Monday, May 29, 2023

The Disaster Artist

Hanging out in The Room With Actor-Turned-Writer Greg Sestero


It's a fine line, sometimes, between fame and infamy. But when it comes to Hollywood and the movie industry, the general rule of thumb is still that old canard "There's no such thing as bad publicity." And so, when unknown actor Tommy Wiseau decided to write, direct, produce and star in his own debut feature back in 2003—a bafflingly bad romantic drama called The Room—it was no great surprise that the film became a cult classic. Midnight movie crowds were soon flocking to theaters in droves, reciting dialogue in Wiseau's impenetrable accent and flinging plastic spoons at the screen. Somehow, the film took on a life of its own, moving beyond the movie screen and into the public consciousness.

Ten years after the film came out to both ridicule and rabid appreciation, Wiseau's occasionally confused co-star Greg Sestero, who played "Mark," wrote a witty behind-the-scenes account of the film's creation. The nonfiction book, titled The Disaster Artist, became a New York Times best-seller. In 2017 the film rights to the book were snapped up by actor James Franco. Franco directed, produced and starred in the film version of The Disaster Artist as the inscrutable auteur Tommy Wiseau. Franco's younger brother Dave acted alongside him as Greg Sestero. The end result—a now hilariously self-referential film about the filming of a bad film—attracted a great deal of praise. It won James Franco a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and locked down a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards.

Greg Sestero, the young actor whose burgeoning career once looked all but sunk by a poor choice of vehicles, is now touring the country with "Oh, Hi Mark! An Evening Inside The Room with Greg Sestero." Sestero watches The Room with fans, answers intimate questions about the making of the film and signs copies of his book. The tour passes through Albuquerque on the evening of Dec. 11 at Guild Cinema (which has hosted more that one crazed, spoon-filled screening of The Room over the years).

The Paper. took the opportunity to chat with Sestero about his cinematic/literary legacy of a life trapped inside The Room.

The Paper.: So, you're coming to Albuquerque, eh?

Greg Sestero: Yeah. The last time I was through, I did a "Breaking Bad" tour with my friends. We went around to all the locations, because I'm the biggest "Breaking Bad" fan. Went to Albuquerque, went to the car wash, went to Pollos Hermanos. Later on I met the actor who plays Gus at the Disaster Artist premiere at South By Southwest. I've been on set. I met Brian Cranston, which was amazing. I told him about my trip there. I've met Bob Odenkirk as well. So, I've lived a pretty good "Breaking Bad" life. And the composer who did the score for "Breaking Bad," Dave Porter, did the score for Disaster Artist.

I've run into a few of those guys myself. They're hard to avoid here in Albuquerque.

Yeah, I can imagine. So, I'm really stoked to come back now and actually do a show there. I've always wanted to do a show there. I used to go to New Mexico as a kid. We'd do these road trips. We went to Santa Fe. We went to the reservations. And to Albuquerque. I love that part of New Mexico. And I'm actually writing a UFO abduction film that I'm hoping to set up in New Mexico next year. I've always been a big fan of New Mexico, so I'm stoked.

You'll be at Albuquerque's Guild Cinema. I actually spent 15 years booking and hosting Midnight Movies there. I booked The Room when it first came out.

Awesome. You were ahead of the curve.

At the time Tommy Wiseau was handling all the bookings directly. There was no distributor, per se. And I recall Tommy was still very serious about the film. He was a little hesitant at the idea of midnight screenings. He wanting regular 7pm bookings and wasn't sure about the idea of late-night screenings.

Yeah, I mean, every creator has an idea or vision of something, and it's always interesting to see where the audience goes with it. Obviously, we're here 20 years later, the audiences are passionate about it. They love it. That's why I wrote The Disaster Artist, to tell the story. It's cool that Tommy made this movie two decades ago, the book came out almost a decade ago, and these pieces of work are still beloved by so many people around the world. And I think, even if if it's not a "seven o'clock movie," it's just great to see the progression of this bizarre story.

When you and Tommy started working on this film, you were just a couple of guys in acting class. At what point in making the film, or wrapping it up, did you start to get a hint of what the future might be?

It was the one project that I worked on that I didn't think much of. I was just helping a friend make a film. I had been out in LA for years for mainstream and major projects. And it was one of those things where I was, like, "This is obviously not going to go anywhere for many reasons." And I just figured I could move on with my life. Then it came out and, obviously, a few years later, there were college kids, film students that loved it. I thought, "Oh, that's cool. People are getting it." I was always intrigued about how people would perceive Tommy. Would it be the same way I did in that acting class? That sort of bizarre character/comedic entertainment.

It wasn't until 2009/2010 that it started to really catch on. We started hearing about celebrity fans. We started going out to New York, then London. Cities around the country. And people were just really, really taking to it. I think it really hit when we went to New York. In 2010 we sold out the Ziegfeld in New York. Twelve-hundred seats. First film to do that since the re-release of Star Wars. That's where I was, like, the passion here is really deep. There's nothing else like this.

That's where I thought, "Hey, people like this story and they enjoy The Room. If only they knew the story behind the making of The Room." Our friendship. It had shades of Sunset Boulevard and Boogie Nights. I was, like, that could actually make a really compelling film. And that's why I wrote the book. Take the story that most people see as "the worst movie ever made" and have that story be made into a great, award-winning film. So I started out with that goal. Probably something a little delusional back in 2011/2012. But I really tried to capture these two friends who their only connection was this creation that they shared.

So, then the book gets snapped up for a mainstream movie adaptation. How was it to hear that guys like James Franco and Seth Rogen wanted to make it?

It was incredibly surreal. I loved Franco, he had done James Dean and 127 Hours. When I started writing the book that movie was out, and I saw the book everywhere. A book turned into a movie. It all lined up in a very strange way that felt like destiny. I heard from them, and I just thought they were such a great team at making comedies. And I thought this could be a really interesting project for them. And I loved the screenwriters they got. The whole experience was just surreal in every way, and it was a great reward. So many people might be embarrassed to be in a bad movie, and I'm, like, "Hey, you know, it's really about what the audience thinks." You don't make movies for yourself, you make them for a crowd. And if they love The Room and they wanna be there and they wanna talk about it, then in some ways you owe it to them to support it.

Oh, Hi Mark! An Evening Inside The Room with Greg Sestero.

Guild Cinema (3405 Central Ave. NE)

Saturday, Dec. 11 7pm



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