The True Story Behind The Disaster Artist

01 Dec 2017
Since the mysterious billboard for The Room first appeared above LA’s Highland Avenue in 2003, the ‘best worst movie ever made’ has achieved a reputation well beyond cult status.
Written by, directed by and starring Tommy Wiseau, it was a billboard that featured little more than a black-and-white image of its star surrounded by more than a few typos.

The Disaster Artist – in select UK cinemas December 1, nationwide December 6 – is based on the tell-all book by The Room co-star Greg Sestero. It explores the making of this now iconic movie, and how one man’s relentless pursuit of his dream somehow paid off.

The Mysterious Tommy Wiseau

Little is known about Tommy Wiseau, aside from rumours that he originally hailed from Eastern Europe and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a film star. He wrote The Room and claims he funded the entire production (estimated at $6 million) by selling bad blue jeans. Naturally, he cast himself as Johnny, the film’s protagonist.

Centered on a love triangle between Johnny, his girlfriend Lisa and his best friend Mark, The Room’s plot, dialogue and production techniques were so nightmarishly bad that they somehow worked – just not in the way they were intended.

James Franco, who takes on the role of Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, sees the notorious writer’s puzzling creative choices as something more. “[Wiseau] was genuinely trying to express something in The Room,” Franco said, “his feelings, his experience with life, his devastation over being rejected by the world.” Underneath The Room’s shallow surface was something a little more, and Franco was 
The Disaster Artist Tommy and Sandy
James Franco as Tommy Wiseau

The Ultimate Bromance

While The Disaster Artist follows the making of The Room, it primarily explores the friendship between Wiseau and his co-star, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). The two men found each other in an LA acting class in the late-1990s and bonded over their love of James Dean. “From the moment I saw Tommy give his monologue in acting class, I knew he was someone I could relate to,” Sestero once said.

The teenage Sestero took up Wiseau’s offer to move into his condo, and was ultimately cast in the role of Mark. The two formed an unlikely friendship that, through questionable performances and infamously bad green screen, always managed to support each other.

“Greg and Tommy give each other what they need in order to move forward and achieve their dream,” said The Disaster Artist co-writer Michael H. Weber ((500) Days of Summer). “One has all the confidence in the world, but not necessarily the ability to execute it, and the other is more on the ball, but as removed as possible from the inner workings of creativity. He doesn’t have the confidence and belief in himself to pursue his dream until he meets this other person, who happens to be Tommy Wiseau.”
The Disaster Artist Greg and Tommy
Dave Franco as Greg Sestero and James Franco as Tommy Wiseau

The Disaster Artist

To virtually nobody’s surprise, The Room wasn’t a huge box office success, grossing a mere $1,800 in the first two weeks of its release. It wasn’t until the film headlined midnight showings that it gained its cult status, where viewers threw spoons at the screen and talked back to the actors.

James Franco first came across Sesteros’ book in 2014 and remembered seeing the original billboard back in 2003. He watched the film and was captivated, first approaching frequent collaborator Seth Rogen (Observe and Report), who would ultimately go on to play script supervisor Sandy Schklair in the film. Franco signed on as director and, in true Wiseau-fashion, cast himself in the lead role.

Capturing Sesteros’ and Wiseau’s relationship was especially important, and for Sesteros’ role, there was only one option – James Franco’s younger brother Dave. “…We have this very particular dynamic,” Dave said of his brother, “which is very supportive and had parallels to Tommy and Greg in the way one of them let the other come live with him when he was starting out, helping get his career established, like my brother did for me when I moved to Los Angeles.”

Add a fake beard, facial prosthetics and some shot-for-shot retakes of the original film, and The Disaster Artist was born. As James Franco explains however, there were some aspects of The Room that just couldn’t be replicated this time around.

“For this movie to play in cities around the world means there is something more going on than just an epically bad movie that’s fun to laugh at with a group of people,” he said. “The Room is unique because of Tommy Wiseau, who put his whole heart into his project. The Room has what other bad movies don’t have, which is pure passion.”
The Disaster Artist Tommy Wiseau

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