It’s been 15 years and a day since the premiere of The Room back in 2003. Since then, the film has gained a reputation as the ‘Best Worst Movie Ever Made’, amassing a cult following and regular screenings worldwide.
Last week, Collage contributor Milly Farmer sat down with the film’s co-star Greg Sestero to discuss The Room, Greg’s book The Disaster Artist and its Oscar-nominated film adaptation, and the next cinematic installment from Tommy Wiseau and Sestero, Best F(r)iends.
GREG: Hello, how are you? ……How’s my Australian accent?
M: *not detecting an attempt at an Aussie accent at all* …it’s great!
G: Someone told me in Sydney that I had the worst Australian accent they’ve ever heard.
M: Aww no!
I must mention that I had spent 12 hours of the last week listening to the audiobook of The Disaster Artist. As a result, I may have spent too much of my interview time retelling Greg Sestero’s life story to Greg Sestero…
M: To start things off, as advised I’ve listened to the audiobook of The Disaster Artist**, and I loved it! The book first details meeting Tommy Wiseau in acting class at 18. It was you that approached him to be your partner?
G: Scene partner, yeah. There was just something there that I found, um, unique and… refreshingly odd. I was tired of following the trends of doing things the right way. There was something about him that was mysterious and drew me in, I was like, you know what, I’ll try to do something different.
M: That was a really big moment in your lives. From that moment, it seems you both became best friends.
G: *laughs* It will be 20 years of our friendship next month which is just crazy.
M: Unreal! From meeting in acting class, you both move together to LA because Tommy happens to have an apartment there. In the film, it’s a really funny scene where you [portrayed in the film by Dave Franco] are leaving your childhood home in Tommy’s car. Your mum is disbelieving… but in the book I got a different impression? It seemed like she, on some level, trusted Tommy?
G: I mean, I think she was very concerned, I think most moms would be. Maybe she thought… it was like back and forth… she was definitely concerned… but uh, now, I think she gets it. After all this time.
M: You spent many years in LA after that, getting a few roles [including 1999 horror film, Retro Puppet Master]. But after a while, that faded away and you started working [as a high street retail assistant]. During this time, Tommy is writing the screenplay for The Room [in which Greg is cast as the aloof Mark].
The filming process of The Room, explained in The Disaster Artist, sounds exasperating, so… interesting and tricky. With this new film you’ve worked on together, Best F(r)iends, was the process different now that you were the one who wrote the screenplay? Did you have more control?
G: Yeah, Best F(r)iends was something that I feel like was a lot easier to put together because Tommy, as an actor in a role that he fits, already right there you’re able to enjoy him. He didn’t have to plan too much, he’d just show up and focus on acting and I think that’s suited us more with this project.
M: Well, in The Room, Tommy wrote his character as “All-American” …
G: Mm, it was a lot—Plus, it was the first film he’d ever done, it was like the learning curve. People don’t really know how he works. Everybody [involved in making Best F(r)iends] was there to make the best film possible, everyone knew their role.
M: Best F(r)iends is in two volumes?
G: Just think like Kill Bill, two different films.
M: *having never seen the Kill Bill films* Oh right, awesome. I’m seeing Best F(r)iends tonight actually.
G: So this is your first time, OK.
M: I also heard that Tommy’s singing voice will be in the film?
G: Yep, he can sing.
M: Of course! He’s so talented… I read somewhere that you wrote this film just to please Tommy?
G: Well, it was a chance to give him to be an actor. Nobody’s really used him properly and I thought, this is the time to do it. Seeing him in a starring role that he can deliver, and not have to deal with these other shenanigans. Something where he can just be himself, in a film that will be shot properly.
M: Would you ever think that the behind the scenes footage from the making of The Room ever reach the light of day?
G: I just thought, when making The Room, what are the odds of this film ever getting seen. So many movies are made each year in big studios with stars and people are putting publicity and money into them. With this film I thought, who’s ever going to wanna see it? It didn’t have anybody in it… people say it doesn’t make any sense.
But here we are fifteen years later to the day that it premiered, and round the world people are still talking about it.
M: Was it easier to film with Tommy a second time around?
I could appreciate him more this time around, especially because we were both committed to him delivering a good performance. I think, a lot of the time people try to prod him, like he’s kind of a circus animal that people are trying to get—they don’t get it quite right. I feel like in Best F(r)iends he delivers the same calibre of performance, like in The Room, but in a way that’s more compelling and believable.
M: Was Best F(r)iends filmed at the same time as The Disaster Artist?
G: Filming began when The Disaster Artist wrapped.
M: Did you visit the set of The Disaster Artist?
G: Yeah, it was amazing. It was really inspiring to go to the set and visiting all these creative people who are working so hard but having so much fun. That’s what I wanted to experience.
Now, listening to the audiobook, for you, how do you feel about the film’s adaptation of the story?
M: In the book, it’s a lot more understandable as to why your parents let you leave at eighteen with Tommy. Your mother… She’s French Canadian?
M: Well, in the book it explains that Tommy speaks French with your mother and that built a little bit of a foundation to let you go to LA with him.
M: And obviously, the book focuses more on you as it’s your story but, as an aspiring biographer, I really loved when you went into the story of Pierre [Tommy Wiseau?].
G: That was one of my favourite parts of the book, because you’re giving the reader some mysterious passages and it’s better to let your reader keep guessing what is going on.
M: And also, filming the scene with the pug *laughs*
G: Oh my god, when we were filming it, it was like move on and get this over with, but there are so many moments there that just entertained so many people.
M: Also, the coffee shop scene and how it was put together so quickly!
G: So anyway, how’s your sex life?
M: *laughs a bit too loudly to disguise how flustered that unexpected Room quote made me* Exactly! I gave my friend a sticker with that quote on it!
Has Tommy read it?
G: I think he has, there are some things in the book he says that hadn’t been said.
M: You must have really gotten to know him because you really go in-depth with intense things that have happened in his life.
G: Yeah, I had to interview him quite a bit.
M: So, you didn’t just write it and go “Here it is!” to Tommy.
G: *laughs* No, he was the first person that I told about eight years ago. It was published five years ago, then three weeks after the book was published, James Franco called. He was reading the book, and he’d never seen The Room and he thought, ‘This story is insane and I relate to it. I wanna make it.’ The Disaster Artist provides a much more understandable viewpoint on the making of The Room.
M: How does Tommy feel about James Franco winning a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Tommy?
I’m sure it’s an intriguing feeling, but Tommy’s a great character and gave us great material and a great story. James really did his work, he listened to all Tommy’s audio tapes and studied him, and really kinda understood where he was coming from. I think James did an incredible job, it’s a really hard role to pull off. I think a lot of fans didn’t wanna accept that someone could play him, they were very sceptical. Once they saw Franco do it, the acceptance and the praise from all the fans were, ‘He nailed it’.
M: Absolutely! Thanks so much for your time.
G: Thank you.
M: Nice meeting you, and I’ll see you at the Best F(r)iends premiere.
G: Oh yeah! The next journey.
That night I arrive at Palace Nova Cinemas to a crowd of excited, chatty fans. I spot some young men dressed in tuxedos throwing an American football. Greg is signing copies of his book and taking photos with people amongst the ecstatic atmosphere.
When watching Best F(r)iends, the audience are in tears… of laughter. I recommend watching this film with friends and drinks… how one would watch The Room.
*Oh hai, Mark
**What a story, Mark!