Laurence R. Harvey discusses Human Centipede 2 and film censorship
interviewed by David Flint
Love or hate The
Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), there’s
no denying that it has one of the most memorably twisted villains
in recent cinema history. Car park attendant and Human
Centipede fan Martin seeks to emulate his fictional hero
Dr Heiter by creating his own human centipede, with results shocking
enough to send the British film censors crying for mummy.
The man behind this warped, silent character is Laurence R. Harvey
– in real lie a charming, thoughtful actor and cult film
fan. As the film comes to UK DVD, your editor spoke to him about
the movie and the censorship furore.
How did you first get involved in HC2?
Basically, my agent called me and said ‘I’ve got some
people who want you to be the lead in their new film’. As
a character actor I thought ‘really?’. And then my
agent said ‘I think it’s porn, I think you should
turn it down’. He’d been to the Six’s website,
which says ‘Six Entertainment – adult entertainment,
Amsterdam’ (laughs). I think ‘adult entertainment’
might mean something different in Holland than it does here! So
I asked what the title was and he said ‘Human Centipede
2’. I’d heard of the first Human Centipede
through it being on at FrightFest – I hadn’t seen
it at this point, it was still doing the festival circuit. So
I said I’d be interested in going to the casting, and on
the day of the casting, they did a screening for cast and crew
they were casting that week, and so I saw it and an hour and a
half later, I was doing the casting.
What did you think when you saw the first film?
(laughs) Well, Dieter (Laser) is so brilliant, I thought
‘well, that’s pretty big shoes to fill, and I’m
sure I won’t get it, I won’t get this role at all’.
I thought surely they won’t cast me. But I would really
love to be involved in the film in some way, so I was going to
ask if, even if they didn’t take me for the part they were
auditioning me for, I just wanted to be like a neighbour that
popped round for a cup of tea. Once you see what happens to the
neighbour, (laughs), I’m glad I did get the main
Dr Heiter is obviously quite an iconic character, but Martin
is very, very different...
in the casting, Tom was very clear than in many ways, the film’s
a kind of opposite of the first one, so he wanted somebody that’s
physically the opposite of Dieter. Dieter’s tall and thin,
and plays quite a powerful figure... so I’m short and fat
and play somebody that doesn’t have any power, that’s
kind of abused by everyone around him rather than being an abuser
himself. For me, when Tom was explaining this, it reminded me
- he took me through the plot scene by scene – it reminded
me, there’s a sub-genre of horror in Japanese cinema where
somebody that’s picked upon snaps and takes their revenge
– the ‘lone dove syndrome’ films. For me, it
seems very Japanese in what it was trying to do, but then there’s
the whole satirical element as well, with him taking that Daily
Mail figure of somebody who sees a film and is influenced
by it so much that they just act it out without thinking... and
how Tom wants to take that idea and run with it and push it to
the extreme. So yeah, it’s interesting from that point of
view. I saw the way that Tom wanted this powerless figure to be
a kind of problem solver – in the first film, Dieter’s
carrying people over his shoulder with a fireman’s lift,
people unconscious... I just wouldn’t be able to do that,
as Martin I just drag people very slowly. It’s things like
that that are interesting, in Tom’s approach to the character.
Martin definitely seems to be as much a victim as anyone else
in the film. He’s a product of the way society treats people
who don’t fit it.
Yes, yes. A lot of mainstream commentators have seen Martin as
someone with mental disabilities, but because I come from a disabilities
point of view, I’m very much against that. When we were
talking through with Tom, it’s more that he’s become
socially retarded because of the abuse around him, and how that
might affect him as he goes through school and employment as he’s
growing up. So I don’t think Martin’s the brightest
– he’s not educationally advanced, or socially or
emotionally capable, but there is an intelligence there, which
is why ... the humour comes out when he thinks of a way to get
around a problem. He obviously hasn’t got surgeon’s
skills when he’s attaching people’s mouths to the
backside of the person in front – he just has a staple gun
and stuff like that. It’s those kind of thought processes
that I found interesting about Martin.
