'The Room' Director Tommy Wiseau Reflects on Life After 'The Disaster Artist'
With the dust having settled following James Franco's comedy drama, the film's enigmatic inspiration and his collaborator Greg Sestero discuss their latest feature 'Best F(r)iends,' plus new celebrity fans, planning a 'The Room' musical and, of course, underwear.
Once heroes only in the cult film world thanks to the “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” that is 2003’s The Room, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero last year found themselves thrust into the cinematic limelight amid the hype over A24’s comedy-drama The Disaster Artist.
James Franco’s chronicling of The Room’s notoriously shambolic creation and the unlikely alliance forged by Sestero and Wiseau, the long-haired, multiple belt-wearing and peculiarly accented figure still shrouded in his own self-styled mystery may not have garnered the Oscars attention once predicted. But it did win a Golden Globe for Franco (Wiseau’s attempt to grab the mic on stage was arguably among the funniest moments of the entire awards season). And its buzz saw a whole new generation of curious filmgoers compelled to discover The Room, which in January was given a special theatrical re-release.
But before The Disaster Artist had even been given its debut public viewing, Wiseau and Sestero had already reunited onscreen for their first feature in 15 years. Best F(r)iends, written by Sestero (who also co-wrote the book The Disaster Artist), is a dark, almost Lynchian and allegorical tale of their friendship and sees Wiseau play an eccentric mortician in a role that takes full advantage of his numerous peculiarities. Most notably, however, it isn’t just an attempt to mimic the innocent insanity of the film for which they’ll forever be known.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in London to promote Lionsgate’s digital and on-demand Sept. 25 release of Best F(r)iends Volume One (it comes in two parts), Sestero and Wiseau reflect on what’s changed 12 months on from The Disaster Artist’s famed midnight screening in Toronto, how they’re still touring the world to present The Room to its continually growing legion of international devotees, plans for a horror film and The Room's Broadway musical (possibly two), and underwear, which Wiseau sells online as a sideline business. Because, of course he does.
What’s the response to Best F(r)iends been so far?
Greg Sestero: I was nervous initially, but when we’ve shown it there’s been a lot of laughs in unique places, and I think, in the end, it left people shocked and with more questions. And they were affected by it, and that’s important. You need to give them something unique. But the response overall has been great.
And this hasn’t just been from The Room community?
Sestero: No, I think there are people who have come who haven’t seen The Room, and they see it as a genuine bizarre art film, in a way that is intriguing and dumbfounding. People have found it entertaining.
Was it important to make a film that definitely wasn’t just The Room 2, or remotely similar to The Room?
Sestero: 100%. You’ve got to reinvent. It was trying to make a film from my love of film and giving Tommy a part that I think he could actually be unique in. My goal was for an audience that had never heard of The Room, never heard of The Disaster Artist, to step in and watch and see a genuine performance where you’re not trying to force laughs.
Cynics out there might suggest that Best F(r)iends — which premiered in March — was timed purely to take advantage of the buzz around yourselves and The Disaster Artist. Was this the case, or was it all just a merry coincidence?
Tommy Wiseau: Hahahaha!
Sestero: No, It started two years ago. The Disaster Artist had been filmed, but there was no release date, no word of what was going to happen with it. I’d been trying to write a few TV shows ideas. I’d been watching True Detective and Breaking Bad and was caught up in that. And then I got this idea of doing this film and reuniting Tommy and I. We just went out and filmed it for months on end. There was no real specific goal that it was going to be timed for this and that. It was just trying to make a new film.
It’s a year now since The Disaster Artist screened in Toronto and the buzz around the film starting building. Now the dust has settled, have you had a chance to sit down and reflect on the past 12 months?
Sestero: It’s been incredible, but I haven’t had much time to reflect. I’ve been very much caught up in crafting these films and travelling. But it was an incredible year — so many things came full circle, which was very rewarding. I think what it’s taught me is the joy that comes from making stuff. It’s taught me that you’re going to get more joy from creating than the fame.
Wiseau: Everything was crazy. Disaster Artist. Then Best F(r)iends. Then back to The Room. Back and forth! We travel a lot. Now we are global.
How have your lives changed over the past year?
