Lessons learned from reviving The Room, the 'greatest bad movie ever made'

It's been 14 years since The Room came out, considered by many to be one of the worst movies ever. But the cult classic is set to get a big boost with the release of The Disaster Artist, a making-of The Room film starring James Franco.

Tommy Wiseau's infamous 2003 film inspired James Franco's The Disaster Artist

The Room's Tommy Wiseau, left, and James Franco, who plays Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, attend the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday. (Arthur Mola/Invision/Associated Press)

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.

Who is Tommy Wiseau?

5 years ago
Duration 0:26
The enigmatic Hollywood outsider and mastermind behind The Room sheds light on his mysterious persona and says he's just like everyone else

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."

How do you explain The Room?

5 years ago
Duration 1:30
Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero take a stab at explaining their movie, which many consider the 'greatest bad movie ever made'

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.

Dave Franco (as Greg Sestero), left, and James Franco (as Tommy Wiseau) are shown during a climatic scene from The Disaster Artist. Franco directed the film, based on the making of Wiseau's The Room. (Canadian Press/Handout - TIFF)

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.

Writer Michael H. Weber, actors Alison Brie, Tommy Wiseau, James Franco, Ari Graynor, Paul Scheer, Dave Franco, writer Scott Neustadter, actor Greg Sestero and TIFF programmer Peter Kuplowsky attend TIFF's The Disaster Artist premiere on September 11, 2017. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)

"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.

How fashion helped finance The Room

5 years ago
Duration 1:02
One of the big questions is how Tommy Wiseau independently financed The Room, which reportedly cost $6 million

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.


Haydn Watters is a roving reporter in Ontario, mostly serving the province's local CBC Radio shows. He has worked for the CBC in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and entertainment unit. He ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont. You can get in touch at haydn.watters@cbc.ca.