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Tommy Wiseau, writer and director of the notoriously terrible film The Room, is a fascinating enigma. Nobody knows where he really comes from; nobody knows how old he is; and nobody knows how he made his impressive fortune. These are the kind of things that an actor typically needs to know about a person prior to a portrayal in a feature film, but they simply weren't available to James Franco in the making of his new movie, The Disaster Artist. Still, Franco was ultimately able to find a way to connect with the mysterious "filmmaker" for his performance, and as he recently revealed to me in an interview, a key piece of the puzzle was their shared affection for James Dean. Franco explained,
Here's the thing. People have maybe done research. You could go and figure it out. But to me that is the less interesting part of it. The fact that he's committed to this creation that is himself -- that's what's fascinating. I've been thinking about this a lot recently. He and I were both huge fans of James Dean. I played James Dean! Some of that is just comes down to genetics and what you look like. Not even like acting talent or anything. Just like, 'Yeah, you're good to play that guy. Tommy, you would be good to play, I don't know, I pirate or something.' But he was also aiming to be James Dean! He thinks he's James Dean! And because that kind of expression was filtered through his personality, then boom he comes out all like this, and you get The Room.
I had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with both James and Dave Franco, the stars of The Disaster Artist, during the film's press day in Los Angeles earlier this month, and a good portion of our conversation was spent discussing the mystery that is Tommy Wiseau. I opened my interview noting just how little is known about the writer/director behind one of the most entertaining bad movies ever made, and James Franco expressed that he was never actually interested in answering the three biggest questions about the man. Rather, he found a personal connection to Wiseau through their shared affection for James Dean, and noted that it's arguably just genetics that saw the two of them take very different paths in their careers (including actually playing Dean in the 2001 TV biopic James Dean).
The connection Tommy Wiseau sees between himself and James Dean is very present in The Disaster Artist, even beyond a scene where Tommy watches Rebel Without A Cause with Dave Franco's Greg Sestero. One of the most awful moments in The Room -- Wiseau delivering the world's worst line delivery of, "You're tearing me apart, Lisa" -- is actually an homage to the classic film, and one of Dean's more impactful big screen moments in his limited career.
You can watch James Franco discuss his funny personal connection with Tommy Wiseau by clicking play on the video below.
With James Dean close to his heart, James Franco may find playing Tommy Wiseau earn him his second Academy Award nomination for The Disaster Artist -- and it would certainly be deserving. Don't believe us? Just check out the film for yourself, which is in limited release this Friday, December 1st, and will be in theaters nationwide on December 8th.