When fictional characters take possession of the audience in a way that causes an instant cult, their creators must have done something very right. In the case of fascist surgeon Dr Joseph Heiter, main character of the controversial horror thriller „The Human Centipede”, the effect is most of all the result of a fascinating and most disturbing portrayal by German actor Dieter Laser. Even those who dislike the film feel unable to escape the enormous impact of Laser’s acting. How much more surprised does one have to be when meeting this very humorous, warm-hearted and deep person behind that scary figure. In our interview he talks in detail about his experiences before, during and after shooting the film, explains his acting approach, remembers his past as a left-wing member of the 1968 protest movement and points out the difference between guns and chocolate bars.
screen/read: It is a couple of weeks ago now that I saw „The Human Centipede“ but the ímmense response to your portrayal of Dr Heiter are still fresh in my mind. It is a rare case anyway that a villain gets embraced immediately and with such an excitement as happened here. Now you attended quite a few screenings during the last months. Is it like that everywhere?
Dieter Laser: Yes, it’s really insane. The effect was the same at all screenings that I attendend. In New York it was totally intense and in London and also Brussels. It actually seems to be like that all over the world. In America after every screening a lot of young guys marched past me just like at a funeral and each of them shook my hand reverently and said „Awesome, awesome”. Totally crazy.
screen/read: It’s a great thing for a filmmaker and an actor likewise, having created a character that immediately clings tightly to audiences as it does in this case.
Dieter Laser: Exactly, especially as we never speculated on that, and neither did we expect it. We’re of course totally happy now that the film has had such an impact. For us though it was always only about making the whole thing as good as we could and getting it done the way we’d like it to be. In doing so it was extremely nice to work with Tom and Ilona and the wonderful cinematographer Goof de Koning, whose roots are in advertising and who’s a fantastically fast, creative and positive guy. We were a true Gang of Four, so to speak, and very much on the same level, and hence working on this was just enormous fun. The great thing about these three is, they never check left or right, have no worries and never ask, „What is our core audience?“ or „Will people really like this or that?”, but instead approach the whole thing with huge fun as well as huge seriousness and just get it done.
screen/read: That shows in the film, and the audience also realizes that there has been no strict calculation.
Dieter Laser: Exactly.
screen/read: How did the whole thing come about, how did the first contact between Tom and you happen? And what was your first reaction to the role, what did you think about it?
Dieter Laser: Here’s how it all came about: My wife Inge, who is also my manager, received an email by Six Entertainmant, saying the director wanted to get to know Dieter Laser. At first I thought, „Six Entertainment? Sounds a little weird.” Back then I didn’t know that this was their surname – just as we all have funny surnames. Six, Laser, all of them funny names (laughs). Well, and so we said, although it’s weird in a way, let’s contact them neverteless and see what they want. And so we made an appointment on a sunday morning at Hilton Hotel in Berlin, and before I went there I thought, they had mentioned something about a scientist, so I should probably put on my British glencheck suit and a tie in order to sort of look like some kind of scientist.
And I told my wife, „You know, Inge, they will meet about 50 or 60 people, and when I arrive, Uwe Ochsenknecht [a famous German actor] will cross my path and when I leave, Herbert Knaup [another famous German actor] will already be waiting, but I’ll go there anyway.” But when I did arrive at the hotel they really told me I was the only reason they had come to Berlin. And so I thought, „Oh, these must be people with really good taste.“ (laughs) And then Tom told me about the role in detail, described every shot, how he’d shoot things, what kind of images he wanted and so on. That took almost the complete runtime of the film itself, about one and a half hours, and when he finished I was so excited about his passion and the preciseness of his vision, that I said to him „You know exactly what you want. We must make this thing. No question about it.” And only three minutes later we had a deal. Then I went home and told Inge, „Glencheck worked perfectly, I have leading part and a deal.” Everything was just delightful.
But then the script arrived and that was when I realized for the first time what was really going in there: anus to mouth to anus! And all of a sudden I got scared, really scared, and I thought, „What will German theatre audiences think? What will German critics say? Oh, oh, oh, could it be I committed myself to some really embarrassing shit?” But then I told myself, „Come on, pal, think. If you had just received a script entitled ’Silence of the Lambs’, having no famous names attached, and the production company was also unknown, what would you say? Would you sit in your kitchen just the same, whining ’Oh, oh, oh, someone eating other people’s brains, what shall I do? What will German critics think?’“ – And so I said, sit down on your ass and work on this and make the best of it and have fun.
