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Franco brothers’ ‘Disaster Artist’ pays loving homage to ‘The Room’

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James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist.” (Courtesy Justina Mintz/A24)
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“We love ‘The Room!’ says James Franco, munching on melon slices. “We wanted to get as much of ‘The Room’ in there as we could.”

The “there” he is talking about, of course, is his new movie “The Disaster Artist,” opening locally today. It’s the wildly entertaining and touching story of weirdo auteur Tommy Wiseau and his movie, the awkward, so-bad-it’s-good cult classic “The Room” (2003).

Franco, who directed, produced and stars as Tommy in “The Disaster Artist,” was in town to promote the movie with his younger brother Dave Franco, who plays Tommy’s pal and co-star of “The Room,” Greg Sestero.

In “The Disaster Artist,” Greg isn’t nearly as showy as Tommy, but he’s the driving force, and the glue that makes it all work.

“If it was seen through Tommy’s POV, it would be bizarro,” James laughs.

When Dave met with the real-life Greg to work out his role, he mainly wanted to know two things. He wanted to know why Greg would stick by Tommy, and whether he ever thought “The Room” could be a good movie.

Dave explains that Tommy encouraged Greg early on, when no one else would. Then, just being on a movie set was exciting enough to ignore the fact that the movie was likely a disaster.

“I can completely relate to that,” Dave says. “When I was first starting out, I was working on things that people on the outside could see were bad, but I had this optimism that can blind you to what’s really going on.”

Meeting the real-life Tommy proved enlightening for the Franco brothers as well.

“If someone made a movie about my life, I would be so overwhelmed,” Dave says with amazement. “But Tommy isn’t even fazed by the fact that we made this movie. He almost reacts as if this was his plan all along.”

James adds, “I feel like, in a sense, we have done what Tommy was actually trying to do with ‘The Room.’”

“If you look at ‘The Room,’ he cast himself as this great guy, and I think that’s how he wanted people to see him. But people didn’t. They just laughed,” James continues. “In our movie, we showed what was underneath, a person that needed to make a movie to win friends.”

James describes seeing the movie with Tommy at the SXSW Film Festival. They received a standing ovation, and James realized that it was probably the first time Tommy had ever heard applause that was genuine, and not ironic.

“That really moved me,” says James.

Yet, even though the filmmakers are truthful and kind to Tommy, he’s still a hilarious character. James describes him as having “zero self-perception” but having the same amount of passion as Marlon Brando or Francis Ford Coppola.

This leads to many weird decisions, such as Tommy purchasing cameras rather than renting, and choosing to shoot on both 35mm film and HD video simultaneously.

James believes that no one has ever seen the HD footage, but notes that, because it was shot side-by-side with the film footage, Tommy could conceivably create a new 3D version of “The Room.”

Dave’s mind is blown. “Once he knows that, that will be a reality!”

IF YOU GO
The Disaster Artist
Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie
Written by Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Directed by James Franco
Rated R
Running time 1 hour, 43 minutes

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