The Disaster Artist revisits The Room

If you’re not obsessed with The Room Tommy Wiseau’s spectacular audacious failure of a film you probably haven’t seen The Room . The 2003 release is quite simply the best worst movie ever made (don’t believe the hype about Troll 2 — it’s good-bad not great-awful). The film — a nonsensical sex drama that preaches about nothing and looks like softcore pornography — rewards repeat viewings and has amassed a global cult following that hosts regular screenings. (If you’ve yet to watch it it’s screening on Friday November 22 at The Plaza for The Fifth Reel’s anniversary party.)

As weird as The Room is however (and it’s really incredibly weird) the story of the film’s creation is even weirder. Until now little information was available about leathery mystery man Tommy Wiseau. His exact age is unknown as is how he made the millions of dollars that allowed him to self-finance this astronomical abomination of a film (not to mention the hideous Hollywood billboard for the flick which Wiseau paid to keep up for four years). His vaguely European accent does little to suggest where he even came from.

The Disaster Artist an in-depth account of the film’s tumultuous on-set environment attempts to answer some of those questions as best as it can. You won’t close it knowing every detail of the elusive Wiseau but you will be more enlightened. More importantly the book answers the question of how a film like this ever got made (in short no one thought it’d ever see a proper release and just wanted some of that sweet Wiseau money).

Author Greg Sestero who in addition to a great deal of uncredited production work played the seductive role of Mark in The Room recalls his decades-long relationship with Wiseau in great detail. Chapters alternate between accounts from the film’s hellish set and the pair’s unlikely friendship as they try to make it in show biz after meeting in a San Francisco acting class.

Room newbies will be blown away by the facts presented here including a detailed account of how Wiseau burnt through millions of dollars by insisting the film be shot digitally and on 35 mm film simultaneously. Eschewing the standard Hollywood practice of renting gear so as to not be stuck with outdated equipment Wiseau insisted on buying all of the cameras outright. “This is not a Mickey Mouse operation!” he regularly says.

There are plenty of smaller discoveries too like the fact that Wiseau insists on driving a minimum of 10 miles below the legal speed limit orders a glass of hot water that he leaves untouched for every meal and hates talking about his mysterious Street Fashions USA company. There’s so so much more but I don’t want to ruin it.

Sestero’s attempt at cramming a Hollywood love letter into the book is a little saccharine and he occasionally comes off like a bit of a phony. For one thing he routinely discusses how much Wiseau’s friendship means to him but barely backs it up instead going for joke after joke about the filmmaker’s admittedly bizarre physique accent and personality. You’re tearing him apart Greg.

To his credit (and likely thanks to the help of accomplished co-writer Tom Bissell) every joke is landed well leaving the book well worth the cover price especially when accompanied by a story as truly strange and remarkable as this.

The Room is a one-of-a-kind must-watch film that will be with us forever. Now it’s got an equally crucial companion piece in The Disaster Artist .

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