March 27, 2010

Akihiro Kitamura: Confessions Of A Centipede, Pt. III

Last month I was lucky enough to interview two of the actresses from the controversial horror film, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) (you can read the interviews here and here), and I knew it was just a matter of time before I would ask one of the actors in the film, Akihiro Kitamura, to do an interview. Along with the actresses who I previously interviewed, Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro plays one of the people who is held against his will by a deranged surgeon and eventually connected with the other characters, ass-to-mouth, to form the titular "human centipede" - a supposedly "medically accurate" human freak-show, if you will. I finally got around to making contact with Akihiro, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions that I had about this bizarre film. In the interview, we talk about his involvement with the film, his influences, almost getting into a fistfight with co-star Dieter Laser, and his career as a director and actor. To say that he's enthusiastic about the project would be an understatement.

The Death Rattle (Aaron): Akihiro, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I haven't seen HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) yet, but it's a movie that I've been looking forward to since I first heard about it last year. So for now I'd like to talk to you about your career and how you got involved with the project, and hopefully we can do another interview once I've seen the movie. Sound good?
Akihiro Kitamura: Wait. What? You have not seen the movie and questioning my shit, motherfucker!!!!??? HAHA! I am kidding. Well, You should see the film ASAP because it is so good!!!

Death Rattle: First of all, what inspired you to get into the film industry?
Aki: My mother used to take me and my brother to movies when we were kids growing up in Kochi, Japan. Kochi is very country side southern island part of Japan and going to see a movie at a movie theater was one of the few entertainment we had there. When I was a high school kid, my family went to LA for vacation and I decided to be a Hollywood movie director! Also, I wanted to have sex with Sandra Bullock when SPEED came out. She was the reason why I decided to get into American film industry, not Japanese. Because she was way hot! She still is! I totally date her if she becomes single again!! :)

Death Rattle: Aside from acting, you also direct films. Which one would you consider to be your biggest passion - acting or directing?
Aki: Hard to answer the question. I love both. I studied filmmaking at North Carolina School of the Arts and Los Angeles City College. I started to go to Beverly Hills Playhouse to study directing and found my talent as an actor. They really loved my acting and found something special about me so I ended up training at BHP for 5 years. I am very trained actor and filmmaker. I can do both and I am good in both. However, right now, I am focusing on my acting more because it pays better and also I am having so much fun with roles coming to me! By the way, You should watch the film I wrote, directed and acted in I'LL BE THERE WITH YOU. You can rent it from Netflix or buy it on Amazon. I love that film because it was true independent film we made with our heart and soul. It all started from there.

Death Rattle: As a filmmaker, who are your biggest influences?
Aki: Takeshi Kitano, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth, Danny Boyle and Steven Spielberg.

Death Rattle: How did you get involved with the HUMAN CENTIPEDE project?
Aki: I was doing some crazy shit on VH1's "New York Goes To Hollywood" and MTV's "From Gs to Gents". They were both reality shows but it was obvious that I was acting. The casting director of Clint Eastwood's LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA happened to see me on TV when she was casting this Japanese role in THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE and thought I was perfect for the role. She really thought I was the only one who could do this. She showed me the script and asked me if I wanted to read for audition. I read the script and LOVED it. I thought it was actually very well written story. I did an audition through Skype with the director Tom Six and the producer Ilona Six because I was in LA and they were in the Netherlands. They loved me and a week later, they were flying me to Amsterdam where we shot the movie!

Death Rattle: What were your initial thoughts once you first realized what the movie was about, as well as once you found out what the character you would be playing had to go through? Were you a little intimidated by it, or did it seem like something that would be fun to do?
Aki: First of all, I am Japanese. I am kinky and crazy to begin with. So my first reaction was finding it really funny and genius. I did not find it scary. I thought it was funny so I was laughing when I was reading the script. I still think it is more funny than scary.

Death Rattle: Tell us a little bit about your character in the film, Katsuro? What kind of a person is he?
Aki: Katsuro is the third person who gets kidnapped by Dr. Heiter and becomes the head of "The Centipede". He is a young Yakuza man who was in Germany for business. And he will never stop fighting against Dr. Heiter. He is very strong and Dr. Heiter's plan goes absolutely out of control because Katsuro does not give up to survive as a human being. Things get really crazy when my character shows up in the movie. I love it!

