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One movie that has cinephiles everywhere excited is James Franco's The Disaster Artist. Arriving in theaters this month, The Disaster Artist tells the outrageous story behind the making of what is said to be the worst movie ever made, The Room. The Disaster Artist has some good awards buzz going for it right now, and critics have been giving it positive reviews, which is far more than can be said about the original theatrical run of The Room. It's debatable how much of The Room a viewer needs to be aware of to fully enjoy The Disaster Artist, but if you've never seen it, we've got you covered.
The brainchild of wannabe movie star Tommy Wiseau, The Room has been described as the Citizen Kane of bad movies. Just about anything a movie can do wrong is done in The Room multiple times, leading to a film so nonsensical and terrible that it's actually brilliant because of what a trainwreck it ends up being. The Room has gained a massive cult following over the years, becoming a favorite of midnight movie screenings around the globe. The story behind the making of The Room is just as crazy as the movie itself, so if you really want to understand The Disaster Artist, then sit back and let us guide you through the journey that is The Room.
What 'The Room' Is About
Describing The Room is... difficult. The movie has so many abandoned subplots and supporting characters that are introduced and then never show up again, that it can be hard to pin down what you're actually watching. Essentially, the main plot is a love triangle between banker Johnny (Tommy Wiseau -- don't worry, we'll get more into him), his fiancee Lisa (Juliette Danielle), and his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). There's also stuff about a drug dealer, an attempted murder, weird sex scenes, football, and breast cancer that is never again addressed in the film. It's hard to justify it all with just words alone, but the bad acting, terrible dialogue, and a ton of other strange details (there are random framed pictures of spoons) all come together in a perfect storm that makes The Room a must-watch for movie fans.
It's The Brainchild Of Tommy Wiseau
The Room is pretty much the sole creative vision of a man named Tommy Wiseau. Not only did Wiseau star in the lead role, but he also directed, produced, wrote the screenplay, and personally financed the budget. Originally, Wiseau conceived of The Room as a stage play in 2001. Then Wiseau claims that he adapted the play into a 500-page novel, but failed to get it published. Eventually, he began to adapt it into an independent movie production, with himself in total creative control. Almost everything seen on screen can be credited to Wiseau and his very specific vision and tastes. It should come as no surprise that he's kind of an odd guy.
Nobody Knows Anything About Tommy Wiseau's Background
Tommy Wiseau is a human puzzle box, but one that completely changes the second you think you've started to figure it out. Much like his movie, Tommy Wiseau himself has been elevated to a cult status. Nobody really knows where Wiseau is from, or even how old he is (this is a running joke in The Disaster Artist). Wiseau claims to have been born in France, in his words, "a long time ago," and he often gives conflicting details about his own background. He supposedly moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he eventually found his way to San Fransisco, California. Greg Sestero claims to have found immigration papers that say Wiseau was born in an Eastern Bloc country in the 1950s, while an entire documentary about The Room made its own conclusion that he is from Poland. Recently, Wiseau told Jimmy Kimmel that he was "originally from Europe."
'The Room's' Budget Was $6 Million
It may look cheap as hell, but The Room was anything but. The film had a budget of a whopping $6 million dollars. Cultural Weekly did a study in 2014 that the average budget for an independent film was found to be around $750,000 per movie.The Room's budget is over $5 million more than a typical indie movie. As to why the cost of the movie was so high, those close to production claim it was a number of things, like buying unnecessary equipment and using green screen instead of just filming on location. Wiseau paid for the budget himself, and, you guessed it, no one really knows how he got his money. Wiseau claims to have held a number of odd jobs throughout his life, ranging from a busboy to a fashion vendor (he has his own underwear line), but he may have become independently wealthy from selling and renting retail space. Some on the crew (which was 400 people, btw) thought that The Room might have been a money laundering scheme for organized crime, but there's no evidence of that.
It Was A Production Nightmare
The Room may as well be a textbook for everything not to do when making a movie. The whole thing was said to be extremely difficult to produce, with the odd demands of Tommy Wiseau playing a big part in that. The script was apparently incompressible, but Wiseau insisted that the words be spoken exactly as they were written, though, several monologues were cut. The Room shot on both a film and video camera at the same time, with two different camera crews needed to operate them; they only ever used to film footage. The crew had to be replaced at least two to four times. Actors had multiple understudies and needed to be replaced on more than one occasion, while some crew members would be doing several jobs. Minutes-long dialogue scenes would take hours to film because Wiseau could not remember his lines. You will likely see a lot of these examples in The Disaster Artist. All in all, it took six months to shoot The Room.
The Main Character Was Almost A Vampire
As if The Room weren't weird enough, the cherry on top of the sundae would have been revealing that Johnny was actually a vampire the whole time. Apparently, Tommy Wiseau had a fascination with vampires and at one point seriously considered revealing that Johnny was a bloodsucker. According to Greg Sestero, Wiseau tasked the crew with coming up with a way to do a sequence where Johnny's Mercedes-Benz would lift off of his townhouse and fly across the San Fransisco skyline. This was meant to clue in the audience on Johnny's vampiric nature, because what other explanation would there be for a flying car? Honestly, I kind of wish that they had gone for this ending. It would have been the perfect WTF way to cap of what's already a very weird movie.
It's Not Supposed To Be A Comedy
Despite the film's reputation as a laugh-out-loud comedy event, The Room was never meant to be a comedy. It's supposed to be a drama that serves as "an advisory warning about the perils of having friends." However, The Room is so unquestionably bad, that it's become hilarious. That's just the inherent fun in bad movies and The Room is the best bad movie. Since the release of The Room, Tommy Wiseau has retroactively said that it's a black comedy, but audiences generally agree that it's a poorly made drama.
'The Room' Is A Midnight Movie Classic
When The Room released in limited theaters in California, it wasn't received well. Critics slammed it, and the few people that did see it didn't have many nice things to say. However, a word-of-mouth campaign began spreading about how terrible the movie was, encouraging groups of friends to see and mock The Room. This sudden interest in the film sparked several extra bookings in the midnight movie circuit (traditionally reserved for B movies or cult films). These proved to be extremely popular as audiences would interact with the film in a fashion similar to The Rocky Horror Picture Show; people throw spoons at the screen, recite lines together, and toss footballs to each other. These are incredibly fun screenings, and you should try to find one near you if you ever get the chance. The Room screens regularly worldwide, with Tommy Wiseau and some other members of the cast making appearances and embracing the cult status. Find out where it's screening by going here.
There's A Tell-All Book Called The Disaster Artist
The making of The Room was just too ridiculous a tale to not be told. Greg Sestero, who starred as best friend Mark, wrote a tell-all novel about his relationship with Tommy Wiseau and the filming of The Room called, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Sestero goes into detail about how he first met Wiseau in an acting class and the two became friends. They were both frustrated actors, which eventually led to Wiseau's inspiration to simply make his own film with Sestero tagging along, originally as the line producer before agreeing to star as well. The novel is full of interesting details about The Room, and Sestero's own suspicions about the origins of Wiseau. Sestero also narrates the audiobook, which is VERY worth it. The novel, of course, serves as the basis for a full-length feature film, making the odd story of The Room come full circle.