What I loved about the character are those little moments
of joy when he had a success and his despair when things went
wrong... you actually feel quite sorry for him.
emotional reactions are kind of inspired by... whilst we were
filming I stayed for a weekend with a friend of mine who’s
got two one year old twins, and looking at the way in which they
interacted – what would happen is, if one twin had something
go wrong, the reaction would be huge and instant, so
there was this disproportionate level to things, and I tried to
keep that with Martin, so instead of being slightly disappointed
that something had gone wrong, he’d start crying. But I
think there’s a disconnection between his responses and
his actual emotions, both in the proportional way and also how
he doesn’t react genuinely. A lot of the emotional things
stop and start abruptly. When I was watching these two one year
old twins, one would start crying and the other one would be looking
at him and see that he’s getting all this attention, so
he’d immediately start crying as well, even though
there was no emotion behind it – just joining in. And then
the first one would stop abruptly, as if that emotion was fake
all along. So there’s a level of fakery as well as the disproportionateness
of their emotional reactions, which I tried to use for Martin,
because there is this thing where emotionally and socially, he
is still a child, and that’s very much about him living
at home with his mother - because (laughs) I live at
home with my parents at the moment because a housing situation
in London fell through. And when you’re back at your parents,
you’re treated like a teenager again, or in Martin’s
case even younger . So it’s that kind of regression I wanted
It would be so easy just to treat him as a monster, so it’s
impressive that you’ve avoided that. And he’s very
multi-faceted and sympathetic, without any dialogue.
When we did the cast and crew screenings, a friend of mine came
along and said you want to step in and just give Martin a hug
and tell him not to do the bad things. So there should be that
element of sympathy. I think you should want to have sympathy
for Martin, but reject the choices that he makes.
He’s from a pretty bad family background.
Yeah, and of course, the absent father who you hear in voice over
Exactly. One thing that struck me watching the film –
the ending arguably suggests that this could have all been a fantasy
in Martin’s head.
Yeah, that’s valid, but I think it’s open to interpretation,
because there’s the child crying. It’s whether you’re
going back in time to the beginning, or to the point where the
family is coming into the car park, or whether the crying is actually
Martin’s psyche. I think the exact shot is picking up again
is where he’s watching the businessman rail against the
ticket machine over the CCTV – this is the guy that dies
when Martin cuts too deeply into his buttocks. So it depends where
you think its gone back to in time. When I first saw it, I thought
‘Martin has got away with it’, but the child was still
in the car, so everything was going to come undone because there’s
a secondary victim, as it were, still in the car park. Or you
can then extrapolate and say that Martin now has his family, by
raising the child – you can look for a happy ending...
good that it’s open to interpretation.
I think that’s one of the strengths of it as well. I love
the film as a whole but it does have an ambiguous ending.
The film was shot in colour. At what point did you know it would
eventually be in black and white?
LH: At the casting initially, Tom was talking about it having
a kind of washed out colour – he was talking about the whole
film being a mix between a gore film and Kes (laughs).
He wanted a washed out, 16mm look to some of the colour, particularly
because British realist films have that silvery blue light. He
was always going to treat the colour in some way. I think whilst
he was going through the palate in terms of treating the image
afterwards, he just tried it in black and white and it seemed
to have something. And I think it really works. I think what it
does is help you concentrate on Martin and his actions, rather
than being distracted by the reds and browns of the events at
It takes it out of reality a little bit too.
Yeah, it makes it dream-like and I think also the soundscape makes
it seem like it’s in Martin’s head, whether it’s
a fantasy, or whether you’re just viewing things from his
point of view. So yeah, I think it’s quite ingenious the
way that it’s turned out.
I’m sure that while making the film, given the original
movie and the stuff you were shooting, you knew this would be
fairly controversial. But I guess you didn’t realise just
Yeah... I thought the reaction in reviews & blogs and so on
would be OTT. To be honest, when the film was finished, I thought
that the sandpaper and barbed wire scenes would be cut, or at
least trimmed down to a brief glimpse, just because of the BBFC
and the sexualised violence that Martin directed at himself. We
weren’t expecting the BBFC to reject it outright and release
this long, highly opinionated statement...
That was totally misrepresentative...
Totally misrepresentative and way beyond their remit as well.
