The Room (2003) is a cult film in every sense of the word. One of the last bonafide modern oddities ever to be released, it turns into a movie event where audiences recite lines, yell out to screen on cue and throw spoons around an auditorium. Much like Rocky Horror Picture Show, audiences dress as characters to participate in the screenings. It’s unusual writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau self-funded everything, however his talent was limited creating much fanfare. Co-star Greg Sestero has remained friends with Tommy for over two decades, he also wrote a tell-all book of the behind-the-scenes making of The Room. Known as The Disaster Artist, it is now a Hollywood film likely to pick up major award recognition, especially James Franco.
Is this the first time you have been to Australia and can you surf?
Greg Sestero – Third time and wish I could. Tried it, failed.
How often did you visit The Disaster Artist set?
GS – Couple of times a week, probably my favourite time was recreation of scenes involving my mum, or agent played by Sharon Stone. Felt like I would never look at life the same seeing those experiences recreated. Very therapeutic, made the whole journey worth it in one.
Were you taking notes? Will there be a ‘making of’ book of The Disaster Artist?
GS – (laughs) Film is so great, I think it hits a home run. There is nothing else left to say.
That Audio book version you did with all the voices was terrific. Did you teach James how to speak in Tommy?
GS – James came up with his own brilliant creation of Tommy. I randomly had audio journals that Tommy had recorded of himself that I had given to James who built Tommy from that.
When did you meet James, was it his suggestion to do the film?
GS – Three weeks after book release, James had reached out for a conference call with the three of us. Tommy kept pushing James, what’s his vision. After the third time, James is saying to Tommy, ‘I’ve told you three times my vision.’ In the meantime, Tommy was pushing for Johnny Depp to play him, until I suggested James Franco. Tommy said, ‘Good idea, I see some movies you do, some are good some are bad (laughs).’ We both love James, straight away knowing it was to be a special project.
Out of everyone from original cast, was everyone in support to make Disaster Artist or anyone against it?
GS – Support from all. It’s been such a weird experience to have made The Room firstly and an honour to work with people you look up to. Insiders about making a film about outsiders is a fascinating thing.
Nice scene with Bryan Cranston in the film. I’m shocked you actually shaved and missed out being in his show?
GS – Yes I was younger, different. If it was the best show ever, Breaking Bad, I wouldn’t have shaved the beard (laughs).
Australian Oscar nominee Jackie Weaver appears, did you hang out?
GS – She is amazing, I spoke with her at a premiere recently. She had read my book, seen The Room and god did she make a good Claudette or what so intricate, a lovely talented lady.
How do you feel that your book is now a major Hollywood picture?
GS – Shane, it hasn’t hit me yet. For seven or eight years, I’ve been trying to craft something out of this so-called terrible movie I was in to show there is much more to me than The Room. My dream was the story to become its own film, really thankful to James, Dave (Franco) and Seth (Rogen) for pushing through to tell this story, make the film, present it the pristine way they have.
There is talk of award recognition, major awards like an Oscar chance. Do you think it might? Have you ever been to an Oscar ceremony?
GS – (laughs) I haven’t, never did I expect to be part of that scene, especially through this. But really, James deserves an Oscar nom. Knowing Tommy for twenty years as well as I know myself, what James did with his performance is really impossible to define. One of the best performances I’ve seen in years, to watch, be inspired by my own friend being exactly played by somebody else. The effort he put into being Tommy on set and never breaking character at all times while camera rolling, or if it was not rolling, even if he was walking around directing his film, the passion he put in non-stop as Tommy is what acting is all about. I hope he gets rewarded.
Would Tommy attend the ceremony if invited, or James play Tommy on the red carpet?
GS – Tommy would go absolutely.
What other actors in the film portrayed the actual people perfectly?
GS – The attention to detail by all wonderful. Josh Hutcherson as Denny stands out, although each character was captured authentically. The sets were recreated exact, you could tell the precision of everything.
Pleasing to see Kelly Oxford in there, small role though, were any of her scenes cut?
GS – Not sure but you know it’s better to have a little Kelly Oxford than none, she’s great.
Do you get recognised, anything weird happen, people throw footballs?
GS – Sometimes, was at an airport in Norway recently. Was approached from behind to say, ‘So how’s your sex life? (laughs).’ Still surprises me how much The Room has grown and people loving it.
Was there ever any talk of a sequel or continuation of the characters?
GS – I feel you could not capture that magic. Tommy was there trying to be Marlon Brando, we were all at different places in our life so would be hard to recreate. It would be interesting to make something totally new. The Room was a one time phenomenon, totally organic, created by the people. That’s why I find it uniquely cool to be part of it. Will never happen again in the same way. It’s a gift of an experience being so much more than an actor, a Hollywood story unlike any other.
My idea of The Room: The Musical is gone.
GS – Maybe The Disaster Artist: The Musical sounds good.
What are your memories of being in Patch Adams, is it harder for an actor now to go through auditions than then?
GS – Much harder, the business has become easier in some ways. There’s more access, you can make your own films anywhere. But it is so deluded, it’s really hard to break through. Working on Patch Adams was amazing, standing next to Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams. Actually at one point, I went up to Phillip thinking he was an extra asking questions. Those memories are more of the journey rather than destination, I appreciated each step. Definitely don’t wish to be twenty again trying to become an actor, it’s no easy task.
Do you believe audiences need to see The Room first before The Disaster Artist?
GS – I know The Disaster Artist is its own incredible film. Great character story, someone labelled it a warped Big Lebowski. It’s a beautiful story on friendship, following your dream, standing on its own as a great piece of cinema.
SIDE NOTE: After the interview had finished, Greg asked if I really thought the film could win an Oscar. Of course I agreed, I meant the praise I gave. Indeed at very least nomination worthy. Greg went into detail that he and Tommy have a new film soon he’s excited about called Best Friends, completely different to The Room. Greg was a terrific person with a good heart.
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.