Interview: Dieter Laser
Playing the Mad Doctor in Human Centipede
Friday, May 14, 2010
Well if you missed "The Human Centipede" at midnight, it is returning to Landmark's Ken Cinema tonight at 11:00 pm. Here's my interview with Dieter Laser. The German actor who plays the twisted doctor who plans on joining three human beings together. You can also read my interview with the film's director Tom Six.
In case you haven't heard about "The Human Centipede," it is a horror film about a mad doctor (Deiter Laser) whose surgical dream -- don't ask me why -- is to join three people mouth-to-ass-to-mouth-to-ass to create something akin to...well... a human centipede. If you're going "Ew!" right now then this film is not for you. But for a film about such a subject, filmmaker Six proves surprisingly restrained. And he has a sequel in the works as well so people will be gasping even more very soon.
The highlight of the film, though, is not the gross out surgery, but the deliciously vile performance by Laser. Here's what the actor had to say about playing someone so bad.
BETH ACCOMANDO: How did you get approached for this role? And what was your reaction when Tom Six came to you and said I want you to play in this film “The Human Centipede?”
DIETER LASER: They came to Berlin where I’m living, the Hilton Hotel, and we met each other. Tom sat down and told me very precisely and beautifully described his vision and he told me every single shot planned for Doctor Heiter. So that was so fascinating that I said to him, “You are so dedicated, you are so obsessed, and you have so much passion and know precisely what you want that we have to do that.” And three minutes later after 90 minutes he told me about the character and the shots, three minutes after that Ilona [director Tom Six’ sister and producing partner] said so let’s have a deal and in three minutes we had a deal.
BA: So how would you describe your character?
DL: My character is built up, I am talking from under the surface, the surface is just a villain, bad, very, very dark sinister guy. And that is the entertaining surface, that’s for to get goosebumps, to be excited, to get excitement for your money, and just to be entertained. That’s the first duty. But underneath you have in this wonderfully designed carton it is empty in the end that’s bad therefore we, you have to fill up the others layers and the script suggests very clearly in its mood and its whole description, suggests very clearly that this Dr. Heiter is built very near to the psychopaths of Nazi time. This Nazi psyche is, in a grotesque way, is made a little bit dark jokes about it but it’s very serious. We want to understand how this psyche works and how it comes. So very near to the character is Dr. Josef Mengele who experimented in gruesome and most stupid ways with human beings and Nazi ideology was that certain human beings were like insects. You don’t have to care you don’t have to have empathy for them you can just kill them and make experiments with them, whatever you want. And therefore that label “centipede” and this kind of Dr. Mengele fits very well under the hidden stuff under the surface [of the character. And for me, and that’s why Tom cast me because I am a German actor, I am of the generation, I grew up with a father generation behind me, a parents’ generation, where in a way a whole people were killers, were murderers, they knew more or less or less but a whole people knew something and this terrible thought growing up with that. Sharing the rebellion in ’68 against this generation, that said, was very much my preparation for the part. I admire the American people who if they didn’t send their heroes who saved us from idiots, murderers, and killers like Dr. Heiter, my life would have been very bad or worst case I would have become a murderer, brainwashed in stress situations and in combat you can never tell what your psyche will do with you. So deeply I am thankful to the American people that they did that World War II heroism to save us from that dictatorship. And for me, deep, deep under the surface, therefore I like to make jokes about these idiots and these dangerous clowns, for me that’s the whole subtext, which has to be hidden because we want to entertain people.
BA: So what was the most challenging thing about trying to convey that on the screen?
DL: To convey that? It’s the other way round. How can I hide that as much as possible because if I come over like a teacher or a moralist or something like that it wouldn’t work for cinema. Therefore it’s a subliminal thing. And to keep it subliminal, and don’t become too intellectual, a know-it-all, and to politically know what I’m doing and so on and so forth, the task is more to cover everything. But it has to be there, otherwise you wouldn’t think days later about images and think about the character but it’s hidden in the subconscious of the character and therefore the audience, the stomachs of the audience feels these things. They wouldn’t describe it. A fifteen-year-old guy or girl wouldn’t say, “oh I have seen a Nazi.” But their genes and their stomach will feel it.
BA: Did you have fun playing this role?
DL: I had a lot of fun. I like to make jokes because the wartime is so far away that I love to start and make jokes. Chaplin already did that when Hitler was in power, he played a wonderful part about Hitler [“The Great Dictator”] and made jokes about him. And now I love to make jokes about Dr. Mengele but on the other hand I took it very seriously. These jokes are slightly dark and in just the right amount as Tom and I together decided which amount [of darkness] would be in there. But on the other hand we take it very seriously otherwise it wouldn’t be very convincing. You can’t make only jokes. But it was a lot of fun, it was joy to play that part because I understand the chemistry in the director of photography with Tom and Ilona Six and me, and we work together like a fist because we have the same taste, the same thoughts, and it was a great joy to work together.