Ginger Nuts of Horror
We are very proud to present for your reading pleasure an interview with Dieter Laser, the star of The Human Centipede Dieter Laser ( is a German actor. Laser was born in Kiel, Germany. He is known to English speaking audiences for his roles: Mantrid in Lexx, Prof. Otto Blaettchen in The Ogre and Dr. Joseph Heiter in The Human Centipede (First Sequence), for which he won Best Actor at the Austin Fantastic Fest. In 1975, he was awarded the German Film Award in Gold in the category of Best Actor for his title role in John Glueckstadt.
Alex: First of all, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to us here at Film Gutter as part of our Human Centipede month. You've had a long and highly successful career as an actor in German cinema and beyond – how did you come to be involved in The Human Centipede: First Sequence back in 2009?
Dieter: I got an e-mail from the producer Ilona Six with the request for a meeting with writer/director Mr. Tom Six in the lobby of the Berlin Hilton. The only further notice was that the subject would be of a role as a “scientist”. So I took my British double-breasted Glen Check summer suit out of the closet to resemble as close as possible a kind of a “scientist” and went under a cloudless sky to the Berlin Hilton expecting to meet a lot of my esteemed German colleagues waiting in the lobby for auditioning. The lobby was strangely empty - no other actors waiting. Only a beautiful couple in the sunny backlight through the huge windows: Tom and Ilona! Brother and sister as I learned. Tom had seen me in the German movie “Fuehrer Ex” and wanted to offer me the leading part in his film “The Human Centipede”. He told me the whole story in the real time the film would take up, very detailed, even with some precise camera-angles, full of visionary passion in his eyes and at the end of the story I said to him: “I love your passion, I’m impressed by your competence, we have to do this!” Five minutes later Ilona and I had a deal by handshake.
Alex: The character of Dr Josef Heiter was absolutely wonderful, calm and calculating but also capable of incredible highs and lows of emotion. What was the genesis of the character?
Dieter: When the script arrived at home I got shocked! Sewing people together by a retired surgeon had been no problem for me in Tom’s brilliant storytelling. "Dr. Heiter" might have become very revengeful and mad due to the German law which forces even the most famous scientists to retire at the age of 65 and to migrate to other countries. But only now while reading the script I realized the consequences for the digestive tract! Now I saw what the audience would see in their mind’s eye: Human poo floating from ass to mouth. "Embarrassing! I have to lose a reputation in German film and television, not to speak about the theatre!"
After some lament I sat down on my ass and started to work on the character. That happens mostly in my kitchen during the silence of the early morning hours. Then I discovered the deeper layers of Tom’s script: before his retirement Dr. Heiter’s speciality had been separating Siamese twins - wasn’t it “The Angel of Death”, the German mass-murderer Dr. Josef Mengele, who experimented with twins? What about to expose these clowns, these criminal "anal retentive” Nazi doctors to ridicule! I had found my guidance - phone call to Tom: “May I call him Joseph?” And the fun started!
Alex: There are many reports out there that you stayed in character most of the time on set. Was the role of Dr Heiter a difficult one to play?
Dieter: To stay in character is my "stand by" mode saving energy. I need silence and seclusion to gather and accumulate the emotions required for the character and I try by staying in character to transport these emotions straight to the set without any distraction like chit chat or small talk. With a director and a producer who understand and support this work style it was pure joy and fun to play a cartoonish German neo-fascist like Dr. Joseph Heiter and expose him to laughter! In this atmosphere we very often needed only one clap for even the most complicated shots.
Alex: The negative press was very noticeable here in the UK around the time of First Sequence's release. Given the amount of extreme and visceral horror that gets released, were you surprised at the controversy that surrounded the first movie?
Dieter: I was only surprised about the amount of recognition! Poop seems to represent a kind of childhood trauma for a lot of people – therefore no comedian can survive without fart- or poop-jokes.
Alex: Here in the UK we're still eagerly anticipating the release of The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence), in which you play the role of Bill Boss. What can you tell us about the third part of the trilogy?
Dieter: The third film has a plot "Dr. Joseph Heiter" only could dream of. It’s a big step further to his vision of changing the whole mankind into a Human Centipede to challenge the universe. Both films are political narratives but "Final Sequence" is much more politically explicit on it’s surface. A vitriolic comedy about politics and political carriers.
Alex: Boss seems to be far more sadistic and brutal than even Dr Heiter. How did you find it stepping into an entirely new character in this movie?
Dieter: Sir Tom, Lady Ilona and me, we are a dream-team and never ever had any differences on location – work just flows fearlessly and smoothly in a very polite, even tender atmosphere –Tom is genius! But as it happens even in a dream-team creative differences can appear during the long, long process of pre-production. That happened with the script of part III – I was blindfolded, didn’t see the comedy in it, took everything too seriously, was shocked, afraid and stubborn and it escalated all into my refusal to play the part. Thank God, Tom did not give in, he didn’t change the script; but he also didn’t give up to try to convince me and finally he managed in a four-hour meeting in the Sheraton Restaurant at the Airport of Amsterdam to open my eyes for the hilarious comedy in his THC3 script and this meeting triggered the beginning of a wonderful creative time in developing together the character Bill Boss.
Sheraton Restaurant Airport Amsterdam became our historical and ritual meeting point: same time of day, same table and a crazy actor who plays different versions of his scenes in the script, offering his director several choices – under the astonished, slightly amused and slightly worried eyes of other guests who sometimes came to our table and asked Tom if they could be of some help. Those meetings even intensified our friendship and our artistic understanding and led in the end to a virtually “wordless” communication during the shooting because our common goals were already precisely defined and even practiced by Sheraton "table dancing" up to the tiniest details: Bill Boss is as much over the top as possible! A cartoonish comic strip character! An alien, a desert-snake, the age- and timeless evil in the disguise of a warden - coming from the black beyond and going beyond the beyond!
Alex: Full Sequence had a definite self-referential feel, and this kind of 'meta' approach continues into Final Sequence, with Tom Six even appearing as himself. Is this a jab at the reaction the movies have garnered in the media, and perhaps even among horror fans?
Dieter: I prefer the interpretation that the THC trilogy is a "Film-Centipede" with a self-referential meta tract.
Alex: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. One final question – what's next for you now that The Human Centipede has crawled off into the sunset?
Dieter: What a nice metaphor! I like to apply this picture also for the “Snakes of Evil" Dr. Joseph Heiter and Bill Boss crawling back into darkness. "Total Eclipse" is the title of a script which I’ve written and badly want to direct. I already had all necessary contracts but refused to rewrite just by commercial considerations – and I want to continue the work with my “dream team”.
Follow the links below for Alex's reviews of The Human Centipede films