Could James Franco humanising Tommy Wiseau via The Disaster Artist movie ruin enjoyment of The Room?
I found out about The Room when I started university, when my taste in humour was starting to shift more towards the Vic and Bob mould of comedy: wilful mediocrity, deadpan sincerity and surrealism. Tommy Wiseau’s The Room was therefore sort of the pinnacle of comedic achievement for me back then. It had it all: shitty production values and script, a totally alien moral barometer and absolutely no irony. It was doing everything people like Tim and Eric were busting their balls to achieve, but entirely by accident.
The Room, for me, did everything people like Tim and Eric were busting their balls to achieve, but entirely by accident
About two years ago, I went to a midnight screening of The Room at the Prince Charles Theatre with my brother and a friend from back in Newcastle. At this point I’d seen The Room maybe six or seven times and when I was told that Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero (Wiseau’s co-star) would be there, I was beside myself with excitement. While most people would be losing their shit over meeting, I don’t know, Jon Bon Jovi (?), I was weak at the knees over getting a glimpse at two failed actors whose only claim to fame was a film that has been dubbed ‘The Citizen Kane of bad movies.’
We got good and pissed beforehand and arrived early. The theatre was packed with denim-clad moustache guys in their 20s and 30s gabbling excitedly to one another. I’d heard that people often dress up as the characters at midnight screenings, but no one had bothered this time. No one could possibly outdo the Tommy Wiseau costume Tommy Wiseau had on. He was shorter than I was expecting and preposterously muscular, his lily-white, vascular body squeezed into a shirt and waistcoat far too small for him. He looked like he’d skinned a smaller man and was wearing him as a sort of grisly wet suit.
Wiseau was wearing a belt around his thighs; not around his waist, but his thighs, forcing him to waddle everywhere. We got our picture taken with him and Greg Sestero. I shook both of their hands, and told Greg Sestero I was a huge fan. “Look at Tommy’s right eye,” he said to me, “right there on the poster.” I did. Sure enough, Tommy Wiseau’s right eye on the garish mug-shot poster for The Room had seemed to roll, obscenely, to the back of his head. I laughed – Greg nodded and smiled, he didn’t laugh. He’d been telling people this all day; he was bored and knackered.
After meeting the real Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, I realised I’d broken The Room for myself. I’d humanised it
Throughout the rest of the night, I found it increasingly difficult to join in. I mean, I was there with my friends getting drunk at a midnight showing of The Room with its stars in attendance – this should have been a fucking blast. But I’d look over at them, stood near the back, near our seats, Tommy Wiseau’s face an inscrutable mask of madness, Greg Sestero’s tall, handsome silhouette visibly crumpling as he watched himself say those stupid fucking lines for the billionth time. I realised I’d broken The Room for myself. I’d humanised it. What was once a Dadaist masterpiece was now the insane vanity project of a deeply troubled man and my repeated viewings were just enabling him.
Just last week, James Franco announced he’d be directing an adaptation of The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero’s tell-all expose of the The Room’s inception and production. The Disaster Artist was a hotly-anticipated book, not only because any new Room ephemera is bound to go down well with its rabid fanbase, but because it would finally reveal the mysterious Wiseau’s past. I’m not going to read it and I’m not going to see James Franco’s film.
One’s enjoyment of The Room is contingent on engaging with the idea of Tommy Wiseau as an abstract character, but what happens when you’re faced with the reality? For me, just two hours in the man’s company was enough to make me feel guilty, like my catchphrase-calling and spoon-throwing was an expression of sneering derision, rather than a celebration of a film I enjoyed.
One’s enjoyment of The Room is contingent on engaging with the idea of Tommy Wiseau as an abstract character
Dramatising The Room’s remarkable journey from ill-conceived fever dream to white-hot cult sensation sounds like a great idea on paper – it’s got conflict, an, erm, engaging lead and agonising pathos all built into its real-life origin story. A film of The Disaster Artist could very well be the greatest thing that ever happened to The Room, catapulting it, and its deranged anti-humour, into the mainstream public consciousness. Or, more likely, The Disaster Artist will have the same effect on the rest of the world that meeting Wiseau had on me; the sobering realisation that I’ve been laughing at him all these years, not with him.
Featured image: Wiseau Films
Inset images: Wiseau Films; ed_needs_a_bicycle (via Flickr)