And then I did what I always do when preparing a role. Every morning at five I sit in my kitchen, I stare in front of me, meditate on the role and try to imagine every detail of what the guy is doing. Whether he uses his left hand or the right one, whether he does this or that. And hence a sequence of events evolves on the mindscreen from day to day, and I watch the guy and say to myself „Wow, what’s he doing there?“ I don’t write anything down though, but wait instead if a certain image returns, and only if I see it again, it is worth being used.
When the shooting finally started I was totally happy that there was nothing filthy or pornographic or sexistic about it. Instaed, a horror comedy emerged, though without us having aimed at being funny. But Tom, Ilone and the cinematographer liked the black humor, that I kept detecting while playing my part, and because all of us had the same taste and level of style, we didn’t even have to discuss this too much. And thus an awful lot of stuff could be improvised spontaneously while shooting. As an actor you’re always on the level of your character and at the same time have to think technically, e.g. watch out that you’re on your marks, and that you’re in the light and so on. And when you’re all relaxed and feel dandy, this third level is added, where all of a sudden an idea flashed through my mind and I start to think, hey, he could also be doing this or that. And that is for instance how the licking of blood on the stairs came about. I was crawling up there and suddenly discovered this blood stain of the Centipede. And within hundredths of a second ich thought, I urgently need to lick this off! (laughs) And that is how these things just happen.
Another example was that sequence when the Centipede is visible for the audience for the first time. Originally I had no intention at all being tender to them but wanted to handle it in the familiar cold style of Dr Heiter. But then in the last minute before the camera started to roll, I thought, „No! Stop! Finally this is a creature, for which this man, who hates human beings and who is totally armored and blocked, can feel tenderness!” And thus I improvised all of the caring and crying of joy and all that stuff while the camera was already rolling. After that it was actually planned though for me to show to the Centipede in the mirror what they look like, but having Dr Heiter finally tear the mirror high in order to marvel at himself with this blissful godlike feeling and go totally nuts was also improvised.
screen/read: Those are all really very unexpected reactions, and that is why their effect is so exremely disturbing.
Dieter Laser: Yes, and that is huge fun and was simply based on these great working conditions. Compared to many other teams I’ve experienced, it was so adorable that there were never more than 25 or 30 people on the set, so that everything was kept small and nobody felt like being too good for anything. The cinematographer sometimes emptied ashtrays and the clapper loader didn’t mind at all quickly wiping an actor’s shoes.
This atmosphere contributed to the fact that many very complex sequences could be done with only one shot. So in the evening I often sat in the hotel, called Inge and said „You are talking to the One-Clap-Man.“ (laughs) And that is only possible by meticulous preliminaries, so that everyone mentally knows what hs to be done. And then jump in at the deep end. Same is true for all things spontaneous. I always say, you can’t improvise until you have a very, very detailed framework. And then you can be like a child and start a pillow fight in this infant bed, i.e. being spontaneous all of a sudden without being misplaced or hurting the style of the film. You stay inside this world and still swim around without boundaries.
Also Ilona immediately understood what I was about when I told her, „If the budget allows it, I’d need a single ride in the morning, a single car and a single driver, so I don’t waste energy on chats and anecdotes. Back to the hotel in the evening you can put me on a broken bus with one hundred extras and smeared sandwich paper, but on my way to work I need complete isolation. And she did that immediately and took care of me being totally isolated all day long, that my meals were delivered to my dressing room, and that I could face the camera immediately when entering the set. And that I could return to my dressing room just as immediately after a shot was done. Never did I have any contact with my acting colleagues, and so they were already scared because I never talked to them. So I just had to enter the set coming from my dressing room in order to confuse them. Of course, after we wrapped we all became best friends, especially because I appreciated their strict discipline and passion so very much, and they told me, how immensely my private behaviour had helped them while shooting. The audience perceives this intrusively, and that might cause a feeling of cult and that people get strung out on the movie, because they realise they are provided with something very authentic.
screen/read: Staying in character all the time was presumably so scary and helpful because shots are usually rather short and so it’s more difficult to keep the atmosphere up. Here it was completely different though.
