❉ We’re asking, they’re answering. This week: Laurence R. Harvey – Martin from ‘Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)’.
Actor and performance artist Laurence R. Harvey became a cult icon for fans of the horror genre when Tom Six cast him in ‘The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)’ as Martin Lomax, the loner who becomes obsessed with the first Human Centipede film.
As a fan, Laurence is ‘one of us’ – he can often be found on Twitter sharing his love of film from the classics to the obscure – so it was a no-brainer to invite Laurence to take part in our Cult Q & A. Here, he shares some insights into his life and career so far, his cult fave raves, ‘The Human Centipede II’, pros and cons of conventions, and tells us about his forthcoming film and spoken word work.
What were you like at school?
Quiet, studious, erudite, arty, bullied .
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Learn accounting, and go and work in a high paying part-time weekend/evening job in the city for a year or two, then buy a flat in London.
What are your best and worst qualities?
I’m too nice, I end up putting others before myself, or people angrily assume that I’m desperate to ‘appear nice’. But I genuinely believe that it is best to approach things positively, even when people betray you, or do things that negatively impact on you, it’s usually because they are trying to defend themselves/their family/group or they are trying to avoid conflict. Most hurtful things (in everyday life, obviously not murder or abuse) are due to someone’s misjudgement, or a misunderstanding.
I also put off doing things that need to be dealt with (e.g. getting a new agent) and I’m too fatalistic.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I’ve only ever been an artist or actor, so probably the most unglamorous was the final scene in a DVLA ad where I have a car crushed around me, and as I’m laying at the side of the road a dog comes along and pisses on me. Unfortunately the ‘showbiz’ dogs were too well behaved and couldn’t go, so the set assistant had to spray the side of the ‘car’ with female dog urine and ask passing dog-walkers to bring their dogs along to piss on me.
Who were your pop culture heroes growing up?
Alan Moore, Maurice Sendak, John Williams, David Lynch, Dennis Potter, Elvis Costello, Lon Chaney Snr, Charles Lawton, Boris Karloff, Judge Dredd, and Masaaki Sakai (Monkey in the TV series, I only learnt of his music career later in life).
What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?
Although ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’ and the Melvyn Bragg (final) interview with Dennis Potter are also standout moments.
Monty Python: Is it funny?
It can be. But it is unfailingly unfunny when quoted by people.
What was the last film that you watched?
Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s ‘The Assassin’ (2015)
What film could you watch every day?
‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (1946), or ‘Bad Boy Bubby’ (1993) – both (im)perfect films, whose flaws only enrich the whole, and my relationship with the films.
What’s your favourite film soundtrack?
‘Lizard In A Woman’s Skin’ (Ennio Morricone), but I’d love to see ‘Ghost In The Shell: Innocence’ (by Kenji Kawai) get a proper vinyl release.
Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?
John Hawkes, Paul Giamatti, Choi Min-sik, and Tilda Swinton in a psychedelic western.
Also, I’d kill to see an Original Gangsters (1996)-style take on Japanese Pinky Violence films featuring Meiko Kaji, Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Keiko Fuji et al as motorcycle riding sukeban grannies.
Which film, book or album last disappointed you the most?
I find most films disappointing, but the biggest disappointment recently was Luigi Cozzi’s ‘Blood On Melies’ Moon’.
Which album would you recommend and lend to a friend?
‘Bewitched’ by Luna. I genuinely think it is a classic album up there with ‘Pet Sounds’ or ‘What’s Going On’, I’d be happy to give them a CD of it (I also have it on vinyl)
Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?
I don’t loan out any of my records! LOL.
Which book would you save if your house was on fire?
‘Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement & Profit’ by Robert Bogdan.
And the two-volume ‘Queens of Japanese Pop’.
…and Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’.
Although, to be honest that’s like asking which child would you save?
What’s your definition of what makes something cult?
That it appeals to a niche market of informed, passionate fans. It should also be a cultural item that isn’t considered an (immediate) success by mainstream standards, but rather succeeds over time and continues to grow through its audience’s support and endorsement.
What are you reading at present?
‘Out Of His Head’ – an interesting, if not terribly well written, biography of Chris Sievey, AKA Frank Sidebottom.
I also keep meaning to return to ‘120 Days of Sodom’ and finish that.
When did you first decide that you wanted to become a performer? What inspired you to make a career out of it?
The third week of my degree course when I did an autobiographical performance that made people cry.
Necessity. I didn’t plan a career, just needed to keep the Jobcentre off my back, and wanted to collaborate with interesting people doing creative work.
It’s fair to say your main claim to fame was ‘The Human Centipide 2’. Tell us a little about how you came to be cast in the film?
