With questions like that floating around, we had to go to the source, and who better to talk to than one of the film’s female leads, Ashley C. Williams. Check out the interview below and find out everything from the inside details of how the movie was made to her first movie role in the great film, “Willow.”
YBMW: What kinds of toys, cartoons and movies did you like growing up?
Ashley Good question. I didn’t play with Barbies, thank God, but I played with lots of LEGOS with my brother and things like that and I played a lot of video games like Nintendo. I watched Reading Rainbow when I was 4, or 5 years old and I had a Cabbage Patch Kid.
I grew up in a very hippy household so I wasn’t allowed to watch TV a lot, but when I did I watch TV over at friend’s houses, I would watch Reading Rainbow or sometimes Barney, but I really hated that show.
When it came to movies, my mom wouldn’t let me watch PG-13 movies until I was 14 years old. I didn’t have a favorite, but I watched Alice in Wonderland a lot. I watch a lot of Disney movies. I loved Cinderella and Bambi and Alice in Wonderland.
YBMW: Are you a horror movie fan?
Ashley I am, to an extent. Recently a lot of horror movies that have come out are the standard cliché horror movies and I really don’t like those types of movies.
I really like a horror movie that is so over the top and something that’s never been told before. Something that’s not cliché.
I think that The Human Centipede has opened up my love for horror films and I’m not just boasting because it’s the film that I’m in, but in terms of extending the psyche in terms of what could we possibly make a move about. I know a lot of films these days are the same kind of story… Recently the horror genre has lifted a bit which is great, but I wasn’t a huge horror film before that.
YBMW: How did you end up in movie “Willow”?
Ashley I was in Willow when I was five years old. My parents lived in San Jose at the time. My mom was the one who started getting me into theater when I was a kid because I had so much energy. She needed to get me out of the house and open up a bigger stage for me in terms of widening my experiences. Willow started because I was in my kindergarten class and Ron Howard’s Assistant came and asked my teacher to recommend a boy and a girl who has the most energy in terms of being able to play a role in a film at a young age. She picked me and a boy who I had a crush on which was funny. We auditioned for some lines and I think I was a little too young. I was supposed to have the line at the end of the movie: “Willow’s home! Willow’s home!” but I think I was too scared so I’m just in the background of the film, but it was a great experience.
YBMW: So was that what started you on your acting career?
Ashley It was only few years after that where I started putting on my own little productions around the house. Then we moved to Charlottesville VA where there’s a lot of art culture and community theater. My mom started taking me to auditions and the first play that I auditioned for was Peter Pan. I got Tiger Lilly and I was so thrilled. and it was so much fun. Then after that, I kept getting these lead roles like I was Annie in Annie when I was 11 . I thought this was so great, it was so much fun… the lights and the stage. It definitely pushed me towards where I am today. I am mainly a theater actor, but definitely films, I love too.
YBMW: Is Human Centipede the first film you’ve done as an adult?
Ashley It’s the first major role in a major role in a major film that I’ve done, yes. I’ve done a couple of smaller budget independent films before then, but Human Centipede was the first major film that I’ve done.
YBMW: How much did you know about the movie before the audition?
Not a whole lot actually. I went to the audition and Tom and Illona were there. They basically just showed me a piece of paper with drawing of what the human centipede would look like. Tom asked me if I am easily shocked and I was like. “Well you know, not really, but let me see what you have.” So they began to explain, but they couldn’t tell me too much. They kept the movie very, very secret so there wasn’t much of a script. They had a synopsis of each scene and told me there would be a lot of improvisation in the film.
I knew that was fine because horror films are usually like that where there’s a lot of running and screaming. Not exactly something you could write in to words. So I didn’t know too much, just that it was going to be two girls traveling through Europe. They get a flat tire and come upon this person’s house and he kidnaps them and … well, I don’t want to ruin it for you, but the climax of the film is amazing. It’s so great. Also, we knew about the nudity in the film and he (Tom) made sure that everything was okay with us about that. It was all non-sexual, we just had to be realistic about it.
YBMW: Were you hesitant about taking the role? What did the director have to say to you convince you?
Ashley In the interview process, a lot of girls were lining up to audition and I think they liked me a lot because they brought me back for three different callbacks.
Each girl that I read with would talk to me outside and ask. “Is this a for real film? What do you think about this film? Is this like porno? I’m really scared about going over to Amsterdam and them putting me in a porn film. Is it torture porn or whatever?” and I was like “No. These guys are really nice.” I guess a lot of girls just really didn’t get it.
I was scared though. I had my hesitations in the beginning. I talked to a lawyer about my contract. I spoke with an agent I was freelancing with. I talked to my parents and everyone I knew to make sure it was a good idea for me and something that would actually push my career forward and it has and thank God I did it. If I hadn’t I don’t know… my life would be very different right now.