Dieter Laser: Yes, exactly, exactly. It was like this all day long. I’m this type of guy anyway who gets up at four or five in the morning, does an hour of running and then totally enters his specific psycho state of mind. Everything hat will be shot during the day I picture in detail again and then stay in character all day long. Only after shooting, in the evening, this dude starts to babble, and he’s as unstoppable as a waterfall, because he didn’t communicate all day long (laugh). A whole lot must get out, and also all the adrenaline that has accumulated. The price is though that you don’t sleep too well most of the time, but surprisingly that is not really a problem, because the weariness on the next day adds a certain sensibility and permeability that is good for the role.
screen/read: One of the interesting moments of your portrayal of Dr Heiter is the fact that on the one hand the character is very rigid and uses only very few and slow movements, and on the other hand he explodes and completely breaks loose. These are two poles being very far apart from each other.
Dieter Laser: Yeah, that’s insane and very susprising for me as well. When I watched the film for the first time at the filmfestival in Brussels, the role was already a stranger to me, and I was astonished myself how he sometimes is just totally stoned face and then again completely over the top. Because I never watch any footage when shooting. I always say, I don’t want to see how far I was able to throw the javelin, but instead only want to keep in mind, that I am aiming at, let’s say, throwing it 300 metres, and hence don’t want to see day by day how I only achieve 80%. And so when I watch the movie for the first time I don’t have the slightest idea what the result is like. So I was very surprised by this stranger up there on the screen and I permanently poked Tom in the ribs and said, „Look at what he does, ain’t that insane?” (laughs) And during some scenes I just peed on myself laughing.
screen/read: All these surprises and the fact, that the character keeps switching all of a sudden and acts in a way no-one would expect, certainly add up to the cult of the film. Even more remarkable, that much of it was completely improvised.
Dieter Laser: That is the amazing thing about it. This archetypal nature of the character totally hits the mark, without me ever having planned that. And that is why many critics keep speaking of an „icon“ or mention a „pantheon of villains“, or Hannibal Lecter, Christopher Walken and all those persons and characters I admire so much. During shooting we would have never expected that. The only ones who early said to me, „You will be cult“ were the technicians on the set. They often have an astonishing flair for these things, same at the theatre. After two, three days they had immediately developed a certain feeling that this is going to be cult. And all I thought was, „Yeah, right, that would be it.“ But fortunately they were right.
screen/read: Absolutely. And especially compared to the roles of your competitors for the Spike Scream Award it is undeniable that the only real cult villain is Dr Heiter.
Dieter Laser: That is something I am unbelievably happy about. And I really hope we stand a chance against these highly admired competitors. Although of course with their big budget productions they were able to reach a much broader audience. On the other hand though our chances are good due to the cult status we’ve achieved all over from Asia to Northern America.
screen/read: That would be a great thing, especially as the obvious references to Mengele and the human experiments of the Nazis add a historic background to the character. Did you prepare in any special way on this or did the character evolve exclusively in your mind?
Dieter Laser: All of this evolved exclusively in my mind, but on the premise that I am a child of a generation of murderers. My fathers’ generation and that of every member of the protest movement of 1968 in this country, was criminal Germany, where a whole nation in darkness and delusion, and not just Hitler alongside a few demonic figures, committed enormous crimes or authorized or at least supported them. And if only by intentionally ignoring them. And so from childhood on I always had this feeling of guilt. For instance, when I went hitch-hiking to Holland as a 14 year old boy and didn’t get a cup of coffee there because I was German, I silently agreed and said to myself, „They are right. They are completely right, I am a German, my fathers are murderers.” Just as children totally adopt a feeling of guilt when their parents did something criminal and felonious, I did the same for my parents’ generation. And although my own father had been sent to a penal batalion due to religious reasons which kept him from joining the system, I always felt this guilt, especially because the whole topic was hushed up in Germany after the war, and because such an infinite number of perpetrators were still authorities in highest departments, and because court failed in most of the trials. And to disclose all of that dirt, which even today is still not properly reappraised, I became a very strict member of the 1968 protest movement.
