Oh Hai 'The Disaster Artist': Original Cast of 'The Room' Weigh In on James Franco's All-Star Take

10:15 AM 11/17/2017

by Alex Ritman

Ahead of the Dec. 1 release of A24's dramedy about the worst movie ever made and its eccentric creator Tommy Wiseau, the stars of the cult 2003 film — including Wiseau — share their thoughts on being portrayed by the likes of Franco, Zac Efron and Seth Rogen, among others: "It's really surreal."

Courtesy of TIFF

This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Tommy Wiseau (Johnny)

    Played by James Franco

    Courtesy of A24; Getty Images

    Understandably, the enigmatic director, writer and star of The Room — a romantic drama that would eventually achieve so-bad-it's-great cult status after its 2003 release — wanted one of the world's most recognizable stars to play him in the movie about the making of his movie. Sadly, The Disaster Artist's budget wouldn't stretch to accommodate Johnny Depp. But when James Franco instead was suggested (by Greg Sestero, a star of the original), Wiseau wasn't put off, curiously thanks to Nicolas Cage's critically panned directorial debut. "For some reason, not a lot of people have seen Sonny," admits Wiseau. But it was Franco's performance in Cage's 2003 crime thriller that convinced Wiseau that the 127 Hours star had what it took to don his long (bottle-enhanced) black locks. “So I told him, you can play me because you already have all the tools,” he says. And the decision paid off. "He has a lot of skills as an actor," says Wiseau. "So I think he performed pretty well portraying me based on what I know about myself!"

  • Greg Sestero (Mark)

    Played by Dave Franco

    Courtesy of A24; Getty Images

    Sestero — who as Johnny's "best friend" Mark is a central cog in the whole storyline of The Room — co-penned the 2013 memoir The Disaster Artist, about his friendship with Wiseau and their most famous collaboration ("a really, really strange film I made when I was in my early 20s”), which is the basis of the A24 movie. And it was very much with a Hollywood adaptation in mind. "From day one, I was like, 'I want this to be a movie like Ed Wood or Sunset Boulevard,' " says Sestero. Once James Franco and his team were on board, Sestero offered up as much material as he could — even digging out his old denim jacket from The Room — to help them capture the spirit of 2003. He also met with James' brother Dave several times. "We just talked about coming to L.A., trying to be an actor and getting these obscure projects, trying to make them good and realizing that they're not," recalls Sestero, who says he's stoked with the results. "James is next level — he brings Tommy to life in a way I didn't think was possible. And Dave carries his role in a way that helps James shine even more." Should Disaster Artist make it to the Oscars, Sestero is hoping he and Wiseau can dust off their old tuxes from The Room. "But I don't think we'd bring the football this time," he says. (One memorable scene from The Room features four black-tie-clad guys tossing a pigskin in an alley.)

  • Juliette Danielle (Lisa)

    Played by Ari Graynor

    Courtesy of A24; Getty Images

    As the cheating, scheming and vodka-and-whiskey-mixing girlfriend of the doting Johnny (and the subject of his famed, "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" holler), Danielle appeared in some of The Room's more excruciating scenes. Now living in Texas, she's come to terms with the notoriety of her most famous role and is "super excited" that Graynor is slipping into Lisa's famed red dress for The Disaster Artist (Graynor got in touch to discuss the role). But she's less overjoyed about the curiosity it has brought. "Some of my friends and family — who I've worked very hard to make sure don't know what The Room is — are suddenly going, 'Oh, my God, I didn't know! I'm going to see it,' " she says. "I really don't want to have to walk them through why they shouldn't see the film." Fun fact: Danielle sells paintings of spoons on Etsy. (Spoons feature prominently in The Room and are exuberantly thrown at screenings of the film whenever a picture of one appears.)

  • Philip Haldiman (Denny)

    Played by Josh Hutcherson

    Courtesy of A24; Getty Images

    Oh hai Denny! The Room's somewhat creepy and inexplicable man-child character, who is all too open about his lust for Lisa (and just likes "to watch"), is a fan favorite. "It's really surreal," says Haldiman of Hutcherson playing him, not least because of a set photo he saw of The Hunger Games star wearing a particular blue jacket with gold buttons. "I remember buying that jacket when I moved to Hollywood! I wore it out a lot but never saw anyone else with one. So I had to go to my closet to check they hadn't stolen it," he adds. "Whoever is doing the costumes is amazing — they nailed it."

