What a Story!

The Room is universally considered one of the absolute worst movies of all time. It’s so awful that it crosses over into the realm of “so bad it’s good.” It’s a staple of bad film clubs and should act as a guide for any aspiring filmmaker, screen writer, or actor of things to NEVER do in a movie. It is Tommy Wiseau’s absolute masterpiece, a true study in catastrophe.

The face that launched a new generation of film buffs.

When I first saw The Room, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. How could anyone have possibly thought it was a good idea? Between sets that look dirt-cheap, blindingly terrible green-screen effects, a script worse than a fifth-grader’s Twilight fan-fiction, and acting that goes well beyond the level of preposterous, there is absolutely nothing that makes the project seem like a good idea, on any level. I’ve seen student films better than The Room. Hell, I’ve been in student films better than The Room. 

To truly understand The Room, however, is an exercise in futility. Even those who made the film don’t understand it. Perhaps the only one who could ever understand it is the mysterious man behind the project, Tommy Wiseau himself — and he’s not telling. An ageless man who looks like he stepped out of a hair metal band after being infected by some vampiric plague, Wiseau sports a strange Eastern European accent that no one can place, and which he refuses to explain, claiming to be from New Orleans. No one’s buying it. Recently a redditor by the name of ohbaimark did some impressive detective work using public records and discovered that Wiseau’s most likely ancestry is Polish. Wiseau is of an unknown age, likely over 40, another fact he will never disclose about himself. In fact, pretty much every personal detail about him is kept shrouded in mystery, even from those he calls friends.

I didn’t come by this knowledge magically. Greg Sestero, who co-starred in the film with Wiseau — and also acted as line producer on the project, not a task that should ever be delegated to a lead actor — recently released his memoir, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Sestero tells the brutally honest story of how he went from an average San Francisco resident to starring in the most expensive disaster ever produced, a journey of hardship and struggle as well as triumph and joy. Sestero met Wiseau in an acting class, and was drawn to him because of his strange, mysterious aura — you can get a taste of this aspect of Wiseau in the film; it seems that a lot of what you see in his performance as Johnny is basically what Wiseau is actually like in real life. They became an incredibly unlikely pair of friends, which is the only reason Sestero was in the film to begin with. Like everyone else involved, save Wiseau, Sestero knew exactly how crazy the whole project was, but as the only person with even a tiny chance of influencing and curbing Wiseau’s insanity, and as his friend, he took on the role regardless. That he and the other cast members came through the experience sane is a testament to their own strength.

The production was plagued with a multitude of problems, not least of which being that Wiseau had little to no knowledge of how to actually make a movie — and he was the writer, director, producer, and star of the film. He made incredibly nonsensical decisions that even the most innovative filmmakers would deem impractical at best. He couldn’t remember his lines, lines that he himself had written. He would ad-lib and change things on the fly, film scenes without adhering to any sort of logical order (such as filming every scene for a certain set before moving on to the next set), and basically make every day a living hell for everyone involved. He was erratic, short-tempered, and chronically disorganized. It’s a wonder the film was completed at all. But Wiseau has deep, deep pockets — deeper than the $6 million he sunk into the film, a lot of which was totally impractical and unnecessary spending. Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor (which in this case, means “guy who did his best to make the script legible given Wiseau’s awful English”) called the project “cinematic masturbation.” (Sestero & Bissell, 160).

In a sense, he’s not wrong — Sestero himself is convinced that part of the reason Tommy included the multiple cringe-inducing sex scenes was just to get his own rear end on camera.

But I digress. You can find countless reviews of The Room online, all of them much funnier than anything I could give you, I’m sure. But really what I’m interested in saying is that if you haven’t already read The Disaster Artist, then you should. While The Room is a cinematic catastrophe that you should never attempt to watch alone, The Disaster Artist is a masterpiece of non-fiction. It’s the success story of a budding actor, and also a heartrending portrait of man so lost in his struggles for love and glory that he may not even know who he is anymore. Somehow, Sestero and Bissell manage to induce sympathy for a man who in the public eye can only be described as a bat-shit insane narcissist.

 

Endnote: I wrote the large majority of this post right after finishing the book, and then didn’t get back to it for quite literally months, so I apologize now if anything feels disjointed and whatnot. But honestly, I did the best I could, because I wasn’t going to scrap what I already had, and while I love the book, I have too many other things I want to read/do to reread The Disaster Artist for the sake of a blog post. So, again, sorry!!

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