And this is of course a huge psychological basis and perfect premise for having enormous fun playing some sort of SS-doctor like Heiter. Thus I sat in my kitchen and had a thousand ideas and thought, „I need to get the Eppendorfer doctor’s coat! And how about a pair of riding boots and black riding breeches?“ And then I called Tom and asked him, „Can’t we call him Joseph as a hint at Mengele, what do you think?“ And that was how it all evolved step by step. The whole Nazi background was in a way my tunnel, through which I lead the role. And because I kick a certain Nazi psychology in the balls with my role and the black humor of it, I also had the ideal vehicle for myself to overcome all the shocking potholes of the film with fun. Because the basic idea was something that scared me first due to the fact that it is so shocking and unpleasant and even disgusting, that you develop certain inhibitions, even as an actor. However, I went through one single crisis only, which occurred during that one sequence where I urge on the head of the Centipede by yelling, „Feed her, feed her!” For though the whole movie is so much more harmless than any breast surgery you get to see on daytime tv, I pictured that horrible image myself, which was actually meant to evolve in the mind of the audience, and hence was completely blocked – which Tom quickly helped me to overcome.
screen/read: That A. your approach worked perfectly and that B., as you said before, Germany is still not able to handle the whole topic apprropriately, gets proven by the fact that there is no German distributor so far – which is totally ridiculous. Every successful horror movie causes a bidding war immediately, and here nothing happens at all.
Dieter Laser: Well, they’re enormously scared, more than anybody else. In that respect I said to Ilona, „You think Holland is bad? I tell you, Germany is much, much worse!” And so from the beginning my proposal was to chose Germany as the very last country to offer the film to. Because then you can at least hope that the pressure of the global cult status is big enough to make some German distributor say, „Apart from all the worries, I can’t avoid this, I need to get my share.“
In that relation I already had a couple of comparable experiences. „The Man inside” for instance, a film about Günter Wallraff [a famous German investigative journalist] infiltrating the Bild-Zeitung [Germany’s biggest yellow press newspaper], where I play an editor-in-chief, could not be shot in Germany but was made as an American-French co-production in Paris instead. And although the film got screened worldwide, it didn’t find a German distributor. Wallraff at Bild, go figure!
screen/read: That shows how people here are completely unable to handle issues of controversial nature. Foreign countries are way more relaxed there, especially concerning the whole NS subject.
Dieter Laser: Yes, sure. But being our liberators they naturally have a more relaxed stance on this issue anyway. In Germany however, the handling is A. not relaxed enough and B. not serious enough. I considered it unbelievably shabby for instance, that the end credits of „Downfall (Der Untergang)“ contained a written line, saying „6 million jews have been killed.” Well, aren’t we talking about movies here, about images and motion? So when such an extremely important message is not an inherent part of the images, then something must be wrong with the film itself. And then there is this other, this emotional type of reappraising, which in recent years mostly appeared under a headline saying, „Us poor Germans”. The bombing of Dresden. And again „Downfall“.It’s not as if all of a sudden a pile of jewish corpses is shown, instead I get to see some Hitler Youth being shot in the head. Or I get to see the children of Goebbels, and how they are getting killed. And all of this implies, would we not have had this evil Führer, then none of this had happened. Us poor Germans! This is the current trend, and hence reappraising is still not done properly.
Now first of all a film like „The Human Centipede“ is pure entertainment, which occurs on the outemost surface. And I think this is important because a young person watching this movie wants to be entertained in the first place. But under this surface our film has many more levels, and one of them is the Nazi psychology, being played out inherently. Having anal fixation and all the dispositions that make it psychologically and emotionally easier to bear killing human beings and whole groups of them – namely by considering them as insects, just like the Nazi ideology did it. And the great thing is that exactly this works subconsciously, because movies are entertainment, mass entertainment. Which is only of any value when it also carries a lot of stuff in its companion package, in the hull, stuff that makes you think. And here it is the inhuman insect image of Nazi psychology. If a level like this is missing, I leave the theatre after eating three bags of candy and feel somehow completely sick.
It’s different here, and hence a certain sustainability can evolve. That is why Tom cast a German, who could use his body to transport the whole story with some sort of genetic knowledge on Nazism, so to speak. And only for that reason the role has true depth, only by this it becomes exceptional – and not because I would have checked out famous horror characters left and right in order to play like this actor or that.
screen/read: Of course, the popcorn level ist important in order to make the subject communicable for younger audiences. In Germany though the handling is of a terribly didactic and sober nature, and by this not compatible with the habits of a younger generation at all.
