By Meaghan Lawrence
CALGARY — If you’ve been lucky enough to have seen the cult classic film called The Room (not to be confused with the Brie Larson-starring Room), you’ve likely told a number of people to watch it – friends, family, even strangers. And what do you tell them? It is the strangest film you will ever see.
Nothing about the plot is especially amiss on paper. The Room is the story of Johnny (Tommy Wiseau), a man who seemingly has it all – a great job, a nice home in San Francisco and great friends and family. But all goes awry when his girlfriend, Lisa, begins an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero).
What makes the movie so odd is… well, everything else. The dialogue appears to have been written by someone who doesn’t have a strong command of the English language. The character motivations throughout are nonsensical, and there somehow appears to be a strange overdubbing of lines.
How can one film be such a disaster in every category? Greg Sestero, co-star of the film, told all in the retrospective book called The Disaster Artist, released in 2013. Courtesy of The Fifth Reel, Sestero will tell all on June 3 at the Plaza Theatre.
Sestero says the film emerged out of one man’s “full creative control” – Tommy Wiseau served in many roles, including lead actor, writer, director and producer.
According to The Disaster Artist, Wiseau and Sestero met in an acting class in 1998. They struck up an odd friendship – Sestero, a young aspiring actor who had dabbled in modeling in Milan, and Tommy, assumingly middle-aged with a nondescript European drawl.
Sestero says they forged a “bizarre artistic friendship” and helped propel each other towards their dream careers. Sestero was hesitant to get involved with The Room, but with some convincing he took on the co-starring role as Mark.
Thirteen years after the fact, Sestero is making his first trip to Calgary on his Disaster Artist book tour. He says audience members can expect a few different things from the evening – including a screening of the short documentary he made about the film, which he calls a “ behind the scenes comedy tour,” as well as audience participation-led reading of the original script.
So why, 10 years after The Room was released, did Sestero choose to recount his personal story?
“When The Room came out, I didn’t think many people would see it. But as it began to pick up steam around 2009 to 2010, people had all these questions,” he says. “It was such a long twisted story, if people knew how it went down I thought it would be just as entertaining as the film itself.
“It’s obviously a story about an offbeat cult film but also the story of these opposite friends at different points in their lives. I thought there was a lot of relatable material in there. It is also a kind of a take on this surreal American dream.”
With the title of the book being “Disaster Artist,” one has to wonder if the decades-long friendship between Wiseau and Sestero remained intact after the book’s release.
“Tommy approves of about 40 to 50 per cent of the book. My goal with the book was really to show what it’s like to make your dreams come true, to pursue art,” Sestero says. “I think in the end Tommy kind of comes out in a hero in a way.
“We all have a dream – whether it’s writing a book, a movie or an album, and we don’t do it because we are scared it won’t be good. Tommy just went for it and regardless of the success or interpretation, he said something to say and people responded to it.
“So it has kind of thrown me off of what artistic success is, because you start off wanting to making the movies that inspire you, like Sunset Boulevard or Back to the Future.”
Sestero says The Room differs from other bad films because Wiseau was “so sincere in the message he was trying to tell. There is nothing else like it that created the communal experience that doesn’t really exist with other films. So it just kind of rose to the top of the theatrical experience.”
Speaking of the theatrical experience – The Disaster Artist is getting its own film adaptation. Led by James Franco and Seth Rogen. Franco and younger brother Dave Franco are set to play Wiseau and Sestero respectively.
The film boasts an impressive cast, including Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston and Sharon Stone.
“I gave them as much material as I could. The script was done by the guys who did 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now, and they did a really masterful job of the script to make it really interesting for people who haven’t seen (The Room),” Sestero says. “I think the big thing when handing over your material to have it adapted is just to give it to people who get it and understand the story. This is exactly this story I wanted to tell.”
If you would like to hear the story from the man himself, tickets are still available for Oh Hi, Mark – An Evening with Greg Sestero June 3, courtesy The Fifth Reel. Hosting will be provided by The Kinkonauts, and the Fifth Reel will have beer for sale in the lobby. Tickets are $20 for non-members and $15 for members. For more information, visit fifthreel.ca.AB, Alberta, Greg Sestero, Plaza Theatre, The Disaster Artist, The Fifth Reel, The Room