Human Centipede: After Starring Role As The Middle Piece, What Comes Next? Ashley C. Williams Explains
There's Ashley...right there in the (gulp) middle.
Not since Two Girls, One Cup (yes, that's the real link. Be careful) has a work of fecal cinema inspired more gagging, satirical interpretations, and, well, gagging than The Human Centipede.
For anyone who doesn't already know, it's the story of a demented German surgeon and his quest to create the "Siamese Triplet" (the Human Centipede), which consists of three human beings with a shared digestive system. To connect the digestive systems of the three pieces of the "centipede," the doctor must sew the living human pieces together, and he does so ass-to-mouth.
Of the three options, to be the middle piece of the centipede, obviously, is as bad as it gets. Ashley C. Williams played that middle piece in the film, and recently sat down with us to explain the experience of portraying someone in the worst case scenario of a situation that likely already is the the worst case scenario, and give us an update on how the role has impacted her young career.
VV: You were the middle piece of the Human Centipede. How does that even happen?
ACW: Well it was sort of a long process of deciding whether or not I should take the job because there were all these variables involved -- the kind of nudity that was gonna be in there, whether this was a legit company, how are they actually going to be stitching us together? There were all these questions. I asked literally everyone under the sun -- well, not everyone because we actually had to keep it quiet. When we went to the auditions they told us 'you can't tell anybody, maybe your parents.' But I asked people really close to me and also my representation, you know, 'is this something I should do?'. They were like 'well, if you're not completely naked, and they're not really stitching you together, then why not? What could be so bad?'
Do you ever wish that maybe you were the front, or the back, of the centipede rather than the middle? The middle just seems, pardon the pun, extra shitty.
Yes there were some moments where I was like 'I wish I could talk and wish I didn't have my head in someone's ASS.' But then I thought 'well, being the middle is so much more fun as an actress!' I know that sounds weird, but being the worst part of the centipede was more challenging and I always love a challenge.
How do you explain to your parents that you're going to be in a movie where you're gonna be stitched to somebody's ass, and somebody's gonna be stitched to your ass, and it's gonna be filmed in Holland, and nobody really knows the director, and you're gonna be topless...etc.?
When I first told them, I sort of left out the part that I was gonna be stitched to someone and that I was gonna be naked in it. I was just like 'yeah, ya know, it's a horror film, there's this great chase scene -- this doctor does this surgery on us and he sews us together.' That's all I said. They didn't really care. I mean, they cared where I was going, and they wanted the numbers of the people out there so they could call in case of an emergency, and all that protective stuff. Yeah...I didn't tell them too much about it. But they came to see it -- my grandparents came to see it in L.A. at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival. They all came out from the East coast to the West coast premier and were all really proud of me. (Laughing) They said they can't wait to see me in some sort of romantic comedy.
The Human Centipede wasn't a romantic enough comedy for them?
I thought it was romantic -- three of us stitched together...we became so close (laughing).
So, obviously they didn't actually stitch you together. How did they make it look like you were sewn ass-to-mouth to two other people?
(Laughing) No, we weren't actually sewn together -- it's a movie. The effects team was amazing. They were based out of Holland and when we got to Amsterdam and did our fitting of the Human Centipede we honestly had no idea what it was going to look like, or what we were going to be wearing. So, we go to the prop shop and they started measuring us...they did like a plaster of my butt, and everyone's butts, and our faces and our cheeks, as well. They started making these, like, bike shorts with this plaster that had a little knob that we would bite on to. When we would pull up the bike shorts, the little knob would be sticking out and that's what the person behind you would bite down on to make it look like we were actually attached. We were definitely close enough where we had to get used to it. It was a little uncomfortable at first because everyone was topless and it was cold and rainy and we were sometimes in the mud. It was definitely very uncomfortable and physically really demanding.
Ashley C. Williams (unattached)
How long were you stuck together at any given time?
Never for more than five minutes at a time. There would be this strip of gauze that would be attached to our bike shorts that would go around our necks. All we had to do was un-bite and [move the gauze] whenever we wanted to rest -- we would just get out of it and they would throw a blanket over us...we were never [attached] for more than five minutes.