It’s the same as any other acting job, I had an audition.
You’re an active presence on Twitter. Do you enjoy connecting with fans and other film buffs?
I like meeting people and talking to them, and if I can promote work that I think is interesting, that’s all the better. I like the cut and thrust of (intelligent) debate. Also, everyone knows something about something, so it’s a great place to discover new artists, or films that you weren’t aware of.
Which directors, actors or writers have inspired you over the years?
Well, obviously some have already been mentioned, but obviously coming from a performance art background I’d have to mention people like Anthony Howell, Gary Stevens, Stuart Sherman, Marina Abramovic. Ken Campbell. Anna May Wong, Louise Brooks, Naomi Tani, Harold Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, Alfred Jarry, Beckett, Edogawa Rampo, the Hernandez Brothers, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman. Bergman, Dreyer, Guy Maddin, Roy Andersson, Shinya Tsukamoto, Kurosawa, Jodorowsky, Mizoguchi, Bill Douglas, Tarkovsky, Kaneto Shindou, Jacques Tati, Raymond Bernard, Jean Vigo, Marcel Carne.
What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?
“It’s all there in the script.”
Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your work/life?
Obviously, at this stage in my career, it’s Tom Six. I’m just so thankful that Tom decided to go with a not very well known character actor who’d done some children’s TV and theatre stuff, and believed in me enough to cast me as the lead in what has become a well-known cult film. He’s also put me in a position where I feel a responsibility to the fans/audience to select work that I think is interesting, so I do get offered a lot more work than I take on, but so much of it is godawful stuff, it’s always great to work on something you believe in.
Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?
It depends. As long as you expect them to be human beings that might get pissed off being pestered all the time, or might be grouchy from a lack of sleep, and you’re respectful of that, it’s usually fine. Just don’t expect to have the most profound conversation of your life with them in a bar, or don’t expect them to be your bosom buddy for life.
What would you like to be your epitaph?
He is survived by his loving wife and children.
What do you do to chill out?
Judging by my blood pressure I don’t think I ever chill out.
What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
Watching something I’m in, or listening to a recording I’ve done and if (as a viewer/listener) I can lose myself in the work enough not to be self-critical of my performance, then I know I’ve done something right.
What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career so far – and why?
Obviously, the things I’m most proud of change as I go through my career, but ‘The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence’ (2011) remains a high point, because it is still affecting my career, and it proved that I could carry a movie with the right part, and a director that believed in me. ‘The Editor’ (2014) is also a high point, because I got to work with the Astron 6 guys, whom I remain in awe of, and who really deserve to be properly funded; as with THC 2 it is a film that manages to look like so much more money was spent on it than the actual budget, it’s a lush, rich and very accomplished work. Also this year, the album with The Duke St Workshop, and to see the reception the album got from music critics and fans was hugely rewarding.
What are your experiences of attending film conventions such as FrightFest?
I think they’re great places to make contacts and to get to know other professionals, and also to be amongst committed fans watching films that may not have distribution yet. But as with any gathering of fans, there’s always a demand for people to have their photo taken with you, and sometimes that can get quite aggressive and unpleasant, but one has to grin and bear it. There’s also the small element of people that want autographs, but don’t want to pay for them, you see these people at MCM Comic Cons, and other film memorabilia conventions, and they don’t just want one autograph, they have several things for you to sign. And I’m sorry, but people come to conventions and pay £15 for an autograph, and I respect that and I’m not going to piss on them by signing someone’s stash of home printed 10×8” photos, just because I’m being hassled in my free time at an event I’ve paid to be at.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’ve just shot a small role in a low budget UK horror that I can’t talk about, and earlier this month shot a proof-of-concept short and a VR short to drum up backing for a feature film I’ve been involved with for the past year or two, and I’m really excited for that to get off the ground, again I can’t talk about it, but the short will be made public around Feb/March time. One thing that is coming up that I can talk about in the broader sense is my involvement in the sequel to ‘Ripper’ (the Victorian-era Batman fan-film), ‘Blood of the Batman’ which is scheduled to shoot in March, and I play Oswald Cobblepot.
On the recording side of things Cadabra are just about to release an album of two Roland Topor stories, kinda bawdy folk/fairytales. And I’m going to be recording some Edogawa Rampo stories which Cadabra are interested in releasing. At the end of 2017, I’ll be collaborating again with the Duke St Workshop on a follow up to the ‘Tales of H.P. Lovecraft’ album.
How can our readers discover more about you and you work?
I find I’m using Facebook less and less, it’s probably best to follow me on Twitter @LaurenceRHarvey
Thank you for taking time out to talk to us!
❉ Visit Cadabra Records: http://www.cadabrarecords.com/