Ah, The Room; the cult film once described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”, while watching it was “like being stabbed in the head”. Everyone’s heard of it, and if you haven’t, I can only assume it’s because you don’t get good reception under that rock.
The Room is quite possibly the best worst movie ever made. The “plot”- such as it is- centres around a “young” man named Johnny, played by Tommy Wiseau- who was also the director, writer, and executive producer- whose fiancee Lisa cheats on him with his best friend, Mark.
The dialogue makes no sense, the scenes are disjointed and unrelated, the acting is ridiculous, and plot points are brought up and never mentioned again. It’s easy to think that the entire movie was just a huge joke- until you read The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero.
Sestero, who plays Mark in the film, met Tommy Wiseau in an acting class in 1998, and was immediately intrigued by his acting style- that is, his strange inflections and amazing ability to mispronounce every single word in the English language. While his accent sounds like a weird amalgamation of different European accents, he insists he’s from New Orleans.
This is just one of the many strange and fascinating things about Tommy Wiseau. His love for the United States is so huge he’s willing to forget his entire life before he moved there, and insists he’s a born-and-bred American- a “ragin’ Cajun”, as he tried to convince everybody during the marketing for The Room.
Sestero, in spite of himself, is drawn to this strange man, and decides to approach him about doing a scene together for their class. Wiseau accepts, and so they embark on one of the strangest friendships known to man.
The Disaster Artist covers their friendship from the first meeting all the way to the premiere of The Room five years later. Wiseau is an egotistical, volatile, and temperamental man who is deluded about his acting abilities, and Sestero manages to provide insight into his friend’s behaviour without defending or apologising for it. Sestero is under no illusions about what Wiseau is like, and he doesn’t go out of his way to make him seem better (or worse) than he is. It’s a refreshing perspective; it’s like he’s saying, “Here’s my friend- this is what he’s like, make of it what you will.”
One thing that Sestero admires about Wiseau is his earnestness. He’s set on becoming an actor and truly believes that’s his destiny. When writing The Room, he approaches the challenge with childlike delight, convinced he’s writing a masterpiece. He celebrates every small achievement as if they’re Earth-shattering. At the premiere of The Room, his eyes fill with tears as he sees his dream come to life.
That moment is where the book ends. We don’t get to read about the audience’s initial reactions to the film or how they affected Wiseau. As fascinating (and probably heartbreaking) as that would be, I feel that the book ended in the right place. Wiseau is the ultimate example of never giving up, and never giving in.
For all these admirable qualities, this is Wiseau we’re talking about. For those who aren’t aware of his batshit crazy interviews, this man has a tendency to blow up at the tiniest thing, leaving everyone in his wake wary and confused. This happens multiple times in the book, including one instance of Wiseau emotionally tormenting Sestero just to get a reaction out of him. In his mind, this behaviour is a perfectly acceptable way to find out if Sestero truly wants to be his friend.
You have to admire Greg Sestero’s patience. Even reading about some of the things Wiseau did left me emotionally exhausted. It’s true what Sestero said, that their friendship was the most human thing that had happened to Wiseau- most people would have pulled away from him, and no doubt most people had.
While it provides hilarious anecdotes about the making of one of the worst films in history, The Disaster Artist is ultimately a tale of friendship, equal parts heartwarming and frustrating. Plus, it’s really, really funny. It’s currently being made into a movie starring James Franco as Wiseau and Dave Franco as Sestero. I would definitely recommend giving this book a read- you’ll probably have as hard a time putting it down as I did. It’s the Citizen Kane of good books.