Lessons learned from reviving The Room, the 'greatest bad movie ever made'
Tommy Wiseau's infamous 2003 film inspired James Franco's The Disaster Artist
The lineup started almost a half day ahead of The Disaster Artist's premiere at TIFF. Fans snaked their way down the sidewalk, wearing greasy black wigs, clutching footballs, even staying standing for the entire post-screening Q&A session.
It's a response typically reserved for movie star elite — but it was all for the enigmatic, thickly accented Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau.
He's the director, producer, writer and star of The Room — considered by many to be worst movie ever made — and the subject of James Franco's The Disaster Artist, which explores the making of that movie. Franco gets meta, both directing and starring in it as Wiseau.
Franco's film is set for wide release today.
Wiseau independently put out The Room in 2003 and its infamy has earned it a rabid cult following worldwide. Fans sell out midnight screenings, sipping scotchkas (a drink featured in the film which mixes scotch and vodka), throwing footballs and yelling out famed lines like "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!"
And with the upcoming December release of The Disaster Artist, The Room phenomenon is poised to go mainstream, a near decade and a half after it came out.
Wiseau, along with fellow The Room co-star Greg Sestero (who plays Mark) and Disaster Artist screenplay writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, joined CBC News for a Q&A session to reflect on its legacy and where it goes next.
Doesn't think it's bad
Sure, it's been dubbed the "Citizen Kane of bad movies." Co-star Sestero called The Room the "greatest bad movie ever made" in his book The Disaster Artist, which the new movie is based on.
But Wiseau said that's just a matter of opinion — he calls it "unique."
"I really am neutral. I believe in free expression. If people like to call it that way, so be it," he said. "Whatever they say about The Room is fine by me as long as they enjoy it."
Paul Scheer, who plays the director of photography in The Disaster Artist, also hosts a podcast which deconstructs bad movies. And The Room's at the top of his list. He said there's something about it that "transcends" bad.
"It's not just a bad movie. It's so bad, it's good. It's so watchable. You're getting so much, it's the gift that keeps on giving," he told CBC News at Monday's premiere. "The only way I can sort of explain it is they made so many wrong choices, it became a right."
Wouldn't change a thing
Wiseau said he would leave The Room as is if he were to rewrite it today. He said the jokes stand.
"If you see the script, you see the words, for example, two is better than three, three's a crowd ... you associate with it," he said, referring to one of the film's memorable lines. "It's funny to listen."
Neustadter said Wiseau's movie still works because it taps into the "human experience," something he said all writers try to do. "You don't need to change a word of your script because all the things are still applicable to human behaviour."
Wiseau has one regret though.
"I would not use two cameras," he said, if he were to do it again. He famously shot The Room with both a film and a digital camera, propped beside one another.
Fan of Franco, The Disaster Artist
Wiseau has seen The Disaster Artist a few times now and thinks Franco's portrayal of him is "perfect."
"I don't want to praise him too much but fact is fact … he really nailed this," he said, although he thinks Franco might have gone a "little overboard" at times with his thick accent.
Franco said he channelled Wiseau while on set, keeping that accent going even while off-camera. "I was directing and acting in a movie of a guy that directed and acted in a movie so it was easier to stay in the character," he told CBC News.
Wiseau has a quick cameo in the film; Franco only met him for the first time when he came to shoot it.
"I think I am so proud that James Franco actually took the risk … to actually present something which is extremely difficult to present in Hollywood," Wiseau said.
He's "99.9 per cent" happy with the end result — but thinks Franco's football throwing is a little lacklustre. "The way he throws it, it's like Mickey Mouse."
May be mysterious — but he's 'just a person'
Wiseau has been coy about his past, keeping quiet on his age and origins.
Ottawa filmmaker Rick Harper tried to get behind the mystery in his documentary Room Full of Spoons, travelling to Europe to trace Wiseau's roots; Wiseau insists he's from New Orleans. But in June, Harper got a court order which means his doc can't be shown or released.
Another big question is how Wiseau financed The Room, which reportedly cost $6 million US.
He got cagey when CBC News asked him about it and said he made money through designing and selling leather jackets and a connection with the clothing company Levis. "I have a retail store called Street Fashions. So I did make a lot of money, that's true."
He insists he's just like everyone else.
"I'm just a person," he said. "I'm not a vampire. Maybe I'm going to live 100 years, right guys?"
Watch the full Disaster Artist/The Room Q&A session below.