A Turn of Events: How Greg Sestero Made ‘The Best Bad Movie of All Time’ into an Award-Winning Succe
The Disaster Artist, starring James Franco, is the real life story of Tommy Wiseau, the man behind cult-classic film dubbed, ‘the best bad movie of all time.’ In the original film, The Room, Tommy writes, directs, produces and stars in the 99 minute film with costar and friend Greg Sestero. The film was originally criticized for its unresolved subplots and random off-beat scenes but then hailed as a cult-classic for the same reasons. Fifteen years later, it still screens around the world, and now, The Disaster Artist, the film adaptation of Greg Sestero’s book is a star-studded, award-winning film. The hilarious film recounts the behind-the-scenes narrative of mysterious, enigmatic Tommy Wiseau and the backstory of Tommy and Greg’s unlikely friendship.
What was your initial reaction to The Disaster Artist’s adaptation of your book?
I’ve always been a believer of think big, big things can happen, and I really started out with that notion… but nothing did happen. But at the same time, I kept that attitude. So when I got the opportunity to write the book, the first idea I had was for it to become its own movie. I created a cast list and my goal was for it to become an award-winning movie. What a great challenge to have something that was considered so bad and then have a movie is so good - that it would win an award. So that was my goal from the get-go. I was always hoping for it to play out that way. But there’s so many things that need to happen for a movie to get made - not even for it to be good but just to get made. So when it happened... it's one of those things where you realize, 'wow these things can happen' and there's no reason not to be positive or hopeful. It was extreme validation after so many years of trying to work on things you’re proud of.
What do you think of Dave Franco’s portrayal of you in the Disaster Artist? And is that who you would have pictured playing you initially?
I initially had Javier Bardem and Ryan Gosling playing the parts, back in 2011 when I first started on the book. So when James Franco came about, I thought it was a really interesting choice that I hadn’t thought of. And I had only seen Dave in one film and didn’t even realize he was James’ brother. At the time, I was thinking, if anyone wanted to make it, I was appreciative! When I saw the movie, I definitely thought it worked and their relationship had the right sensibilities. I think it worked better than most people were anticipating. Dave is a great guy and understands what it’s like to be a young actor and work your way out there - and to be a part of projects that you think are going to work and then they don’t - and how that affects you.
What did you think of James Franco’s portrayal of Tommy?
It was incredible. What a hard role to play, it’s not just the physicality, you have to get into Tommy’s mind, and very few people… no one has done that really. When I wrote the book, I was very much in Tommy’s mind, but I’ve known him for so long, but James was able to … I gave him a lot of material and he was able to access it and really understands him …. He said in a Q & A that he’s more like Tommy than he’s scared to admit and I really started to think that was true because some of his responses were so Tommy… and that’s what made the performance so rich… he wasn’t just doing an impersonation he created his own version of Tommy.
A lot of people saw humor in the fact that Tommy attempted to take the mic during James Francos Golden Globe speech. What do you think he would have said if he got ahold of the mic?
He wanted to say that the American dream is a lie… I think? But who knows if that’s what he would have said. I think James was thinking … this may not go well, who knows what he’s going to say… But I thought that moment summed up everything so well because I mean who goes up on stage and then reaches for the mic during someone else’s award speech. But I feel like Tommy felt that he had waited long enough and was invited up there to share the award in some way - it’s what makes this whole thing work so well - is that he’s unpredictable.
I read that you think Tommy was kind of pigeon-holed as an actor after The Room. Do you think your career was affected in anyway?
Definitely affected. But that happens anytime you’re in a movie that people see. Whether it’s amazing or terrible… you’re put on the map and it’s up to you what you do from there because you can either prove people right or you can prove people wrong. And I think it’s up to you, the direction you take. For me, after The Room, people asked if I wanted to do Reality TV to play off The Room, but I wasn’t interested in playing off of it because it was uncharted territory… a bad movie that screens around the world for years… it’s interesting to me because what brings people back… but for me, I want to get back to doing the work I always wanted to do - and I think you can - if you have something to offer.
You just need to decide what’s fulfilling for you and try to pursue it - if you do the right kind of work that’s sincere and articulate then people will follow you. But a lot of time, people get scared when they’re in a cult thing and try to move away from it, because you fall into this comfort zone because people accept you as something, and it’s scary to move away from that. It’s so rare to be apart of a film that really connects with people, so you can’t be afraid, you need to be doing this for the right reasons and that’s to make stuff and you have to go back and keep creating and then see what people think.
You guys reunited in Best Friends, which you wrote and starred in, and part two is set to release in the fall… can you tell me about your experience and inspiration behind it?
I’ve always been a big lover of movies, and obviously, with The Room it was something I didn’t think anyone was going to see and then it’s interesting because I didn't even know there was a market for bad movies… so when I wrote the book, I took that angle of my love for storytelling and film-making and so I thought it would be a fun challenge to write a film about a story that would be unique and in line with some of my favorite genres and also put Tommy in there in a role that the audience would be interested seeing him in. Because after The Room, they assume all he can do is off beat caricature comedy, and I thought it was a great challenge to give him a part where he could surprise the audience and fit a role and be good and interesting! So I tried to make something that I would be passionate about and would combine both of those elements. So fans would be able to enjoy the reunion but also see something new and fresh - The Room has been screening for fifteen years now, so people have seen it. What a great reward to make something where we both really tried, and not just phoned in giving them fan service but really try to do something ambitious, and doing something fifteen years later was a great challenge.
Fifteen years is a long time. Was it a different experience filming with him the second time around?
Much different. I’ve changed a lot. He has as well. He was ready to do something different. He was more confident in himself and more willing to collaborate. We were both just ready to try to do something different. I never really tried when I did The Room with him because I didn't think it was a movie anyone was going to see. It was very alien-like being there, and was like, “How do you commit to this?” And so it was really cool that we were on a project where we were both able to fully commit.
You’re obviously very busy with screenings, but do you have any goals or anything next for you on your radar?
We have volume two coming out officially in the Fall, the next thing I want to work on is a horror film … these two movies tease that direction a little bit but the next thing I want to do is something totally different from this. I love the new wave of horror films that have come out, like ‘Get Out’ and ‘The Babadook’ so I’d love to try and do something in that genre.