It seems a very foolish thing for the BBFC to have done. The rejection
would be fine, if that press release hadn’t come out, because
at least with a rejection, you could open up a debate with the
BBFC and discuss what’s needed to be cut. But that press
release, saying it was uncuttable, it was all sexual violence,
the whole thing – which is patently untrue. It was a ridiculous
thing to do, and I think a reason they did that was to put off
mainstream cinemas putting it on. It was more about the BBFC trying
to flex its muscles to show that it’s doing something than
judging the film on its own. It was personally insulting Tom and
his abilities as a filmmaker, it’s questioning whether the
first film was any good or not... they’re not there to review
films, they’re there to assess films and classify films,
not to say whether it’s of worth or not.
And of course they dug themselves into a hole with that statement,
having now passed the film, because it makes them look like idiots,
no matter what side of the censorship debate you are on. If you’re
anti-censorship, you’ll be appalled by the cuts, and pro-censorship
people will see the BBFC as caving in to pressure...
I know, it’s stupid. And also, what was a kind of niche
film that people who are into gory horror would’ve seen,
or enjoyed the first film would’ve gone to see, with the
BBFC rejecting it, it’s created a kind of hype around the
film. There’s a good side and a bad side to that. It’s
frustrating that cinema exhibitors are shying away from taking
weird that people would be put off from showing it because of
the controversy. That’s the sort of thing that used to put
bums on seats!
I think also what it is, is because the BBFC have delayed finally
accepting it for so long, the turnaround had to be pretty quick
before it was out on DVD and Blu-ray. That becomes a commercial
consideration for cinemas. And also a lot of the smaller chains
and independent cinemas book three months in advance.
It has been forced into quite a rushed release I guess...
LH: yeah, partly because back in June when the film was submitted
to the BBFC, Eureka had done a deal with HMV to do an exclusive
release on Halloween. So with it taking so long to get through
the BBFC’s appeals process, in order to get it into the
cinemas around Halloween and hopefully before the HMV edition
came out, it’s been a complete rush. I’m really glad
that Eureka and Bounty have at least tried their darndest to get
it out there.
It does feel like we’re entering a new period of censorialness...
Yeah, it’s interesting at the Abertoir Film Festival there
was a censorship panel debate and Martin Barker was saying whenever
there’s some sort of political crisis that the BBFC start
paying attention to what the Daily Mail and papers
of that ilk say.
Given that they’ve also just banned The Bunny Game, maybe
the answer is not to shoot extreme cinema in black and white...
(laughs) The Bunny Game comes from a kind of performance
art background in a sense as well. I think if it’d been
a documentary, not geared towards the cinema, it might’ve
been able to come out exempt from classification, through arts
The BBFC have always had a problem with BDSM, even when it’s
Yeah, which is why you can’t get any of the Japanese BDSM
not. So how have people reacted to you since the film came out?
Given that you’re laying such an intense role and are in
the movie throughout, have you found people reacting to the character
when they meet you?
I get called Martin a lot (laughs).
That must be fun for you!
People keep forgetting that I’m called Laurence. But apart
from that, it’s been fine. In Austin there was one girl
that didn’t want to come up to me or say anything to me
because she was scared of how I was in the film (laughs),
and another guy who came up to me the day after the film and said
‘I wanted to come up and shake your hand after the film
but I thought you would be like Martin, but I’ve been watching
you and you seem like a nice man’ (laughs). So
I think some people are wary but most people take it as an acting
job, especially if I’ve done a Q&A or an introduction.
They know I’m not Martin!
As long as you don’t walk around with a staple gun in
your hand, you’ll be okay.
Well, you know, staple guns are pretty useful (laughs).
What did you make of the London
Tombs show, by the way? I saw you down there on launch night.
It’s good. The first time I went round I was at the back,
and then I went when Dieter was in town and I went to the front,
which is even better, even scarier. I liked how the guys at London
Tombs are all fans of horror films and of the first Human
Centipede. I’ve got my Number One Fan in the UK
- one of the girls in the Human Centipede at London Tombs (laughs)
– she’s my official Number One Fan!
our review of The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)