HOLLYWOOD ACTOR STARS IN NEW FILM ABOUT THE MAKING OF THE WORST FILM EVER MADE
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.