Dieter Laser: You’re absolutely right there. Even for me seeing a Nazi uniform in a film is already reason enough to mentally switch off. Because on a somewhat superficial level all of this is so overused that it cannot reach me any more, and young people certainly even less.
screen/read: Now you have also experienced times, where those subjects were treated differently. During the 1968 potest movement, which you had joined, the arts were rather political. How did you experience those times, especially as an aspiring actor?
Dieter Laser: Well, really the most wonderful and best school of the world for a theatre actor was my frog’s eye perspective as a bit player for Gründgens [Gustaf Gründgens, legendary German theatre director]. And the next decisive phase were those seven years I had a working relationship with Peter Stein [another famous German theatre diector] at the Münchner Kammerspiele, at Züricher Schauspielhaus and with the founding of Berliner Schaubühne [all of them important theatres in Germany resp. Switzerland]. All of this took place in the era of 1968 of course. The only shortcoming was the fact that I fell for the second religion of my life, communism. I was completely left wing, but presumably that was necessary back than, because this, let’s say, transitional phase was really innovative and creative and helped me a lot.
screen/read: With that in mind, would you say that German theatre has lost its political and artistic relevance during the last two or tree decades to a huge degree?
Dieter Laser: At least I have the feeling. I completely quit going to the theatre myself. I find it abysmally boring, abysmally beyond audience’s interests and abysmally feuilleton. All those hot tubs, the mud, rain, those videos as movies for the poorly minded – all of this I find so utmost bourgeois. And I find it so godawful shitty, that you cannot use nudity on stage anymore. Because it’s so inflated that you can only say, „Please no naked meat! Ladies and Gentlemen, conceal it all.“ Seeing a swinging dick on stage or tits or whatever is so overused, that you simply can’t tell anything with it anymore. Or turning Macbeath into a banker, wearing suspenders and carrying a cell, I find so shitty as I ask myself, why is he speaking in verse then? All that fuss seems so very stupid to me. And I have the feeling they can’t go further back in time than the 1960’s, don’t have a real stock to draw from, and instead stage the record collection of their girlfriends. Also they get off at historic productions, where everything seems to be set between kidney-shaped tables and standard lamps of the 1960’s.
And then there’s this phenomenon, that many productions aren’t done for the audience but for feuilleton writers, in order to push the careers of theatre managers and directors. And as they are not dependent on the approval of the audience, they shit on their heads and hedge themselves by setting up introductory evenings and postprocessings. That is where people get told how dumb the are until they swallow the pills of postmodern theatre where there’s nothing left of story and instead only fragments after fragments and comments after comments. And that is why German theatre annoys me to the core at the moment.
But with current German movies there are similarities as well. They are just as hedged and don’t need to show consideration for the audience. Because the major money of all subsidies and fundings comes from public broadcasting. So actually they are all televison films, just like prisoners on day-release before returnung to their cells. There are dozens of films getting a theatrical release, then tank at the box office and finally end up on the tv screen, which is what they’re actually made for. Hence they’re hedged well enough to easily leave audiences aside, because the money comes from the Federal Film Boards anyway.
screen/read: That is of course disastrous for the arts and the audience likewise.
Dieter Laser: And that is why I keep detecting that working on those new English language films I was a part of is totally different, and especially in the case of Six Entertainment, because it’s independent. And the term „independent“ was something I really felt all of the time.
screen/read: Comparing the film to the stage is so interesting because while watching you could get the impression that it’s an adaption of a stageplay. For instance, thinking of the sequence when Heiter explains the operation, he addresses the other characters just as much as he addresses the audience. And that is very much theatre.
Dieter Laser: True, it’s some sort of chamber play. Especially as most of it is set in that one single mansion, and so the old greek unity of place, time and story is really there.
screen/read: As you have many years of experience as an actor for theatre and film, you know the differences very well. A few things may be similar, but many others are not. Do you see a personal approach that defines you as an actor no matter which media you’re working for?
Dieter Laser: The term „radical“ comes to mind there. I always try to figure out the most radical version of things. Becaue that is usually also the most exciting one. Trintignant once said, the best movie actors are those having the largest amount of emotions and the best capability to hide them. That’s a good thing. I never adapt myself to any rules or regulations and never wonder, what acting in a film or on stage should be like, or what is trending and how people usually play a role.
