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Making a movie about "cult" material can be a tricky thing. While there is obviously a built-in audience that will totally understand everything that's being referenced, there also exists the very real risk of alienating everyone else that isn't in on every joke. It's a fine line that is walked by James Franco's The Disaster Artist, but if you haven't seen the film that inspired it, Tommy Wiseau's The Room, you don't have to worry. According to the director/star, watching the famously terrible indie movie is not a prerequisite before screening the new comedy. Said Franco,
No, they don't have to see The Room. This is a movie about friendship so everyone can understand it.
James Franco's answer regarding the relationship between The Room and The Disaster Artist was short and sweet when he recently spoke with a reporter from The Wrap, assuring movie-goers that a viewing of the former is not needed before a screening of the latter. Instead, he suggests that the larger themes of the film make it universally acceptable, with any viewer able to click with the story because of the central relationship that exists between the two leads.
In the movie, Dave Franco stars as Greg Sestero, an aspiring actor who lacks the confidence necessary to really put himself into a performance. It's this personal flaw that ultimately draws him to Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a student in his San Francisco acting class who he sees as fearless. Despite the fact that Tommy is a total enigma - never revealing any personal details about his life - the two strike up an immediate bond, and travel to Los Angeles together in pursuit of their shared dream. Their lack of talent and constant rejection eventually leads them to make The Room together, but as the elder Franco notes, The Disaster Artist is much more about Greg and Tommy's relationship than a simple "Making Of" feature.
James Franco's sentiment about The Room not being necessary viewing is a perspective that is also shared by The Disaster Artist actress Ari Graynor, who plays actress Juliette in the new film. Speaking with The Wrap, she explained that you don't have to screen The Room before you see The Disaster Artist, though she admitted that you do get a little more out of the experience knowing the background:
I don't think you need to. The Disaster Artist operates on two levels: if you've seen The Room, it's a love letter to the film and a scavenger hunt for fans. If you haven't, it's a movie about big dreamers and making your art no matter what people think. It's a win-win either way. But if you haven't seen it before, you will definitely want to see it after.
The Disaster Artist is in limited release now, but given the response it's getting at the box office, it won't be surprising to see it soon expanding to many more theaters around the country. If you can, we highly recommend buying a ticket, as it's truly one of the best movies of the year (and a title you're going to see on a lot of Best of 2017 lists in the coming weeks).