The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - MICHELE MANELIS

There’s an irony in the fact that James Franco’s new film The Dis­as­ter Artist – about the making of a movie once dubbed “the Cit­i­zen Kane of bad movies” – is at­tract­ing some of the hottest buzz of the 39-year-old’s ca­reer.

Franco pro­duced, di­rected and stars as the off-kil­ter Tommy Wiseau, the man who wrote, funded, di­rected and starred in the sub-par film in ques­tion, 2003’s The Room.

Wiseau’s shot at match­ing Ten­nessee Wil­liams in the drama stakes – mon­u­men­tally bad act­ing, an in­ept script and even worse di­rec­tion – in­stead saw The Room carve a unique place as a so-bad-it’s-hi­lar­i­ous cult clas­sic. All th­ese years later, it re­mains a sta­ple of mid­night screen­ings around the world.

“I was al­ways ready for Hol­ly­wood,” says the real Wiseau. “Hol­ly­wood wasn’t al­ways ready for me.”

The Dis­as­ter Artist is based on the book in which Greg Ses­tero – who met Wiseau in a San Fran­cisco act­ing class, be­came his friend, “trans­la­tor” and co-starred in The Room – re­flected on the ex­pe­ri­ence of making Wiseau’s film.

Franco’s younger brother, Dave, plays Ses­tero in The Dis­as­ter Artist.

“The movie is a bizarre story, un­like any Hol­ly­wood story, and Tommy is un­like any­body in Hol­ly­wood his­tory,” the elder Franco ex­plains.

“But at the same time it’s a very com­mon story of peo­ple com­ing to Hol­ly­wood to fol­low their dreams, feel­ing like out­siders and fight­ing to get their vi­sion across. Ba­si­cally, it’s the up­side down of La La Land.”

Franco is all but un­recog­nis­able as Wiseau – a man Ses­tero de­scribes as “a pi­rate crossed with a vam­pire”. Says Franco: “I knew it would re­quire a lot of pros­thet­ics – cheeks and nose and chin, not only to look like Tommy, but I had to look dif­fer­ent enough from Davy so that we wouldn’t seem like broth­ers.”

Repli­cat­ing Wiseau’s un­peace­able ac­cent – he claims he’s from New Orleans – was the next chal­lenge.

“He looks like Michael Jackson crossed with a vam­pire and he sounds as though he’s from East­ern Europe,” says Franco. “I lis­tened to tapes to get it right and I stayed in char­ac­ter when I di­rected the film. Peo­ple could still talk to me as James but I’d sound like Tommy the whole day,” he laughs. When Wiseau first came to Hol­ly­wood, “he was au­di­tion­ing for all the James Dean roles,” Franco ex­plains. “So, Tommy faced a lot of re­jec­tion. But then fi­nally, he re­alised the only way he’d get work was to fi­nance his own film, and he wrote roles for him­self and Greg.”

When Ses­tero was writ­ing the book about the making of The Room, he al­ways en­vi­sioned it too would be­come a film.

Wiseau makes an ap­pear­ance at the very end of The Dis­as­ter Artist – this was the one con­di­tion he put on the pro­duc­tion.

Though still very much a man of mys­tery, the in­ter­net has whit­tled his age down to 62 and his ori­gins to Poland. Of course, Wiseau re­fuses to con­firm.

“Well, who cares about this? I’m very pri­vate per­son, and very emo­tional,” he says.

Com­ing to terms with how The Room was re­ceived by au­di­ences has been quite a jour­ney for both Wiseau and Ses­tero.

“When The Room came out I looked at it as a suc­cess,” Wiseau says. “I knew my vi­sion would never be pro­duced by a stu­dio and I went on the roller­coaster ride to make the film my­self.

“As I’ve said many times: you can laugh, you can cry, but please don’t hurt the chil­dren.”

The Dis­as­ter Artist opens in ma­jor cin­e­mas to­day

James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in The Dis­as­ter Artist, a film about the making of now cult clas­sic The Room.

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