When I enter the stage for instance, I don’t have the slightest idea what style of acting is fashionable at German theatres right now. Not interested in that at all. I am more than shocked though when I see clips from theatrical performances, where Goethe or Schiller are being spoken in a way that the verse is concealed as much as can be. I find that really miserable. When I play Tasso for instance [„Torquato Tasso“, a stageplay by Goethe], like a recently did, I speak the verse in an even more obvious way and with pressure, and compared to that poor mumbling of regular current acting of German classics, I virtually sing the words. With me you recognize every single hexameter, every iamb, and I disdain those directors who don’t even know what a hexameter is and how you speak it and what rhythm ist as and so on. In that sense I’m very radical.
I’m also radical in the sense that I don’t give a shit about what people think of me and whether something is successful or not. Instead I always wonder, would I like to see this or that myself? This is my criterion. And when I meet people with a similar radical attitute, like Tom and Ilona, then things work out perfectly. That’s why we had a certain type of give and take on the set, so that afterwards we weren’t able anymore to figue out, who had come up with wich idea. But that is of no importance anyway.
But „radical“ does also mean, making a character as perfect as can be up to the tiniest detail. For example I really had to somehow fight for the doctor’s coat Heiter is wearing. Every white or green coat as it is usually worn today would already have been acceptable for the costume, but my coat is just radical. It’s a Nazi-coat, historically accurate, but also simply the most brilliant doctor’s coat I know. I wanted to have it by all means, and so I asked myself, where do I get it in Germany? And then I really made this my task. First I asked doctors here in Berlin, but that lead to nothing and so I kept looking. In the end I found a little company that still produces the original coat with princess seams and this slightly matron, female sectional shape. They gave me two of those as a present then. And when I showed them to Tom he was totally excited and immediately gave me his mirrored sunglasses and said, „There, put them on.“ And that looked so great that he said, „Look, what would you say if he always wears those glasses when he’s outside?“ And I loved that, but then both of us decided to include a few islands of calm, so to speak, where he does not wear those glasses. For example, I love that scene, where he sits on the tombstone of his dog an smokes.
screen/read: His beloved 3-Hund.
Dieter Laser: Yes, the beloved 3-Hund. You see a pile of cigarette butts on the ground between his feet, and he sits there, no sunglasses on, it’s dawning, slightly misty, his body bent over, you only see the surgical cap, the rubber gloved hands, but not a bit of his head, his face, and his hand moves towards the mouth, he inhales and veils of smoke rise. All in one shot. Thousands of directors in Germany would have said to me, „Dieter, when you puff out or smoke, raise your head a little.“ But here I could just make this wicked shot and nobody said, turn around or look up, so the camera can see you. Instead I could fully put my intention to pracitce, to create an image that tells something without me having to play anything at all. And when something like that gets instantly considered as good and brilliant, it’s a great joy for my heart.
screen/read: And that is something the audience realizes. Actually there are quite a few images in the film telling their own stories, just the way you described it. And in a way that is another trademark of theatre. The film takes its time to show these things and that might be a reason for wanting to watch it more than once.
Dieter Laser: I also think that there’s always a chance to discover something new. I always call it the lining under the surface. For instance, what you just mentioned reminds me spontaneously of the sequence before the operation. That was when Tom, the cinematographer and me asked ourselves what Dr Heiter would have for breakfast before he does the operation. And I said: fruit salad. It comes from a can, and this we place with sliced cover next to the plate, and then it looks just like a can of dog food (laughs). That’s how we did it and thought the raw steak, which he eats later, matched that quite well. Of course that was also composed intentionally. In this way we always co-ordinated things up to the smallest detail aesthetically, and that is why you can always discover new elements, if you desire to.
screen/read: And there are many of these moments. Critics who don’t like the film say it falls apart during the second half, but the opposite is true because that is when the film allows itself to oberve things and that makes it so interesting.
Dieter Laser: Yes, absolutely, and that is where the film leaves the horror level in a way.
screen/read: When you think of international movies of the last ten years, would you say there are parts that you would have liked to play?