There is actually this girl that was originally hired for the film and she decided not to do it after they hired her. I met up with her recently because she found me on Facebook and she was like “Oh my god, I can’t believe you actually did that film. Was it like a torture porn film?” And I was like ” No, have you see the trailer?”
There’s a lot of people that were really scared about it, but my gut instincts told me to go and do it and make sure that everything’s okay. I trusted my instincts and I always have. Tom and Illona are the greatest people in the world and so trustworthy and the crew was amazing. The experience was amazing, so I’m glad I did it.
YBMW: Which segment of the Centipede are you?
Ashley I’m the middle.
YBMW: Was it difficult filming the scenes where you have your face strapped to someone’s butt?
Ashley Ya, in the film, obviously it looks like I’m strapped to their butt, but I’m not really. There’s gauze around our butt area where he did the surgery on us. We’re covered in terms of our bottom halves. The costume dept was amazing. The prop shop people created this knob that we put our mouths on that was attached to the gauze pants that each of us were wearing. We would just put our mouths on this little knob and they’d put blood around it. It’s gross sounding, but that made it look like we were really attached. Our mouths were not touching someone’s butt. I would not have signed on for that.
Still, It sounds like that must have been a pretty awkward experience?
Ya, very awkward and it was awkward at first, but me, aki (Akihiro Kitamura) and Ashlynn (Ashlynn Yennie) got along really great and it was a lot of fun walking around like a centipede together.
YBMW: What was the filming of the movie like? It looks like it could have either been extremely intense or extremely funny for the cast and crew?
Ashley It was both. It was really intense. It was very emotionally and physically draining. The first entire week of filming was from 7 pm to 7 am. We were shooting at night… the scenes where Jenny and Lindsey get lost in the woods. It was raining so they had rain machines. We were walking around in heels in the forest. Then in the second week of filming we started getting into our human centipede positions and we were down on all fours all the time. Our necks and backs hurt. We were never in that position for more than ten minutes, but our knees hurt a lot. The crew was really great because they actually gave us a masseuse almost every day to make sure we were feeling ok.
But, in terms of actually being in that position, in reality it would be awful and we had to portray that with just our eyes. We could not speak because we were attached to someone in front of us. It was really physically draining having to cry all the time and having our mouths on that bit all the time. The last two weeks of filming were awful when we were filming the climax. The water in the pool was absolutely freezing and they had to have a special warming blanket for me. It was crazy, but it was so much fun and the crew was so professional and made sure we were all having a good time in-between the screaming and muffled sobs.
YBMW: Is the film really 100% medically accurate?
Ashley It is, ya. It is 100% medically accurate, but as to whether or not the human centipede can survive for more than a week is debatable, but it is accurate to be able to link people together and have them survive off their digestive systems for at least a little while.
Tom Talked to a real life surgeon and created the entire thing. before even writing the script, he made sure it could medically be done. That’s what’s so great about the film. its something that nobody has ever thought about doing before and its is this crazy idea that came from an inside joke that tom and his friends would talk about. That’s why Tom is so great. He takes this one little joke and actually makes it into something real that could actually happen.
YBMW: The movie seems to push a lot of boundaries for the sake of being able to. Was there a bigger meaning behind the film or was it really just born out of a bad joke the director told his friends at a bar?
Ashley In terms of Tom’s vision of the film, when it started from a little joke, it started to expand for him and really create this idea of human torture and the psyche and how demented somebody could really get… how far they are willing to go.
In terms of the film, there’s a German surgeon, there’s a Japanese guy who is part of the centipede, and then there’s 2 American girls. He did that on purpose because of WWII and Nazis and the Japanese and America… Tom’s Dutch and the Dutch aren’t too happy with Germany because of what’s happened with them in the past and he wanted to get that across.
But, it is still a horror film. It’s definitely for your entertainment. It’s funny, crazy, demented and gross, but overall it’s a really, really intelligent film. People who see the trailer are really grossed out, but when you see the movie, people see it’s not as gross as they thought it was.
And it’s not just some stupid horror film made just to do it. It actually has an intelligent theme behind it and it is really quite amazing.
YBMW: What would you tell anyone that was hesitant about seeing the film to convince them that it’s worth their ten dollars?
Ashley Go see it with an open mind. You’ll have a great time. You’ll laugh. It is actually quite funny… sick funny. Just the thought of what these characters are going through is the sick part… what’s going on in this German surgeon’s mind. Just go with an open mind and know that you are going to see something that has never been done before.
YBMW: Do you have any other projects coming up that we’ll be able to see you in?
Ashley I have another film that is in pre production, it’s called “Empty”. It’s a really nice feature independent film and I play a girl in it… one of the lead roles. It’s about a couple who are trying to survive a global gas crisis and their relationship starts to fall apart during it as they start to realize who they are and who they are too each other. It’s kind of like an action drama thriller. I’m not sure exactly when its coming out, but be sure to look for it.
I’m also mainly a theater actor so I do a lot of musical theater. So look m for my name on Broadwayworld.com.