a smile between us... now and then a little remark... now and then a little joke... he has a comforting aura.
JH: What was it like working with Eric Roberts? How do you think he found the experience of making a Human Centipede movie?
DL: We became friends very fast. Good actors smell each other on the spot. They link eyes in their first scene and immediately they are able to read if the partner is indeed a real partner. Maybe Tom’s and my working style - avoiding rehearsals as much as possible in order to catch the very first vibrations - just a short arrangement with the camera and shoot! - maybe this style might have been a little bit irritating in the beginning but Eric took over very swiftly.
JH: That's been three Human Centipedes, all different styles and genres. Which is your favourite?
DL: The trilogy is a huge “Movie Centipede” with one digestive meta-tract filled with hidden artistic and political messages which develop their subliminal power in the audience’s subconscious. I love the whole “creature of entertaining art” equally in all its parts and as a complete masterpiece. Every part gains and creates new perspectives and qualities from each other.
JH: The series has some very passionate fans. Have you had any strange fan letters or experiences?
DL: I learned how sweet and loyal the horror family is and I’m very thankful for this - I hadn’t expected it. Also I learned by a female stalker that it can become a little bit too passionate.
JH: With this one, the trilogy is finished. But do you think this is the last we’ll see of The Human Centipede?
DL: Dr. Heiter’s dream to transform mankind into a Global Human Centipede is only partially fulfilled by his successor Bill Boss. I would love as “Hitler’s misbegotten Bastard” to give Dr. Heiter the rest and peace he deserves in the cold German soil.
JH: What do you make of things like the South Park Human Centipad episode, or the porn spoof? Have you seen any of them?
DL: I’ve seen it all and I loved it all - it’s a great honour.
JH: What do you think The Human Centipede’s legacy will be?
DL: It will last in the classic shelves for decades because the Movie Centipede is so rich that it’ll take time to discover all the beautiful perspectives and the philosophical and political potentials.
JH: Finally, if you could make your own Human Centipede from any three people, living or dead, who would you use and why?
DL: To be able to play those assholes like Dr. Heiter and Bill Boss you have to be genetically such a decent person in real life that you never ever could do any harm to any creature on earth - in other words only a holy actor like me can do these tough jobs.
JH: Dieter Laser, thank you very much!
DL: Thank you and your esteemed readers!
The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
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