The Story Behind Tommy Wiseau’s Secret 'Disaster Artist' Cameo (One for Which He Wants a SAG Campaign)

The Disaster Artist Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of TIFF

Contractual stipulations, fake mustaches and a character called "Henry" led to James Franco's Wiseau meeting the real-life Wiseau in the comedy drama's most ridiculous (and tucked away) scene.

When The Disaster Artist was first announced in 2014, one thing was obvious from the very start, and even before there had been any casting announcements: Tommy Wiseau would have some sort of cameo role.

The mysterious director/star/writer/producer of The Room — being played by James Franco in A24’s comedy drama (which Franco also directs) – is so central to the story about his cult “so bad it’s amazing” film that to not include him in some small manner would be tantamount to Stan Lee not popping up in the next Marvel outing.

Lo and behold, Wiseau’s name did indeed appear on The Disaster Artist’s cast listing (amid a bumper crop of cameos). But anyone who has already seen the film — which opened in the U.S. on Friday — would be forgiven for having missed him. That’s because the scene is right at the very end, after every single credit has rolled (and most people will have already shuffled out of the theater). And it’s there for a reason.

For a film that prides itself on the sheer number of ridiculous moments, Wiseau’s scene in The Disaster Artist is easily the most bonkers, with Franco’s long-haired, weirdly muscular and heavily accented version of the man coming face-to-face with the actual man himself. It’s imitator meets original. And it’s mad.

“You can’t blame us [for putting the scene at the end],” Franco tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Because [Wiseau’s] main stipulation was that he have a scene in the movie, and then he kept demanding that it be opposite me.”

As it turns out, Wiseau had made his scene a contractual obligation when the producers were buying his life rights. But for someone whose rather unique appearance and voice make him almost instantly recognizable, the filmmakers had hoped they could put him opposite absolutely anyone but Franco.

“We just tried to explain to him: ‘Tommy, I don’t mean to insult you, but you just can’t play anyone other than yourself,'” says Franco.

But Wiseau wasn’t having it. “They tried to give me different guys,” The Room director tell THR. “And I was like, it doesn’t work for me.” It had to be Franco.

“So we wrote a very short scene,” he says. “In our defense, we had to make it disposable, because he was insisting on doing it opposite me. It was like, there was no way that that was ever going to work in our movie. It just doesn’t make sense.”

The scene in question — which has absolutely nothing to do with the storyline of the film — sees Wiseau approach Franco’s Wiseau at a rooftop party, sparking off a curious exchange, in which he questions his accent (“you from New Orleans?”), invites him “back to my place” and then wanders off, loudly telling himself “people so strange these days” before offering the classic “oh, Hai,” but to absolutely nobody. 

“So yeah, he improvised,” says Franco. “And every take he would do that.”

In fairness to Wiseau, while still unmistakably Wiseau, he does at least try to play someone else (he actually told Franco that he wanted his character “to be named Henry”), having pulled his long hair into a ponytail, added a wispy pencil mustache and put on a pair of glasses. And this role development was something he put some time and thought into.

“Three days before the shoot, he sends me a message and a photo, and he was obviously in LensCrafters, because there were all these glasses around the shelves behind him,” laughs Franco. “And he was trying on these glasses, and he was like, ‘What do you think of the glasses for part?’ And I’m like, ‘They’re fine dude, I think they’re fine.’”

As for the mustache, this was also Wiseau’s idea, having sent Franco a picture of himself with it actually drawn on in thick pen.

“And he said, 'If you like mustache, I draw it on better when we shoot,'” says Franco. “I was like, ‘Do you want a fake mustache? We can get you a fake moustache.'”

Given the effort spent developing "Henry," Wiseau was somewhat put out by the production’s original plans for his scene. “Long story short, they said do the scene, and I said let’s do the rehearsal, so we did the rehearsal very quick, and suddenly [Franco] said, ‘OK, this it,'” he says.

“And it was like one minute! This is just one minute and I prepare all the scripts! I said, ‘That’s it? For what I prepared, this doesn’t cut it.' So he changed his mind, we did a scene and it was more than five minutes.”

With The Disaster Artist now released and the scene shunted to the end (Franco had initially cut it for being too insane, but Wiseau later asked and demanded it be put back in), there’s an extra twist to the story. And it’s one that could only come from The Room’s marvelously eccentric creator: awards recognition for Henry.

“He’s really pushing hard on my producer to get him nominated or eligible for a SAG Award or a SAG nomination,” says Franco, something backed up by others close to the film.

Wiseau denies he has SAG aspirations (“somebody tell you something that is not correct,” he says), but Franco is adamant.

“Oh no. Oh no. Oh no! No, it’s a very real thing! And we told him, we’re like, ‘I think there’s a requirement for a certain amount of screen time,'” he says, laughing loudly. “You’re just not eligible!”

For anyone wondering about the other obvious cameo: Wiseau's best friend and The Room co-star Greg Sestero, the man who co-authored The Disaster Artist on which Franco's film is based — sadly his scene (he played a casting agent) didn't make the final cut. However, THR understands Sestero is actually quite relieved.