It’s impossible to describe the utter train wreck that was 2003’s “The Room.” It’s something that has to be seen to be believed, and even then, the film is still pretty unbelievable.
“The Room” was directed, written, produced and starred in by the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, an unusual character with an accent impossible to parse and whose image is a mind-boggling clash of long, gelled, black curly hair, frumpy suits and sunglasses.
The film has been described as “The ‘Citizen Cane’ of bad movies.” It’s not just bad—it’s catastrophically bad, which somehow makes it kind of good. “The Room” is so fascinating that through the years, celebrities have glommed onto the cult culture behind the film, including James Franco, who will soon begin filming a feature film about the “The Room.”
Greg Sestero, then 19, first met Wiseau in a San Francisco acting class, where he was intrigued by Wiseau’s weird way of operating in the world. They quickly formed a friendship, and later, Tommy’s blind ambition to be a Hollywood star led him to write “The Room,” which Sestero agreed to help in production and was later coerced into starring as Tommy’s character Johnny’s best friend, Mark.
Sestero, now 36, picked up Wiseau’s quirks along the way, which he writes about in his book, the laugh-til-you-cry hilarious “The Disaster Artist,” the tour for which hits Phoenix’s FilmBar Friday, February 13.
College Times tried to solve the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau with Sestero, who is still trying to figure the man out himself.
College Times: You said in the book that you knew “The Room” was going to be bad from the beginning. Why did you stick with production the whole way through?
Sestero: I think when you’re young you’re willing to put up with a lot more than you normally would. For me, I didn’t mind helping out and helping Tommy make it. Hanging out on set watching the train wreck was kind of fun in a way, and it was better than working a retail job. But when I decided to be in it, it was just really awkward, but I still kind of understood what Tommy was trying to do, even though he has a very different way of communicating. Part of me was just trying to help him get through it because once he started, there was so much to it. I guess I just wanted to see if he really could finish.
You had a small streak of success in Hollywood before “The Room,” and obviously “The Room” wasn’t a great representation of your acting ability, but do you ever resent the film for making you famous for all the wrong reasons?
I mean, who’s to say I would have gotten anything otherwise? … If anything I’m lucky that this even happened, because “The Room” didn’t turn into anything until 2009, 2010, but during those years I was working in Europe doing commercials and modeling and stuff, but not other things, but those didn’t go anywhere. If anything “The Room” brought me back into the game, so I think it’s kind of a toss up … “The Room” gave me a chance to be creative and gave me chance to write a book, and writing has always been one of my passions, so I can’t really be anything but thankful for what “The Room” has done.
In the past you’ve said that Tommy refers to your book as “the red Bible.” What exactly does he mean by that?
He came to a book signing and he saw the fans holding the book and he looked over at me and was like “Oh my god! They hold the book so tight, it’s like a Bible.” And so he said “You watch! It’ll be a red Bible.” So he’s good at those kinds of phrases. [Laughs]
What does your friendship these days consist of with Tommy? Are you anywhere as close as you once were?
It’s different, I think. The friendship with Tommy has been intense through different periods, and we’re both obviously doing our own thing, but with the whole movie adaptation (with James Franco), obviously we’re linked together through that. I toured with Tommy while I was writing the book so I could interview him. I think with Tommy the interesting thing is that you can only get so close to him, but I definitely cherish the pieces that I had because he’s somebody who’s always on a mission and he’s always entertaining. So the time we spent together, there are memories there—whether they’re fond or not—there’s always experiences there, so I appreciate those.
How closely are you involved with the making of the James Franco and Seth Rogan adaptation of “The Room”?
I mean obviously I’ll help with whatever’s needed, but the script is still being written and the plan is to shoot, I think, at some point this year, so I’m sure I’ll give whatever advice and anything else they need.
Greg Sestero Presents “The Disaster Artist,” FilmBar, 815 N. Second Street, Phoenix, 602.595.9187, thefilmbarphx.com, Friday, February 13, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., $15