Death Rattle: In the film, you play the front of the "human centipede", so it seems like you got lucky. At least you didn't have someone's ass in your face, but it doesn't change the fact that you constantly have someone behind you all the time. Was there ever a point where you got used to it while you were filming, or was it always a bit awkward?
Aki: First, it was very weird. We all were wearing special underwear so there was no direct skin contact but I did feel Ashley's face on my ass all the time. But as the filming goes on, I think we all got used to it. Sometimes I forgot that there was a girl attached to my ass. I remember , when we were resting during the take, Ashley was resting her chin on my ass and I was like "Hey lady, can you not rest your chin on my ass?" That was funny! We could not stop laughing. It became so natural to us.

Death Rattle: Prior to making the movie, both of your co-stars, Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie, both knew each other to a certain extent. Also, from what I understand, you arrived on the set at the last minute and had to start filming pretty quickly. Was it a challenge to be put in a situation where you'd have to suddenly start filming this bizarre horror movie with two strangers, or was it easy for you to adapt to the situation?
Aki: I will admit I was very nervous. I did not know how we would be attached and I did not know those girls. I was afraid that they might be transvestites. Because I knew Tom Six's first film was called GAY IN AMSTERDAM. I would not do this movie if they were transvestites and this was a gay movie. Fortunately, when I first met them at the hotel we were staying at, they were both beautiful American actresses. And Tom Six is very straight. Ashley and Ashlynn were both very brave and were not feeling that nervous at all. They were just excited to be making a movie and I realized that I could work very well with them. They were acting very friendly to me so I thought may be I could have sex with them but they both had boyfriends at that time. HAHA! I am kidding, man! But it helped me a lot that they were very friendly and easy to work with.

Death Rattle: What is your most memorable experience from your time in Holland, which is where you filmed the movie?
Aki: I went to Anne Frank House where she was hiding with her family. That was very powerful and emotional experience for me. It really meant a lot that I went there. I went there with Ashley and Ashlynn.

Death Rattle: Based on the interviews I did with your co-stars, I have a pretty good idea of what director Tom Six is like, but what is your personal opinion of him as a filmmaker?
Aki: He is a very great storyteller. Because he has a strong vision of how he want his film to be, he can let actors be free on the set. He likes to listen to people's ideas. He loves creative ideas from his crew and actors. He is a true collaborator and I think that is how a director should be. He really got the best out of all of us. I really loved working with him and I want to keep working with him in the future. He is the best director I ever worked with.

Death Rattle: I have heard a lot of great things about actor Dieter Laser's performance as the film's antagonist, Dr. Heiter. A lot of people say that his character is the best thing about the movie. What was he like on the set, and was it easy for him to get in and out of character?
Aki: Dieter Laser is a real professional actor. I learned so much from him as an actor. He was always thinking about his character and coming up with great ideas for him to do in his scenes. I think I am very similar to him as an actor. We both like to keep concentrating and have that character inside of us even when we are off set. I remember I almost got into fist fight with him when we were shooting a violent scene because we were both in character. I knew he was a great actor with experience. I respected that. But at the same time, I am a young coming-up actor who is very ambitious. I did not want to be overwhelmed by him. So I was waiting for my chance to bite him. He was a superstar on the set and sometimes wanted to have everything under his control because he was in character. Both my character Katsuro and I as an actor did not want to be under his control. My first scene with Dieter was when he was explaining what he was going to do to us. The operation. And I heard that he did not like people talking over his line. So when he was giving the speech, I decided to talk over his line as much as I can because I knew that would piss him off!! Of course I knew they were shooting the shot with only Dieter in it so Tom could edit it. It actually turned out to be one of the best scene when he was explaining the operation and I was screaming all kind of shits in Japanese "You crazy German!" "Get me out of this!!! or I will kill you!!" etc ( ed. go here to see a clip of the scene he's talking about). I knew it would work! OK anyway, going back to the fist fight. So when we were shooting a scene where he kick my face, his feet came too close to my face so I yelled "CUT!" and told him to do the same as he did in the rehearsal. He got really pissed and yelled at me "YOU CHICKEN SHIT!!!!". I was like "What!? You German Motherfucker!!" and almost jumped on him. The dutch crew jumped in between us so quickly and separated us. I was not going to punch him or anything like that. I just wanted to show him that I am a crazy Japanese motherfucker who would put up the fight, that I am KAMIKAZE motherfucker. Of course we apologized to each other and everything was cool. We had more respect to each other after that fight. And it worked so well to have that tension between us when we were shooting our scene. I knew that we were smiling inside when we were fighting. It helped that we were both similar actor who uses whatever we can use to bring the best performance. Every time I did something good in a scene, Dieter looked at me and said "good". After the filming was over, Dieter told me that I would have a bright future as an actor and that meant a lot to me. I think Dieter really had fun working with me. He really is a great actor and I am so happy to have worked with him. He was teaching me a lot. I guess German and Japanese have some kind of mutual respect because we fought the world war together. It was there and I loved it.

