What a fascinating concept! Making an in-depth study of the making of possibly the worst film made in the last forty years, The Room (2002). James Franco directs and stars in the film portraying mysterious artist Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, acted, directed and financed The Room (2002) believing all the while he was creating a masterpiece.
Wiseau is quite a character. Speaking in a strange European accent, though claiming to be from New Orléans, older than the young people he hangs out with, dressing oddly to stand out, a long, thick mane of jet black hair, possessed of a strange fascination with James Dean, and seemingly wealthy, able to easily finance a six million dollar film, he was unique. Like Ed Wood before him, he had the ambition, but lacked any of the talent. Watching The Room (2002) one sees how dreadful his “acting” is, as there are dreadful line readings, awkward moments, ridiculous love scenes that no one needed to see, but what is truly extraordinary about this new film is the spot on recreation of the scenes in The Room and the behind the scenes shooting of the picture.
Franco is astounding as Wiseau, going beyond a mere performance and inhabiting the character in every possible way. The actor has been on everyone’s radar since his Golden Globe winning performance in the title role of James Dean (2000) for Showtime. Over night he became one of the most exciting new actors in the business. He was since given remarkable performances in 127 Hours (2010) as Aaron Ralston, who cut his own arm off to free him from a canyon where he surely would have perished, and he won a slew of critics Awards for Spring Breakers (2012) portraying a dread locked, dangerous criminal preying on young girls in Florida.
With The Disaster Artist he does the best work of his career, nailing Tommy Wiseau in every way in his performance, from the bizarre accent, the non censored conversations, his wildly out of control acting in acting classes, that is horribly self indulgent and his fervent belief he was creating a masterpiece. In an inspired piece of casting Franco cast his younger brother Dave as Wiseau’s only friend Greg, who goes to LA with him, gets involved in the business and then suggests to Tommy they make their own movie. With that, they are off and running. Believing with all his heart he was a great actor waiting to be found, a fine director and writer, he is blinded by his sheer ambition.
The making of the film is the driving force of the narrative, and it is hysterically funny, but also a little bit sad because Wiseau is truly deluded about his talents. Offered advice, he ignores it, offered technical advice he always knows better, and he becomes paranoid about all those working with him. He and Greg finally have a falling out until a year later when Tommy contacts him to attend the premiere of the film.
The Room (2002) has since become something of a cult classic, watched and talked too as it is unspooling onto the screen. The performance of Wiseau is a new low in film acting, unintentionally hilarious, to which audiences respond beautifully. Though Wiseau was initially angry that no one took his film seriously, he realized the pure joy he was giving the laughing audiences.