  • Carolyn Minnott (Claudette)

    Played by Jacki Weaver

    Courtesy of subject; Getty Images

    Minnott, who as Lisa's manipulative, nose-tapping mom, Claudette, has one of The Room's more famous moments (announcing that she "definitely has breast cancer," a major revelation that never again is mentioned), wasn't familiar with Weaver until the Oscar nominee actress was cast to play her. "I thought maybe they'd just put an ad in Backstage and pick the one they thought was the most lucid," she says. "But she sounds like a fantastic actress. I really want to find out how she's going to do me!"

  • Dan Janjigian (Chris-R)

    Played by Zac Efron

    Courtesy of subject; Getty Images

    Janjigian — who played The Room's gun-toting and overacting drug dealer Chris-R in a notorious rooftop scene — actually managed to see The Disaster Artist's first work-in-progress screening at SXSW (he lives in Austin). And he revealed his link to the film to an astounded Seth Rogen during an audience Q&A. "He went nuts, saying, 'You're fucking Chris-R! No fucking way! Get your ass up here!' " recalls Janjigian, who, despite his small part, arguably has the most famous face — Zac Efron — playing him. "It's hard to look at, but he's probably doing me accurately, if I had to be honest," says Janjigian, noting Efron's over-the-top attempts to pump himself up into character as a violent criminal on set before the scene. "He probably got more screen time than the actual Chris-R. But not much!"

  • Robyn Paris (Michelle)

    Played by June Diane Raphael

    Courtesy of subject; Getty Images

    "How often does anybody get portrayed in a movie, especially if you're not Mother Teresa or haven't done anything amazing?" says Paris, who as Johnny's intrusive neighbor Michelle starred in The Room's ludicrous "sex on a sofa" scene with her boyfriend Mike and a box of chocolates ("the symbol of love," apparently). "Luckily, Greg was very kind to me in the book — I don't appear much, maybe four sentences or so." Paris, who has been working on her own mockumentary, The Room Actors: Where Are They Now, with fellow castmembers (and soon to be seen on Funny or Die), also managed to get hold of The Disaster Artist screenplay. "I have a few lines, and they seem to be pretty benign. Most of us are treated pretty fairly, I think. But let's see."

  • Kyle Vogt (Peter)

    Played by Nathan Fielder

    Courtesy of subject; Getty Images

    Playing an "intellectual and a psychologist who wears glasses" (as described in the original script), Vogt only has a handful of scenes in The Room (and is notably absent from the party finale because of prior acting commitments). But he's one of the few castmembers who already has seen The Disaster Artist, and he says it was "kind of surreal" to watch himself being played by someone else onscreen. "Especially when some of the stuff didn't really happen, and you're like, 'Wait, did I do that? No!' " he says with a laugh. He also is the only actor from The Room to have experience working with James Franco, albeit in a rather unusual capacity: "Since I work as a hand model, I actually doubled for him in a commercial before they started filming, so he and I chatted." (Said commercial was a 2015 advertisement for Scion cars.)

  • Sandy Schklair (uncredited script supervisor)

    Played by Seth Rogen

    Courtesy of subject; Getty Images

    Arguably The Disaster Artist's most controversial character, given that he long has claimed to have been The Room's de facto director, Schklair says he's been kept as far away from the film as possible. "I've always been a fan of James Franco and Seth Rogen, which is why it mystifies me that they'd make this movie and never want to talk to me," he says, adding that messages he left at their offices were ignored. While he hasn't yet seen The Disaster Artist, he says he's a big fan of the trailers, which appear to back up his assertions that Tommy Wiseau “never said ‘action,’ ‘cut,’ or designed a single shot” while making his magnum opus, with Rogen’s increasingly-baffled character appearing to be very much leading the production on the comically shambolic set. But there's one element he says is wrong: "On the rooftop scene, there weren't 67 takes; it was 26. Which is just as bad. You think this shit was funny on the big screen, you should have seen it from five feet away."


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