The Disaster Artist gives Greg Sestero a Room of his own

The Disaster Artist - Dave Franco (left) as Greg Sestero and James Franco as Tommy Wiseau.
The Disaster Artist - Dave Franco (left) as Greg Sestero and James Franco as Tommy Wiseau.

Greg Sestero??? has been living with The Room, famously referred to as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies", for close on two decades now. It gave him his first big acting role, and more or less ensured he would struggle to land another.

It flopped appallingly on its cinema debut in 2002 but has since gone into profit thanks to its cult status around the world. And it provided the fodder for his bestselling and really rather good book The Disaster Artist, which has now been turned into a film directed by and starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau???, the writer-director-producer-star of The Room.

All in all, you could say The Room has been both a curse and a blessing for Sestero, who is in Australia to do double duty - spruiking Franco's movie-based-on-his-book and yet another round of screenings of the film that started the whole crazy phenomenon in which audiences chant lines of dialogue and toss plastic spoons at the screen at key moments.

So, do you ever get tired of talking about it? "No," he says, after a thoughtful pause. "It's the one thing that's given you a chance to be a creator, and anything you've been a part of is something you should be really grateful for, anything that people are interested in talking to you about. Because the worst thing is that you create stuff that no one has any interest in.

"There are millions of people around the world that want to be artists and want to make stuff to entertain people, but nobody cares. The fact that people still want to talk about this, you owe it to those people to give them your thoughts on it."

Sestero refers to himself in the second person a lot, almost as if he's putting a little bit of distance between himself and the character in his book who was a 19-year-old wannabe actor when he met the enigmatic Wiseau in a San Francisco acting class in 1998.

Three years later, having moved to LA to chase the big breaks that never came, the pair embarked upon The Room. Wiseau ploughed at least $5 million, and probably closer to $6 million, of his own money into what has been called "the most expensive home movie ever made" (it's also been called a lot of other things, most of them not very nice). It took just $1800 in its first run.

Where Wiseau's money came from is something of a mystery. Ditto his origins, though his accent suggests eastern Europe. His age, too, is unknown.

"I do know a lot of that now but I still love the idea of the mystery," says Sestero. "That's one of the great things about Tommy - there's just a lot of unknown, it keeps you interested."

If you had to guess, where would you say he's from and what age would you say he is? "Transylvania, and he's 95 years old. That would be my hope. Anything less I would be disappointed."

Like anyone who has ever seen it (if you haven't, there are plenty of boiled-down eight or nine-minute versions of its most egregiously awful moments on YouTube), Sestero knows The Room is a terrible movie. But the key to its perverse appeal is its earnestness.

Wiseau quickly began to claim he had deliberately set out to make a quirky dark comedy, but in truth he sought to make a genuine romantic tragedy in which he cast himself as a modern-day James Dean.

"The Room was such a specific piece of cinema that worked because it was so sincere," Sestero says. "That's the thing that's great about The Room, it's something that will never happen in the same way again."

With The Disaster Artist, audiences finally have a chance to see Wiseau through a different prism. And perhaps surprisingly, the view isn't all bad.

Sestero was on set a couple of times a week and even has a fleeting cameo (in the audience at the premiere of The Room). He was inspired by Franco's production to write and produce a movie of his own - unbelievably, starring himself and Wiseau.

Best (F)riends is, he says, "completely separate to The Room, it has nothing to do with The Room. It's just its own bizarre LA noir story about these two odd friends but in a whole new environment."

It is also, he says, a chance to recast the public perception of a man with whom he still speaks almost every day.

"It was an incredible experience, so much better than The Room," he says. "I think Tommy's really great in it and that was my goal. I thought, 'Hey maybe there's one more chapter here, I can give him a chance to be an actor, like he did for me'.

"I didn't plan on ever working with him again," he says. "But I'm glad I didn't just let The Room define us and let that be what we are capable of."

The Disaster Artist is at the Hayden Orpheum in Sydney, Luna Cinemas in Perth and Cinema Nova in Melbourne from November 30 and on general release from December 7. The Room screens on the first Friday of each month at The Orpheum??? and at Cinema Nova on the first Saturday.

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This story The Disaster Artist gives Greg Sestero a Room of his own first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.