Dieter Laser: Actually I can’t answer this because I never think like that. Just as I dont’t have any photo at home and don’t collect any DVD with me on. You would find zero stuff at my place, that I look back on, and just as much do never watch films in a way that makes me wish, this or that would have been something I liked to play, but instead I always think forward. The experience of „Centipede“ told me something though, and I seriosly asked myself, „How is the current situation for little Dieter as a German actor?“ Because when you have reached a certain youthfulness, you actually only have two chances left in this country. You can offer some grandchildren chocolate bars in German tv, or you can grieve over your daughter filing for divorce, or you can worry about your heroin addict nephew. And I’m not really interested in any of that too much (laughs).
And so I said to myself, this horror movie is a wonderful gateway to a world where age doesn’t matter. Instead of a chocolate bar I rather grab a gun. A gangster being seaminly dead but experienced enough, that there’s no need for himto focus his target and still hits his victim right in the eye, that is something I can easily portray even when I’m 105 years old. Thus on the level of evil I have an infinite empire for making my fantasies come true. And that is why I of course would be extremely happy if I could continue working on that level. In any case I will continue working with Tom Six. And that we will be making another film together very, very soon, is something that the three of us, Ilona, Tom and I have sworn to do. And Tom is such a sophisticated bastard, full of insane ideas and approaches, that I feel my ears trembling whenever he tells me something. Unbelievable.
screen/read: That is quite a clear target converning your acting future. Many colleagues would probably rather be worried about typecasting after having played such an iconic character.
Dieter Laser: I’m not scared at all there, because all of my life, even in times when I was almost literally starving, I never did anything I didn’t want to do. That is my personal lifelong luxury. Even in times where I didn’t have any earnings I turned down stuff, always from a perspective that asks, would I like to see that? For instance, due to „The Human Centipede“ I got a part offered in a science fiction movie, an international production that is going to be shot in Australia and New York, but I rejected the offer as I found the part too dumb. That is why I have no worries at all, because all of my life I was trained hard not to do anything just for money or my career, and so I would always reject an offer that I find too boring or too much in the vein of Dr Heiter – unless I can sense a heightening or a different version in the script or the the director’s imagination. But that totally dependent on how passionate they are. I don’t have any reservations though to continue playing the villain because that is great fun for me, and as I have said, the alternative options are restricted to chocolate bars. And here I have a wonderful field that allows me to do so unbelievably much, and hence, no, not any worries at all.
screen/read: I am convinced there’s a lot waiting for you, and it’s definitely a good thing being totally relaxed in that respect. Most likely you are one of the few former members of the 1968 movement who still live their independence and did not fall for a bourgeous career instead.
Dieter Laser: No, because fortunately I was born with zero existential angst, and that hasn’t changed since then. During your youth it’s like that anyway, because you’re a time millionaire and get doped by that little drug factory between your shoulders in a way that makes you think you’re immortal – which is why young people can be sent to war, by the way. And I kept this feeling of immortality in the sende that I am actually still free from existential angst. This provides with huge serenity and freedom from this type of angst that makes you constanly say, „I must become something, I must be someone, I must accumulate property.“
screen/read: Now with all the promotion touring for the film worldwide, you attended quite a few festivals and even received an award at the Austin Fantastic Fest. With horror movies the second wave usually consists of conventions made for fans. Is there something already waiting for you?
Dieter Laser: Yes, I was just invited to the Texas Frightmare Weekend next spring from April 29 to May 1. That’s a convention with fans and a film festival as well. Lots of interviews will be conducted with me there, the film will be screened and afterwards there will be a Q&A with the audience and so on. That is going to be a big event which I’m already looking forward to.
screen/read: Great that the enthusiasm about you and the character remains pretty much alive. Even more it is hard to understand, that in Germany nothing seems to happen. Not even genre magazines did anything so far.
Dieter Laser: You are actuelly the first doing a German interview with me on this. Although, there had been a request by Bild-Zeitung [again, the famous German yellow press newspaper], but I said, I will only talk about the film when it is shown in Germany. But in your case I had a feeling that this could be something really good, and in the end it has proven itself to be exactly that.
screen/read: I feel very honored to hear that. Dear Dieter Laser, thank you very much for all your time and effort. It was a huge pleasure and great fun.
Dieter Laser: All I can reply is: vice versa.