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In The Room: The Francos Talk ‘The Disaster Artist’

As anyone who has seen The Disaster Artist knows, recreations of The Room scenes is not the only element that has been taken directly from the original film, as Wiseau himself also makes an appearance in the film in an end credit sequence. However, while Wiseau had made appearing in the film a big contractual point, he and James were not on the same page.

“Tommy clearly hadn’t read his contract very well, as that said that all we had to do was shoot a scene with him, but we didn’t have to put it in the movie. I actually did want him in the movie, though, as I thought it would be a cool kind of Hitchcockian thing to have him in the background. So we originally had this whole storyline where Greg was doing another movie called Retro Puppet Master in Romania, and we had shot a couple of scenes in Romania and were gently suggesting to Tommy that maybe he’d fit in…”

As the crowd laughs heartily at James’ tongue-in-cheek attempt to persuade Wiseau to allow him to poke fun at his suspected Eastern Bloc heritage, he soon reveals that Tommy had very different plans for his cameo. Insisting that he would only do a scene for the film if he got to play opposite James, explaining to Wiseau that appearing together with his doppelgänger would be utterly nonsensical fell on deaf ears. Thus, James gave in to Tommy’s demands, but he also prepared to tell him that the scene might not end up in the final cut of the movie.

“We wrote this scene where my Tommy is at a party with Greg, and he’s realized that Greg has all these friends that my Tommy doesn’t, so he’s pouting in a corner when Henry – the real Tommy’s character – comes over. Then Tommy texted me from a glasses shop three days before we shot the scene to ask me if I thought his character should wear glasses… but he’d also drawn on a mustache and goatee with Bic pen, and he said that if I liked it, he’d draw it on better for the shoot.”

Tommy Wiseau and James Franco at Toronto International Film Festival.

Having had very limited exposure to Wiseau’s well-documented weirdness at this point, James was initially somewhat alarmed about what would happen once the eccentric was unleashed on set. Nonetheless, the team went ahead with Wiseau’s wardrobe suggestions, substituted the Bic pen for more believable fake facial hair – and then everyone was won over by Wiseau.

“He was incredibly sweet, but it was a surreal night; I interviewed him in character and he didn’t bat an eye – it was like being interviewed by himself was the most natural thing in the world! Then we shot his scene – which was all improv – and it doesn’t really play or read in the scene, but he was hitting on me! Only he wasn’t hitting on me – he was hitting on himself! It was like the ultimate version of picking yourself up, which was so bizarre. We did put it in the first assemblage of the cut, but both me and my editor looked at each other and immediately agreed that it was too insane to remain in the final cut.”

Alas, when James decided that he wanted to feature side-by-side comparisons of his recreations of certain The Room scenes alongside the originals in the end credits, the contractual loopholes that had seemed as a fail-safe to leave Wiseau on the cutting room floor were rendered useless. Thus, with renegotiation being unavoidable, the aforementioned scene ended up being saved from fading into bonus material obscurity.

“Those recreated scenes were covered by the original contract, but we hadn’t negotiated for Tommy’s The Room footage because we didn’t know we were going to use it. In the middle of the renegotiation, he asks someone how his scene is coming along, and he ends up insisting that we put his scene in our movie in exchange for his footage. We’d thought that he wasn’t going to touch our movie, but he got his way in the end. I’m actually so glad that he pushed us to do it because we figured out we could just do it Marvel-style with an end credit sequence, and that that would be perfect for audiences like the one here in London, so it all worked out.”

With all the awards buzz The Disaster Artist has already generated, not to mention the thunderous applause it received from the select group of devotees on the cold November eve of this particular preview screening at the London home of The Room, it seems safe to conclude that James Franco’s adaptation of Greg Sestero’s book is a success in terms of its appeal as a slice of cinematic artistry. However, does Wiseau’s opinion of The Disaster Artist mirror the general consensus about the film? Dave shares his recollection of Wiseau’s first impression of their film.

“Tommy made the choice not to see our movie until we premiered it at SXSW, so he watched it for the first time with a thousand people. We were nervous about what he would think, but we figured he’d like it, just because we make him very sympathetic and human. During the screening, we were trying to look down the aisle to see what he was thinking, but he has his fucking sunglasses on, completely blank face, so I didn’t know what he thought, but the rest of the audience seemed to be liking it.”

Seth Rogen, Tommy Wiseau, James Franco, Greg Sestero and Dave Franco at SXSW.

Afterwards, the brothers anxiously approached Wiseau to ask him what he thought about their film. As numerous interviews have since revealed, Wiseau did indeed approve of The Disaster Artist – well, at least 99.9% of it. Initially claiming that the 0.01% he disliked about it was the lighting in the beginning, suggesting that it was a little too dark – which Dave points out may have had something to do with the fact that Wiseau was wearing sunglasses – Wiseau has since confronted James about how he has recounted their conversation.

“I told that story a bunch and he decided he didn’t like how he came off, so when we saw him at TIFF in Toronto, the first thing he says to me is that he never said it was the lighting. I told him I had no reason to make that story up, but he insisted that he’d never said that, and that the 0.01% he disliked was because of how I threw the football… You know, because he’s all-American and grew up throwing footballs…”

As the Prince Charles Cinema audience once again erupts in laughter at James’ sarcastic jab at Wiseau’s rather absurd nitpicking and questionable claims to be born and bred in America, James goes on to recount a recent interaction with Tommy that not only reaffirms how much of a labor of love making The Disaster Artist truly was to him, but also how endearing he finds Wiseau.

“Last week, we had some press with him in LA and then Greg texted me after, saying that he and Tommy were at Canter’s, the deli they read the script in and actually did hang out at. He says I should come and surprise him, so I showed up, and I call it ‘Honest Tommy Day’ because the first thing he said was that The Room wasn’t exactly the way he intended to be, but that he gets a reaction from audience and that that’s all he could’ve hoped for.”

Startled by this admission, James continues to talk about the meeting at Canter’s, sharing that Wiseau confided in him that he had seen The Disaster Artist three times at this point, and that he finds it very moving. This reaction may seem biased, but the film has indeed been commended for how it manages to be moving in between the laughter it constantly provokes, and keeping this balance was always at the forefront of James’ mind to ensure that Wiseau was done justice.

“Tonally, there was always a fine line to walk with this movie; the intention was to make it funny, but we didn’t approach it like an out-and-out comedy. Stopping short of Tommy saying he was going to commit suicide was a way of keeping that tonal balance and still making you really feel for him and understand that he was somebody whose dreams were being crushed.”

Maintaining this balance also stretched towards what the film was supposed to convey about the three questions Wiseau is always asked and always avoids to answer – how old he is, where he is from and how he made his money.

“As far as his past goes, we realized we wanted to maintain the mystery surrounding him because that’s one of the beauties of Tommy. We did touch on the three mysteries, but the point of the movie was not to unravel those mysteries, it was to actually reaffirm them because they are such a huge part of Tommy’s persona. What we did want to reveal is the emotional inner life of Tommy that you don’t necessarily get to experience when Tommy comes and does these Q&A’s himself; he’s everybody that has a dream, he’s everybody that is an outsider, and everybody that wants to break into an incredibly hard business like Hollywood, he understands what it’s like to struggle and face rejection… And that’s what The Disaster Artist is about – keeping the mystery and revealing the emotion.”

The Disaster Artist is in theaters now





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