Death Rattle: HUMAN CENTIPEDE has been generating quite a bit of buzz ever since it debuted in England, and it's been getting good reviews from horror movie websites and blogs. Are you a horror fan at all, and if so what are some of your favorite horror movies?
I love horror film. Especially crazy ones like Eli Roth's HOSTEL. Eli is very cool by the way.
He e-mailed me and said he is dying to see THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE. I really would love to work with Eli and do some crazy shit!

Death Rattle: What was it like the first time you saw HUMAN CENTIPEDE with an audience? Were you nervous about how it would turn out, and were you satisfied with the audience's reactions?
Aki: I am a filmmaker myself. I already knew this film was going to be masterpiece when we were shooting the movie. When I saw the film for the 1st time at Frightfest in London, it was even much better. I loved every second of it. Tom did a great job!!

Death Rattle: You recently attended the premier of HUMAN CENTIPEDE in Japan. What was that experience like, and how did the audience there react to the film?
Aki: Yes I attended Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in Japan with Tom and Ilona. It was FANTASTIC!! Japanese loved it so much that at the Q&A the audience got onto the stage and formed the Human Centipede with me! Tom was acting as Dr. Heiter and yelling "Feed IT!!" to us. That was blast! I knew Japanese would love this film. They were kinky like that!! haha! I hope it finds the Japanese distribution soon!! The festival director said it was the best film playing at this year's festival and I was so happy to hear that.

Death Rattle: This seems like a movie that was tailor-made for Japanese audiences because they make a lot of fucked-up and twisted movies over there. What is it about Japan that inspires filmmakers to push the envelope and make gruesome movies, like the ones featured in the GUINEA PIG series, for example?
Aki: I think we have this diverse culture that feeds our imagination in Japan. It makes sense if you are in Japan. You should go to Japan. You would understand it. We call it "HENTAI" culture. All kind of alternative stuff. We just appreciate something beyond our imagination. Because we are all nice and must act polite, even little suppressed by the society, that crazy shit just comes out of us!!!

Death Rattle: What do your family and friends think about the movie?
Aki: I went to see the film with my mom at Yubari film festival in Japan and she loved it!
She thinks THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE is way better than THE HURT LOCKER! HAHA! She is awesome!! My friends think I am a rock star! They have not seen THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE but they know that I made films where I have sex scenes with American actresses. Even Ken Watanabe or Jackie Chan does not kiss American actress. I not only kiss but have crazy sex scenes and have girl's face attached to my ass. They are very proud of me. Also I am in HEROES season 4 which is very popular in Japan. They find that cool too.

Death Rattle: If there's one thing that people will remember about HUMAN CENTIPEDE, what will it be?
Aki: The human dignity the centipede shows in the film.

Death Rattle: Who would be your dream director, actor, or actress to work with one day?
Aki: I want to have crazy sex scene with Sandra Bullock and get brutally murdered by her in Eli Roth's movie. I wast to be the baddest motherfucker in Quentin Tarantino's film. And I want to fight against Crazy Alien Creature in Steven Spielberg's blockbuster movie. I think I will be very cool in Guy Ritchie's movie too!

Death Rattle: Is there anything you're working on at the moment, or any projects coming up that you'll be acting in or directing? Anything you want to promote?
Aki: I actually have been very careful with what I do next. After I did THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE I got great managers who believe in my talent so I am trusting them for my next project. They got me on HEROES. I wish I can come back to season 5 of HEROES. I loved my character Tadashi in the show. He was pretty crazy character as well. He was trying to jump off from the building to commit suicide because he got fired from his job after he photocopied his butt at the company's party. I am sure the writer of HEROES saw THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE to come up with that! haha!!! As far as directing, I am developing a project with a producer in Japan. That is based on a crazy novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui who wrote PAPRIKA and THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME.

Death Rattle: Akihiro, it's been a pleasure talking to you, and thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Best of luck and take care of yourself.
Aki: Thank you so much for your support!!!!!!!!!!! I hope you watch the film soon and enjoy the crazy ride!!!!!!!! Have a beautiful day.


  1. Another great interview Aaron. I'm now so intrigued by this film. The more I read about it, the more disturbed and uneasy the idea of it makes me feel. Must try and catch it when I can!

  2. Even though I railed on the movie, I thought this guy had a lot of presence. I look forward to seeing him in other stuff. Clearly has much passion, too. Nice interview.