Cult of ‘The Room’ cheers James Franco’s ‘Disaster Artist’
TORONTO — The spoon-throwing, football-tossing cult of “The Room” was out in full force at the premiere of James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist,” a making-of movie that earned the blessing of the notorious film’s creator Tommy Wiseau.
“The Disaster Artist” premiered at a midnight screening early Tuesday at a raucous “Tommy!”-chanting audience at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film, which Franco directed and stars in as Wiseau, chronicles the creation of one of the most famously bad movies ever made.
But 2003’s “The Room” became an object of deep affection for moviegoers who cackle through late-night screenings of the film with a host of rituals. Wiseau, who was greeted by fans like a rock star, told Franco that he was 99.9 percent pleased with “The Disaster Artist.” He objects primarily to the way Franco depicts him throwing a football, though Franco claimed Wiseau’s 0.1 percent dissatisfaction was inconsistent lighting.
Wiseau hopped around the stage, introducing the cast of “The Disaster Artist” and later claiming that he would one day turn the tables on Franco and direct him in a movie.
“Eventually I will, probably,” said Wiseau.
“The Disaster Artist,” which A24 will release Dec. 1, is in the mold of the B-movie tribute “Ed Wood”: a Hollywood tale about a quixotic, perhaps misguided character aspiring to make it in Hollywood. It’s based on the 2013 book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by “Room” actor and Wiseau’s friend Greg Sestero.
The making of “The Disaster Artist” had its own quirks. Wiseau initially hoped Johnny Depp would play him. Wiseau was on the fence about Franco, who recalled Wiseau telling him in their first conversation, “I’ve seen your stuff James. You’ve done some good things and some bad things.”
Franco largely stayed in character, shifting between playing Wiseau and directing the film. That meant Franco, with a wig of long black hair, was often directing actors as Wiseau, and in his unique, famously undefined accent. (Wiseau has long maintained he’s from New Orleans, but his origins are largely shrouded in mystery.) The experience, said Dave Franco (who plays Sestero), was “as weird as you would expect.”
“It just made sense to go Daniel Day-Lewis,” Franco said in an interview, chuckling. “Why waste the energy to pull out? I figured hopefully I’ll give a little bit better direction than Tommy gave on ‘The Room.’ “
But while “The Disaster Artist” very much plays the tale for laughs, it also has affection for its characters. Franco says Wiseau’s “Dostoevskian struggle” is that “he’s wrestling to be something he’s not.”
“Despite what he looks like and sounds like and his age, Tommy thinks that he’s James Dean,” said Franco.
That was something Franco could understand. Franco, himself, played Dean in a 2001 biopic.
“I have to admit, I relate to Tommy in a lot of ways,” said Franco. “He’s a dreamer and he willed his movie into being. After everyone told him no, he still made it happened. I can relate to that, and I can even relate to a lot of the madness and the crazy self will run riot that he fell into.”
It may sound odd, but inhabiting Wiseau has been a kind of watershed experience for the 39-year-old actor-filmmaker. While Franco had previously made a blizzard of films at once — including a number of more literary adaptations (“Child of God,” “As I Lay Dying,” “The Sound and the Fury”) — “The Disaster Artist” marks a new chapter for Franco in sustained attention and an effort to reach a broad audience as a filmmaker.
“I wasn’t trying to do five million projects at one time. I was just focused on the one thing,” said Franco. “I said, ‘James, you’ve been doing these little projects for a long time now. Look at (‘Disaster Artist’ producer and co-star Seth Rogen). He’s been able to make movies at the studio level and still make what he wants to make.’ “
It’s just one more unintended consequence of “The Room,” the worst movie to ever give so much joy to so many.