Sestero: I feel like so many things have come full circle. The first time I fell in love with movies was when I saw Home Alone and I wrote a script for a sequel. And a few weeks ago I got to sit down and meet Macaulay Culkin and talk about that. There’s been a lot of therapeutic moments, and it kind of makes you realie that it’s a journey and just to enjoy each step.
Wiseau: I’m myself. You know I correct some of the statements online on this garbage about the script not existing on The Room and it happened by accident. But definitely, there’s a different impact right now that The Room has worldwide. We call ourselves rebel Hollywood, but with respect.
And are you now screening The Room in more countries to more people, thanks to The Disaster Artist?
Wiseau: We’re screening every day. We’re in more countries.
Sestero: And kids! I was in New Zealand and there were 10-year-old kids there and they were obsessed. They were asking questions to Tommy and I was like, "Er, are you supposed to be watching this film?" In Wellington I went to Peter Jackson’s studio and there was a guy doing the FX there and his kid was like 12 or 13 and he knew the whole thing and had read the book. So yeah, it’s opened it up to so many more people.
Do you have a favorite moment from the whole Disaster Artist period?
Sestero: It was getting to do all those things that you never thought were possible. Going to the Golden Globes, having the book and then getting a mention at the Oscars. Those are the things you think are impossible.
Wiseau: What did I say? I said it would be possible, dammit!
Sestero: For me, it was kind of living out those moments, but also realizing that the reward really comes from the passion. You can’t expect those moments and the hype to sustain you — you’ve got to be sustained by your love of movies and creating. Getting to go to the set of The Disaster Artist and getting to meet Bryan Cranston ... that was just such a highlight.
Did you discover any celebrity fans of The Room you didn’t know of?
Sestero: Around the Golden Globes I met Daniel Kaluuya and he said he’d come to a The Room Q&A years ago in London. I didn’t know that. And then Tom Hanks, we spent time talking about The Disaster Artist. And Angelina Jolie, either she had seen it or her kids had seen it. The whole thing was interesting to a lot of people.
Is there anything else coming from The Room, or is that it now?
Wiseau: We are doing it as a musical on Broadway! I say we, because I hope Greg will be involved, he’s my best friend so I want him to be involved. But we’re going to put a musical on Broadway.
Amazing. Where are you in the development process?
Wiseau: I did some research already and, as you probably know, it costs a lot of money. But the good news is, it’s workable. I would stay say maybe two years from today. We have one person who’s very powerful who got in touch, but I will not drop the name. But I think it’s very workable.
Sestero: Here’s a random thing that’s crazy. You know [the musician] Ben Folds? He read The Disaster Artist and wrote to me saying that he was inspired by the story and wanted to turn it into a musical. But again, it’s really tough. Musicals are the toughest thing to get off the ground.
So would you prefer to do a musical of The Room or The Disaster Artist?
Wiseau: Well, [The Room] first, but there’ll probably be another show about how The Room became The Room, going behind the scenes…
Sestero: I think The Disaster Artist musical would be more like The Book of Mormon.
Are you working on anything else together?
Wiseau: We’re working on a horror movie!
Sestero: Yeah, horror’s the next thing. We’re just kind of working on it now.
Wiseau: But we’ll be working on a trailer soon.
And would either of you direct, or someone else?
Wiseau: No, it will be directed by me. Next summer I want to do it.
Was there any fear that thanks to The Disaster Artist, The Room might lose its cult, underground appeal?
Wiseau: I know what you mean. But that’s a good statement! I like that. But this is what I don’t have an answer for. Maybe it’s a miracle, maybe it’s destiny…
Sestero: We knew it was a risk.
Wiseau: Of course we want to be a part of the industry, but we never found that. I wanted people to see The Room, have fun, move onto next project. But it’s a good statement. It did not happen. [On the] contrary, we actually got more fans and for some reason everyone was kind of respectful.
Have are your merchandise sales? Have you been selling more Tommy Wiseau underwear?
Wiseau: Yeah, I design underwear, thank you for asking. But I’ve been in the fashion industry from way before. Actually, I used to build buildings, that’s where the money came from [for The Room]. Sometimes people are teasing me about where the money came from. But yeah, I’m very proud of it. I did a test. It’s a process, like a film. It didn’t sell very well at the beginning but now it’s much better if you ask me.