Ontario judge lifts injunction on documentary about 'abysmal' cult film The Room
When Ottawa filmmaker Rick Harper decided a few years back to make a documentary about The Room, he probably never imagined its creator dragging him into court for disparaging the film.
Last week, Harper was relieved to learn that the Ontario judge considering the case was equally incredulous. Justice Markus Koehnen tossed out an injunction against the documentary Room Full of Spoons, saying, "The Room's fame rests on its apparently abysmal quality."
As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Harper about the ruling and the mysterious creator of The Room, Tommy Wiseau. Here is part of their conversation.
Rick, why did you want to make a documentary about what the judge calls "an abysmal movie?"
Now, the person who made The Room, Tommy Wiseau, did he intend this to be treated this way or did he think he was doing a serious film?
So everything about it is bad — the production, the script, everything?
Initially, making this documentary, you had the cooperation of Tommy Wiseau. At what point did he decide that he was not only going to get out of it, but he was going to try to stop you from putting this on the screen?
He made it clear pretty early on that he was no longer interested in working with me. I think he just expected me to make, like, a 90-minute promotional video for The Room, which it essentially is, but we took it further and we interviewed a lot of the cast, a lot of the crew.
Then we wanted to dig a little bit into what makes Tommy tick. You know, what type of person would make a movie like this and take it seriously and think that it's the best thing ever and continue to promote it as hard as he did after its initial failure? So we started trying to figure out who Tommy Wiseau is and that is when he really started having a problem with what we were doing.
He sought an injunction. He took you to court and he argues that the documentary, "mocks, derides, and disparages him and infringes on his copyright." But the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the documentary can not disparage a film that's so bad.
That's right and that was a bit of a funny outcome. But it was never my goal to mock his movie. His movie is popular because people mock it. People appreciate the film ironically. They go see it month, after month, after month, not because it's a masterpiece, not because it makes you emotional or brings you on this journey ...
It's truly hard to understand what his original vision was. Clearly he was trying to make something that dramatic because there are some scenes where you can clearly see there's heart there. I think that's part of the appeal in watching The Room. It's like when your kid gives you a drawing and you know it's not very good, but you know that he put his heart and soul into it, so you'll still put it up on the fridge and you'll celebrate it. That's I guess the feeling that you get when you watch The Room.
Despite everything we've went through, despite going to court with Tommy and so on, part of me still wants to work with him. We're in the process of negotiating right now and trying to work collaboratively to successfully release Room Full of Spoons.
This interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, please listen to our full interview with Rick Harper.