On November 1, 2014, in Chicago, I saw The Room, a 2003 film that will make you cry with laughter, though it was not meant to be funny. It is a $6 million folly. Tommy Wiseau is the writer, director, producer, and star. He came from Eastern Europe (probably) and fought against all odds to succeed in his adopted country. He did. First he got rich. Then he made this movie because he loved movies and had something he wanted to say.
He didn’t know how to make a movie. He did everything wrong. He did not listen to advice. He was miserable to work with. The Room reflects all of that. But it is his. It has a bizarre but unmistakable authenticity.
Authenticity is a hard quality to pin down. The best way I can describe it with respect to The Room is to say that if Tommy Wiseau knew more about film, tried harder to make a good movie, and listened to everyone who told him what was wrong and tried to fix it, The Room would have died without a trace. “So bad it’s good” was the way my friend Dave described it. He is right.
The Room has achieved Rocky Horror Picture Show cult status. People bring spoons to the midnight screenings. (Why spoons? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.) They talk back to it. They love this movie for what it is.
Does it get any better for any filmmaker than that?
The Disaster Artist
The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made was written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. Greg Sestero was The Room’s line producer, an obscure job; one of the principal actors in the movie; and a friend of Tommy Wiseau. Tom Bissell is a writer of considerable gifts.
The Disaster Artist is a terrific book: compulsively readable, generous in spirit, insightful, and as a portrait of Tommy Wiseau, fascinating.
The book is notable for its complete lack of snarkiness. Honest as it is about Wiseau being very weird and his movie being very bad, Sestero and Bissell never stoop to cheap shots or easy laughs. Why should they? Crossing paths with Tommy Wiseau was the biggest break of Greg Sestero’s professional life.
It isn’t absolutely needful that you see the movie before reading the book, but it is a good idea. If you don’t see it before, you will see it afterward. I promise.
I love stories about spinning gold from straw. This is one of the most unlikely,