“In our film, we get a little into the sense that Tommy kind of hits a bottom after just being completely rejected by the town, but in the book it gets even darker; Tommy was leaving messages, he might even have been suicidal right before he showed up with the script to The Room. When you think about it that way, it’s so moving to me because he is channeling this incredibly dark place and his feelings and bringing it into his film, where he commits suicide at the end. What that showed me was that not only did he take The Room very seriously when he made it, it may have saved his life.”
Putting all of his energy and a substantial chunk of his mysterious fortune into his film speaks volumes of Wiseau’s commitment, which is inspiring regardless of how terrible The Room turned out to be. Equally, Wiseau’s choice to embrace the infamy is a deeply fascinating example of adapting to circumstances out of one’s control, and the importance of these aspects was not lost on James.
“I have to say that I think Tommy’s done everyone a service by then rewriting history and saying that he intended The Room to be a comedy, because what he’s allowing us to do is laugh. He’s giving us permission to laugh because it is a kind of arrogance; the Tommy that is affably arrogant and claims that he intended to do it that way allows you to laugh at The Room, and that’s what’s so beautiful and very smart about Tommy. He’s capitalized on this ironic success, and when he comes to screenings like this, the energy is different, the laughter isn’t cruel, people love to see Tommy and it’s actually a very communal thing, and that’s an amazing gift that’s been given to all The Room fans.”
While Wiseau is the enigmatic force that draws most people to The Room, Greg Sestero is an equally important part of the cult surrounding the 2003 film, not least because he is the mastermind behind the book that added additional nuances to the bizarre nature of it all. He may seem normal compared to Tommy Wiseau – and who wouldn’t – but Dave assures the audience that while Sestero may appear normal on the surface, he is actually quite weird in his own right.
“The hardest part was the fact that Greg is making really poor decisions throughout our entire movie, and it was my job to try to justify all of those decisions and make the audience understand why he’s staying on this journey with this madman. I sat down with Greg a few times before we started filming and asked him about everything – basically, I wanted to know why he stuck it out with Tommy and why he was drawn to him in the first place. He talked a lot about how when you are a young actor – especially in his case and for a lot of actors – everyone in his life was telling him that he couldn’t do it, that it was not a possibility. But then he met Tommy, and as weird as he was, Tommy encouraged him, he was his ally, and that’s invaluable as a young actor.”
Having gotten a good sense of what served as the foundation for Sestero’s friendship with Wiseau, Dave hoped to also gain insight into Sestero’s genuine thoughts about The Room when it was being shot.
“I really was curious if during production of The Room he ever thought that it could be a good movie. He claims that he didn’t, but I don’t fully believe it; as a young actor, there’s nothing more exciting than just getting on set, and once you’re there, you just give it everything you have. You have this blind ambition and think that everything’s going well, even if everyone from the outside recognize that what you’re doing is objectively bad. I’ve been in these scenarios where I’ve been on set and I thought everything was going great, people on set were talking about awards for the movie, and I bought into the hype, but then when the movie came out, not only was it not good, it was a full on piece of shit. It’s just one of those things where you’ll have these moments throughout your career where you’re giving it everything you have, and you still question if what you’re doing is actually good or a total mess, and I could really relate to Greg in that way.”
Once The Disaster Artist began filming, the production was not only tasked with creating a compelling visual style for the overarching story of Wiseau and Sestero’s friendship, they also had to give the faux behind-the-scenes footage a distinguishable, almost documentary-esque style without losing any of the necessary dramatic quality. Then there was of course the remakes of the iconic scenes from The Room, and recreating the bad filmmaking of Wiseau’s original film proved to be quite challenging.
“Seth Rogen and I had inadvertently practiced this kind of thing because we had recreated Kanye West’s Bound 2 video shot-for-shot a few years ago, but I remember that Brandon Trost, the cinematographer, approached it like a science experiment; he spent just as much time – if not more time – trying to match the really bad lighting of the original movie, and it was the same for all the other departments. It was a challenge, and at the end of the day, we knew we needed the key scenes that are always quoted and spoofed for the premiere scene in our movie, but it became so fun that we ended up having as much as 20-25 minutes of recreated scenes – definitely more than what you see anywhere in the movie!”