In 2003, a critic for Variety viewed Tommy Wiseau’s The Room and saw “a first: A movie that prompts most of its viewers to ask for their money back — before even 30 minutes have passed.” Incredibly, The Room became the hottest midnight movie cult sensation since The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Greg Sestero, an actor in the film, co-wrote a book, The Disaster Artist, about the making of the movie and his friendship with Wiseau, the film’s financer, writer, director and star.
Actor James Franco read the book first. When he saw the film, he did not see what many describe as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” He saw a testament to the outsider artist, and a moving story about two friends who have “to depend on each other to will something into being,” he told Vox.
Franco’s screen adaptation of Sestero’s book, now available from Redbox, is one of the year’s most acclaimed films. Franco earned a Golden Globe for his uncanny performance as Wiseau, while the screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Audiences have either discovered The Room or re-embraced it, leading to the film’s first-ever theatrical release outside of the midnight circuit.
Wiseau and Sestero talked to Redbox about The Disaster Artist, shared their advice for aspiring filmmakers, and what Tommy would have told the world at the Golden Globes.
Redbox: Compare the premieres for The Room and The Disaster Artist.
Greg Sestero: Wow. They were polar opposites, but very much tied together. I know Tommy actually wanted to premiere the film at the (legendary Old Hollywood movie palace) Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and ended up at Laemmle’s Fairfax. We didn’t know what was going to happen, as opposed to The Disaster Artist, which did premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It was the reward for the journey, I think.
Tommy Wiseau: (Both premieres) were very emotional. I wanted people to have fun with The Room and was disappointed (at the crowd’s reaction). But Greg actually gave me encouragement. He said that everything would be fine. That’s basically what transpired. The premiere of The Disaster Artist was also very emotional because that scene (in which The Room is loudly jeered) reminded me of my path. The Room and The Disaster Artist are different films, but they are connected by the sincere approach to entertainment.
Redbox: Tommy, you accompanied James Franco to the Golden Globes and were invited to join him onstage when he won the award for Best Actor. You looked like you wanted to say something, but James wouldn’t give you the microphone. What did you want to say?
Tommy Wiseau: I was going to say that the American Dream is alive, and if people love each other, the world will be a better place to live. I am an American; I’m very proud of it. See The Room and have fun.
Redbox: Tommy has said that your book, Greg, was 40 percent accurate. How accurate is the movie in recreating the story of the making of The Room?
Greg Sestero: The film is very well done. Emotionally, it captured the spirit of the book. I thought it rang true. To be honest, I’m most excited about the Blu-ray and DVD because so many great scenes didn’t make it into the (final cut of) the film. With the home video, you’re going to see all that material.
Tommy Wiseau: I’ve said this before; it’s 99.9 percent accurate, but I don’t throw the football like (James) did. Generally, I think he did a very good job because of his sincere approach.
Redbox: Did James and Dave Franco, who portrayed you in the film, consult with you? What advice did you give them about playing you?
Greg Sestero: What was exceptional about the casting is that both James and Dave are dynamic and similar to Tommy and I. They understood the characters very well. Tommy and I have been very close for a very long time, and (as brothers) they’re very close. They were super passionate about the project and we worked closely to help them understand key moments (in the story), such as did I expect anything to come from The Room, did I think it would be a hit, what my intentions were, and all that.
Tommy Wiseau: I told James that my original pick (to play me) was Johnny Depp, but Greg convinced me that James could do a good job, too. Long story short, he went the extra mile. Everything was organized and professional. Also, we gave him a lot of material, not just behind the scenes of The Room.
Redbox: Tommy and Greg, through thick and thin and ups and downs, what do you think contributes the most to your friendship?
Tommy Wiseau: Two words; respect equals success. If you have respect for others, you will find happiness from them.
Greg Sestero: Sharing a passion is really important. Also having different personas and bringing different things to situations helps. If you are too similar and have the same interests, the closeness can burn out quicker. A lot of it is destiny. This friendship had a lot of strange things that happened. Its unlike anything I have every experienced.
Redbox: Here’s a real L.A. question: In-N-Out Burger or Five Guys?
Greg Sestero: I would have to go with In-N-Out.
Tommy Wiseau: (his signature “ha-ha” laugh) Same here.
Redbox: What advice do you both have for aspiring filmmakers?
Greg Sestero: Get a team together and go make something, whether it’s a short film or a music video. Just try to produce something on your own to see what it’s like to have that feeling of completion. You can’t get to the top of the mountain unless you try.
Tommy Wiseau: Keep going. The same thing I mentioned a few minutes ago; respect equals success. Have original material. It’s never wrong to borrow or have a reference, but whatever you do, be original.