Thirteen years after he created one of the most brilliantly bad movies of all time, the man behind The Room has some big new ambitions.
Actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau spoke to Mark Butler about the phenomenon he unleashed, being played by James Franco in a new comedy about his career, and his desire to helm a certain major comic book movie.
It’s late at night, and I’m pacing around anxiously as I await a call from one of the most infamous ‘so bad it’s good’ movie makers in cinema history.
The phone rings, I put the receiver to my ear, and all the way from LA, speaking with that most distinctive of accents, writer/actor/director Tommy Wiseau utters two words I’ve been anticipating with a kind of giddy, childish, glee.
To the uninitiated, such a standard greeting might not seem anything remotely special. But to someone who’s an aficionado of Wiseau’s extraordinary 2003 film The Room, it’s like all my Christmases come at once.
These are fascinating times for Wiseau.
His bizarre melodramatic opus was an endearingly entertaining feast of shoddy acting, weird tonal shifts and garbled dialogue that attracted a huge cult following around the world – and has now inspired a major new Hollywood comedy.
Based on the best-selling book by Wiseau’s co-star, Greg Sestero, The Disaster Artist stars James Franco as Wiseau (along with a supporting cast including Bryan Cranston and Seth Rogen), and aims to provide a humorously dramatised insight into the making of the notorious picture.
Wiseau admits he was taken aback at this development.
“I did not expect it. I was skeptical in the beginning, but then I thought: ‘Why not?’ If they want to do it I’m not going to stand in their way.
“It’s flattering that someone would want to play me. Even though I don’t support Greg’s book one hundred per cent, it feels good.
“They actually gave me a little part. It’s opposite James Franco. We have a minute-long scene.
“I believe he’s a very good actor and I have the same interest as he does. He’s a cool guy.”
The Room continues to regularly screen to audiences all over the globe, who gather to indulge their collective love of the film, shout out their favourite lines, and hurl plastic cutlery about (if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know why).
Next week Wiseau travels to the UK for a series of special screenings, including several at Edinburgh’S Cameo Cinema.
Why does he think his movie has connected with so many people?
“It was original material, and very different from Hollywood. I encourage people to have fun with it and embrace it.
“It’s a good story. You can interact during the screening. You can say what you want,” he laughs.
His real laugh, you’ll be delighted to hear, is exactly the same distinctive, deliberate high-pitched ‘ha ha ha’ as in the movie.
Genuinely eccentric, there are glimmers of self-awareness when Wiseau speaks, though he insists when discussing The Room that “everything I did was done intentionally”.
Regardless, he’s delighted that a widespread cult of fans enjoy his work.
“I always discover something new from the audience every time. When people laugh at a line like: ‘How’s your sex life?’
“Sometimes people have a different opinion about what I created. But the main thing is that people have fun and are happy.”
He’s certainly a busy man these days.
As well as starring in his own surreal sitcom ‘The Neighbors’, an ingenious ‘so bad it’s good’ crossover twist landed him a role in ludicrous action sequel Samurai Cop 2 (“even though we’re not on the same page, I really enjoyed it”), and new projects include a movie called ‘Vampire Out Of Alcatraz’, and a thriller about the impact of the modern financial system, called Foreclosure.
“It’s about a crisis in America about buying a house, and not understanding what you signed. A character called Richard takes justice into his own hands. I want to inform people about the situation in America with banks and paperwork.
“But I’m not against banks,” he stresses.
Then there’s the moment where he casually drops his side-line as an underwear magnate into the conversation.
“I also design clothes. That’s a big thing for us the last couple of years.”
His biggest ongoing ambition, however, is to direct the next instalment in a major – and consistently mis-handled – superhero franchise.
“Are you familiar with a film called Fantastic Four?” he asks. “I don’t want to criticise, but I could do a better job. Yes, I’m serious.
“I have a vision about Fantastic Four. I’d love to do it. It’s a very good story but it can be told differently.
“The last one was pretty boring. A lot of the momentum was lost. It should be fast paced and actors should be much more emotional.”
[Can someone please give him the go-ahead to do this? It could even rival the wonderful 1994 Roger Corman version.]
Away from the world of comic books, Wiseau says he’d still like to do a prequel to The Room – a prospect he’s been mulling over for a while now.
And then there’s the idea of actually remaking The Room.
“Well, you know what? I’m actually considering it. My idea about The Room originally was that it was supposed to be a play. That’s my background. A stage actor.
“I did a test and changed my mind during the process. In America, you don’t have theatre the way you do in the UK. It’s a different story. The theatre tradition is very important.
“People have experimented with doing it on stage. Anyone can be a Johnny or a Lisa. We actually did it on stage once three years ago. Eventually we could go to Broadway.
“If I had billions of dollars I would re-make The Room frame by frame. I would consider re-shooting it.”
Then comes that ever-distinctive laugh again. And with that, Tommy Wiseau bids me a cheerful: “Bye Mark”.
The Room screens at the Cameo in Edinburgh on Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13, complete with live Q&As with Tommy Wiseau. For more information, visit the official site.
Tommy will also be at Liverpool FACT earlier that week.