Cult classic The Room perches at the top of
a heap of movies so terrible that somehow
everything that's wrong with it becomes so, so right. Often referred to as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies," the term "awesomely bad" might have been invented for its IMDB description.
Starring Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, as unlikely a duo as Ryan Gosling and a wax statue of Danny DeVito, The Room has been described as a romantic drama filmed by deer, "like getting stabbed in the head" and as the greatest movie of all time. Somehow the indecipherable plotline, awful dialogue and atrocious performances come together to create a hysterical romp known to inspire catatonic euphoria.
Sestero appears at Sun-Ray Cinema on Feb. 22 to read from a book he co-wrote with Tom Bissell in which he chronicles the making of The Room and his unlikely friendship with Wiseau.
The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie of All Time follows the two from their first meeting in an acting class in the summer of 1998 to the movie's premiere in 2003. In addition to the reading and the film's screening, Sestero will also screen a short documentary on the making of the film (which includes a clip of Tommy Wiseau as Hamlet), conduct a 30-minute live script reading with the audience and hold a short Q&A session.
In the book, Sestero becomes fascinated by Wiseau, a self-described native Louisiana Cajun who speaks with a European accent that he can't quite place, and appears far, far older than he claims to be.
When Wiseau does a reading of a bit of Shakespeare, Sestero writes, "Everything he said was obviously the product of diligent mismemorization, totally divorced from the emotion the words were trying to communicate. He was terrible, reckless and mesmerizing." Anyone who has seen The Room can agree this is a spot-on description of all Wiseau's acting.
Bonded by their shared desire for fame, they form a fast, tumultuous friendship that defies the laws of human relationships. Sestero — a handsome, all-American type — acknowledges that they more closely resemble arch-nemeses than best friends. It would be easy to write off their friendship as a lark but for Sestero's undeniable affection for Wiseau that still persists.
"He's incredibly funny, in a way that's unique, in that there is no one out there like him in the way he interprets the world," Sestero says.
In the beginning, Wiseau is Sestero's biggest champion, letting him live in his Los Angeles apartment rent-free and encouraging him to chase his dreams, but, eventually, he's overcome by jealousy and resentment. In his mind, Sestero's small successes are no less than a betrayal of their friendship. Rejected by Hollywood, Wiseau eventually writes The Room script and decides to make the movie, which he stars in, directs, produces and funds from a seemingly endless supply of money.
Erroneously assuming that the film will immediately pass into the void, Sestero lets himself be roped into playing Mark, literally the day before filming begins. "It was more of a joke, more of a home movie for Tommy," Sestero says. "I would have never expected anyone to ever see the movie."
It's impossible not to laugh out loud as mutinies and the fury of the cast and crew somehow escape Wiseau's concern (though he's secretly filming and watching everything that occurs on set, footage that's used in Sestero's making-of documentary).
However mysterious, maddening and inscrutable he can be, Wiseau also comes across as vulnerable, innocent and sweet-natured. "That was the goal … to show the human side of the story," Sestero says.
It wasn't until 2008 that Sestero learned of the film's implausible success, which he calls "an accidental masterpiece." Since its 2003 premiere, The Room has been taught in film schools and inspired audience rituals, and today counts many of the Hollywood elite among its fans. A rumor on the Internet is that a film starring two such fans, James Franco and Seth Rogen, based on The Disaster Artist is in the works. Sestero wouldn't confirm that delicious possibility during our interview, but Deadline later reported that Franco had acquired the film rights.