The one scene where it was really, really painful was this really awful staircase scene where the three of us had to literally climb up this winding staircase all together -- it was all done in one shot. The last girl had the weight of the two of us on her face. It was just really, really painful, and we had to be crying, so emotionally you had to be, like, in this place.
Are you glad you did the film?
Yeah. In the beginning, we had no idea where it was gonna go. We thought 'maybe it will get into a couple film festivals.' But it was one of those films where all of us, as actors, were like 'this could make or break my career.' Whether or not this is done the right way -- we want it to look good. We want it to be a good movie and we want it to be shot really well because if it wasn't shot the way it was, it probably wouldn't have gotten where it is -- it's really beautifully shot for being a low-budget indie film.
It's such a crazy, out-there idea that we had no idea what anybody was gonna think of it. It was just this one director/writer Tom Six. It all came from this sick joke that he would tell his friends and one day he's like 'that would be a great idea for a movie.' He didn't care what the world would think, he was just like 'I'm gonna make this movie and we'll see what happens.'
Do you remember the joke?
Yeah, something like 'what would be a good punishment for a pedophile?' And he said 'to stitch the ass of a truck driver to his mouth,' or something like that. He said that would be a good punishment. Then he said 'wait a second, that would be a good idea for a movie.'
Obviously, you didn't actually eat shit. Did you see the South Park episode about the movie?
(Laughing) In South Park, it's, like, every five seconds he's shitting in Kyle's mouth. It's literally, like, every five seconds -- and they're shaking violently. It's just far worse than the movie. There's only one scene in the movie where that happens -- where he shits in my mouth, and that's sort of the well-known scene that everyone talks about because the doctor has this great line where he says 'feed her! Feed her! Swallow it, bitch!"
How long have you been doing this? Not being stuck to someone's ass, but acting?
Since I was 10. I did a lot of theater. Human Centipede was my first major film. In Charlottesville, Virginia, where I grew up, I did theater in some of the more professional community houses there and came here to go to school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I've been here ever since.
Has being the middle piece of the Human Centipede helped your career?
Oh, definitely. As soon as it came out I had something really great to show people. Obviously, I couldn't show a lot of the scenes from the end when we're all stitched together, but I managed to cut a reel of the good stuff -- my big chase scene, things like that. I was able to show it to a lot of really good agents and got represented by this great agency. I've got a really great team behind me -- people who really wanted help me get out there. I've been doing really well. I've been pondering going out to L.A., but I love New York too much and do a lot of theater. So, I've been managing to work a lot considering I don't live in L.A.
I get a lot of offers for thriller or horror films -- I have a name in the horror industry, so people know who I am and will say 'if we get Ashley C. Williams for this movie it will make it 10 times better, we'll get distribution,' that sort of thing.
Is horror your ideal genre?
No. I mean, I love acting. I think genres that I love are drama, sci-fi, fantasy, things like that. I'd love to be on Game of Thrones, (laughing) I love that show. I just don't want to get stuck in it? Getting out of horror and into other genres is the path I want to take. I actually have two romantic comedies coming out this year -- one of them is being submitted to festivals right now and the other is in post-production.
One is called Leaving Circadia, and it's sort of a coming of age romantic dramedy about kids about to turn 30. It's sort of what that's like -- leaving your 20s. The other one's called A Guy Named Rick, and that's more of a sci-fi romantic comedy because it's about the end of the world, and if this guy doesn't fall in love in 60 days, the world will end, basically. So it's really sort of kooky, crazy -- God is in there wearing a Ramones tee-shirt. He's basically uninspired by the world right now, so he wants to see love, and he's like 'this guy [Rick] sleeps around everywhere, he doesn't have a relationship, he's never had a stable one, so I want to see that guy fall in love. And if he doesn't, the world is gonna end.' I play the girl he may -- or may not -- end up falling for.
Time for us to get a little cliche -- where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Definitely on Broadway. That's always been a lifelong goal of mine. I definitely see myself having broken out of the horror genre and done some great films that have gotten some notice. My ultimate goal, really, in life, is just to be a successful actress in theater and film. I'm not out there for fame, I'm not out there to get noticed -- obviously that would be great. Honestly, I just love my job and I just want to make money doing it so I don't have to do anything else. And that's the one thing that I'm good at -- I honestly can't do anything else, so I need to make a living at it.
Anyone with additional questions for Williams should check out her Facebook fan page here.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.