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Dieter Laser, the actor who played the twisted surgeon Josef Heiter in 2009's The Human Centipede (First Sequence), has passed away at the age of 78. The unfortunate news was confirmed to SYFY WIRE by his wife, Inge. According to a post on the actor's personal Facebook page, Laser died on Saturday, Feb. 29 — a few weeks after his 78th birthday.
A native of Germany, Laser enjoyed a prolific acting career that dated back to the late 1960s. That said, American audiences probably know him best for writer/director Tom Six's Human Centipede trilogy, a bizarre series of over-the-top Dutch horror films that deal with the desire to stitch a bunch of people together, butt to mouth. Even if you've never seen a single frame of these movies, you've no doubt heard about the gonzo premise that binds them all together.
"I’m totally shocked Dieter passed away," Six wrote on Twitter. "He was a force of nature, a unique human being and an iconic actor. I’m so damn proud we created pop culture together. Wished we could have made many more movies. RIP my friend, you will live forever on screen!"
Laser kicked things off as Heiter in the very first installment, and would return to play a different character, Texas prison warden Bill Boss, in 2015's The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence).
Like the second film in the trilogy, The Human Centipede 3 takes a more meta approach by featuring a psychopath who is inspired to create the eponymous abomination by watching the previous entry in the franchise. Where Heiter was content to only fuse three people together, Bill Boss sets his ambitions a little higher by attempting to make a Human Centipede comprised of 500 poor souls.
Production on Final Sequence was delayed in 2012 when Laser became embroiled in a legal battle with Six, allegedly refusing to star in the project after his script changes were rejected. The issue was eventually resolved the following year and the film became a reality.
"To me, Dieter was a far cry from Dr. Heiter," wrote actress Emma Lock, who played Kim in 2011's The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), on Facebook.
Laser only appeared in Full Sequence via existing footage from the first movie, but it sounds like he and Lock were close due to their association with the brand, despite the fact that they had never acted alongside one another.
"He was a friend, a colleague, mentor, and someone I enjoyed many heart to hearts with," she added. "He walked me through my first red carpet and was always there to bolster me behind the scenes when I doubted if I was ready to take on the role of ‘Kim’ in The Human Centipede 2."
Read her full eulogy below: