Neil Hepburn, Marketing Manager at The Cameo in Edinburgh, interviews Greg Sestero, who will be touring select Picturehouse Cinemas with The Disaster Artist: A Night Inside The Room With Greg Sestero.
The Room is one of the strangest pop-culture phenomena of recent times: a cinematic catastrophe with a stranger-than-fiction backstory that somehow became a massive cult hit. Tommy Wiseau was the man behind it all, an ambitious eccentric with a murky past who wrote, directed and starred in the film. Wiseau is famously secretive about his life before The Room, evading questions about everything from where he got that accent to how he financed the film to the tune of $6 million.
But now it’s time for Greg Sestero – co-star of The Room and Wiseau’s long-time friend – to write the next chapter in this peculiar tale. Greg’s unique insight into the man behind what Entertainment Weekly famously dubbed “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” has been turned into a hilarious memoir and an upcoming James Franco movie.
Ahead of his UK tour, I asked Greg why he decided it was time to tell his side of the story.
The Disaster Artist is a compelling insight into the strange world of Tommy Wiseau and The Room phenomenon. What prompted you to write a book about this strange journey?
Greg Sestero: Whenever I’d share stories of my experiences with Tommy and making The Room, people always thought they were too crazy to be true. Apart from the insanity, I also thought the story behind The Room was weirdly inspiring. When the movie developed an international cult following several years later, I thought it was the perfect time to share the story behind the journey. I felt it was a universal story that could appeal to more than just fans of The Room. It’s a story about following your dreams, a very odd friendship and a surreal variation on the American dream. As Tommy would say, ‘That’s life.’
At what moment did you realise The Room had become its own beast, or was it a phenomenon that crept up on you?
GS: In an odd way, you could say The Room rescued me. It hadn’t been a part of my life for several years. I’d been living Europe for a while, working in print and commercials. I’d just escaped getting killed in a bar scam in Istanbul and returned to the US. To my surprise, I was contacted by Clark Collis – a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly – about doing a piece on The Room. He was captivated by his first theatrical experience and wanted to share it with the world. Clark ended up writing a six-page article for EW that exposed the cult underground The Room had created. After the article, screenings began happening all over the world. In 2010, Tommy and I did an event at the Ziegfeld Theatre in NYC. It sold out 1,200 seats a week prior to the screening. One of the managers of the theatre said it was the first film to do so since the rerelease of Star Wars in 1997.
The book paints a vivid portrait of Tommy, and it’s often not a pretty sight. Some of your descriptions of him are laugh-out-loud funny. Did you decide early on that you weren’t going to hold back in telling your side of this story, warts and all?
I felt the only way to tell the story was to be as honest as possible. Tell it from the heart and even go into the darker moments of things I’m not particularly proud of. Tommy is such a fascinating character and I wanted to do his journey justice as well.
Did you tell Tommy you were writing the book?
Tommy was the first person I told. I interviewed throughout the writing process and he was supportive overall.
Has he given you any feedback on it?
Tommy has called it ‘the red bible’. He approves of it between 40% and 50%.
Ultimately, in spite of some of the darker, more menacing aspects of Tommy’s personality, the book suggests that passion and relentless drive are his key redeeming qualities. Could he ever persuade you to work with him again?
Well, those who come to the tour will be treated to a surprise reveal 15 years in the making.
James Franco has just made The Masterpiece (a feature based on The Disaster Artist), with Dave Franco playing you alongside a pretty incredible cast. Does it feel empowering to know you’ve set in motion the next phase of The Room’s weird journey?
Being on the set of The Masterpiece with such an incredible cast was extremely rewarding. It definitely made the whole journey worth it.
Are you at all nervous about seeing how the film turns out?
I was lucky enough to watch a cut of the film and it’s phenomenal. I can’t wait for everyone to experience it.
What can audiences expect from your UK tour?
I’ll be showing an exclusive making of The Room documentary, book reading, Q&A and one of my favourite Room activities – bringing audience members on stage to read scenes from The Room‘s original script. And I will also update everyone on what Tommy and I are up to now. I can promise it’ll be every bit as dislocating as Johnny’s birthday party.
The Disaster Artist: A Night Inside The Room With Greg Sestero
Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool – Wed 5 Oct, 8.30 | Book tickets
The Cameo, Edinburgh – Thu 6 Oct, 8.30 | Book tickets
Picturehouse Central, London’s West End – Tue 18 Oct, 8.30 | Book tickets
Duke of York’s, Brighton – Wed 19 Oct, 9.00 | Book tickets