To those outside of a cult, it understandably looks like nothing short of insanity. How a group of people can hinge on the Word and Will of an individual who seems, clearly, out of their mind is unfathomable to some. I am one of those people who sees a Heaven’s Gate or a certain group of Naval-obsessed folk and see just that: little to no sense. Because of my relationship to The Room, I also openly acknowledge I am a hypocrite.
The Room is an anomaly. A gesamtkunstwerk in its purest form: one man driving a production that is a San Francisco-set Tennessee Williams homage to him and a San Francisco-set train wreck to everyone else. To watch The Room is either to love it or to question why others love it. To see it live, with a group of those who sit in the latter category, is to take a trip to another planet.
I’ve been tip-toeing around the man himself; the one, the only, Tommy Wiseau. I’ve seen Tommy Wiseau; I’ve spoken with Tommy Wiseau. He is every bit as bizarre and extraordinary as his portrayal of “all-American good guy” Johnny in his magnum opus would go to show.
It was the winter of 2015, and I had just read Marc Sestero’s (Wiseau’s The Room co-star and maybe-crush) The Disaster Artist, an account of Sestero’s life as an actor before, during and after The Room, and more importantly – an account of his relationship with the mysterious and enigmatic Wiseau. I went to see a screening of The Room featuring a Q&A with Our Man Tommy in all of his sun-glassed and greasy-haired glory. I was starstruck; in awe that this man could command not just an entire two-tiered balcony in Royal Oak, Michigan, but ME – me, who has always been the skeptic; forever and aggressively against dogma – I could be rallied and commanded by a man who barely put a sentence together. I put myself together and got in line to ask a question.
It had recently been announced that James Franco and the Living Gods that are A24 would be bringing back to life Sestero’s memoirs, with Franco in line to play Wiseau. My question, naturally, was related to this adaptation: “Tommy, how do you feel about the news that James Franco would be adapting this story and playing you?”
Tommy thought for a moment and responded (to thunderous applause): “I am not afraid of James Franco.”
Watching this trailer, I feel the same anxiety, the same desperation as felt by Sestero and Co. as they try, take after take, to hammer out one of the film’s most infamous scenes.
People have tattoos that read “Oh, hi Mark.” This is a line as famous as Marlon Brando shouting, “STELLA” or Clark Gable cooing his famously cold “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I admit, as I watched this, I was white-knuckled, sweating, waiting for the moment when Franco came out with it. And when he did, man. Choosing this moment for the first look was bold, but they couldn’t have chosen anything better.
This movie’s going to be weird.