Here are some facts about Tommy Wiseau:
- He shot The Room on film and video using side-by-side cameras. Why? Who knows.
- He built the infamous rooftop set in a parking lot despite having access to at least two real-life rooftops.
- He built the alley set in a building which had a perfectly usable alley outside.
- He’s mega rich.
- Whenever questioned about his bizarre creative decisions, he often replies, “No Mickey Mouse bullshit.”
- He maintained a billboard of his face on Highland Avenue for five years at five grand a month.
When it was clear Hollywood wasn’t going to bust down his door and give him the role of a lifetime, Tommy Wiseau decided to take matters into his own hands. He wrote, directed, and produced The Room, which is today considered one of the greatest bad movies of all time. This thing has such a cult following that James Franco purchased the rights to make a movie about it, which will feature Franco himself as Wiseau, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Hannibal Buress, Kate Upton, Zac Efron, Alison Brie, Sharon Stone, and Bryan Cranston.
Franco’s movie is based on The Disaster Artist, a 2013 book by Greg Sestero, The Room’s co-star. In it, Sestero details the friendship he forged with Wiseau. It quickly becomes apparent the reclusive filmmaker is a deeply guarded person despite his dreams of megastar fame. Whenever he does open up about his past, the contradictory stories are unlikely at best.
That’s what makes Wiseau such an interesting character: the mystery surrounding him. To this day people are still trying to piece together the clues about his origins. He’s kind of like the Jack the Ripper of independent filmmakers, a guy who stormed out of obscurity and plunked down the cash to make himself a star. If the day ever comes when we know everything about him, the fun will fizzle.
For now, nobody seems to know who Wiseau is or how he amassed his absurd fortune. Not only did The Room cost six million dollars to make, but Wiseau maintained homes in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the latter of which he hadn’t visited in so long he couldn’t remember its location or the code to the alarm system (1234, as it turns out).
The story is mostly about Sestero—because there’s so much we’ll never know about Wiseau—and his own quest as a Hollywood hopeful. It’s at an acting class where he first meets Wiseau, who is last picked when the students have to pair up. Sestero, at the time, thinks Wiseau’s madness is charming. Despite the protests of friends and family, who suspect Wiseau is either mafioso or the Zodiac Killer, Sestero agrees to move out to LA with his new buddy.
That’s when things begin to get really weird.
When Wiseau meets Sestero’s concerned mother for the first time, as the men are headed out to LA, she warns Wiseau not to hurt her son. Sestero writes:
I put my hands over my eyes. The worst thing Tommy could do in response to this request, I thought, would be to chuckle creepily.
“I would not,” Tommy said, chuckling creepily.
Ha ha ha, what a story, Greg.
The Disaster Artist
is so funny at times my laughter woke my girlfriend up. Most readers will probably come to this book seeking the same answers I did, hoping for an insight into a bizarrely structured mind. Yet by the end of the book you won’t know much more about why Tommy Wiseau made the movie he did. If the book had shed light on these matters, The Room,
and Wiseau himself, would lose the allure.
I’m just glad the story behind the scenes is as fascinating and curious as the movie itself. There are a lot more questions than answers and it makes it all the more fun. The best answer you’re going to get? No Mickey Mouse bullshit.
I really loved this book. I’ve heard the audio version is a riot if you’ve got the extra money to spare.