Interview: Greg Sestero Recounts Making 'The Room'—'The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made'
By Scott Lucas in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 3, 2013 4:25PM
The temptation to greet actor (and now author) Greg Sestero with those three words is so unbearable, that I'm actually afraid I'll blurt them out on accident once he answers the phone. To my great relief, I hear myself say, "Hello! Greg?" instead and right away begin asking questions.
Anyone who's seen The Room can understand this Pavlovian urge. Sestero plays Mark, the backstabbing buddy of the film's protagonist Johnny, who is played by The Room's writer, director, producer and all around, um, character—Tommy Wiseau. The heights and the depths to which this "psychological drama" soars and plummets are nearly impossible to impart to the uninitiated, but Entertainment Weekly did a pretty good job when they called it "the Citizen Kane of bad movies". Perhaps The Guardian was even more on the money when they called it a "mix of Tennessee Williams, Ed Wood and R Kelly's Trapped In The Closet." As the film's tagline goes "Enter The Room and leave forever changed!" I can certainly attest to that.
Now Sestero, along with journalist Tom Bissell, recounts the whole behind-the-scenes story with the release of their book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. He'll be paying a visit to The Music Box tonight to present the book and a 35mm screening of the film.
It's quite a journey for a $6 million film that fizzled out with $1,800 in box office receipts after its disastrous L.A. premier. I ask Sestero, who was first transfixed by Wiseau during an acting class they both attended, when exactly did he realize that there was something different about The Room? "I never really expected anyone to see this movie" he says. "I figured it would be his expensive home video—no one would ever see it—and he would just move on. I mean, there are so many films made every year that nobody ever sees that are actually really good. So what was the chance of this movie actually going anywhere without distribution and full of no-names? The fact that it even got finished is a huge victory in itself."
The idea of seeing a movie that I know will be bad has never been that appealing to me. Why would I waste my time? But I finally broke down and went to see The Room (which since its premier, has been rebranded as an "electrifying American black comedy about love, betrayal and lies") at one of The Music Box's midnight screenings last year and I was kind of blown away. Make no mistake, it's awful! But it's a special kind of awfulness that somehow makes it great. There is an energy to its ineptitude that I would compare to the drive-in fare of legendary gore-meister Herschell Gordon Lewis. It knocked around in my head for weeks after seeing it; a rare thing in this age of movies that are forgotten 15 minutes after seeing them. As far as I'm concerned, the biggest crime a movie can commit is to be boring—and The Room is not boring.
"I think it's just something that's so independent and so unlike any other movie out there," says Sestero. "People just want to see it and show their friends because you just can't believe that something like this actually exists." Indeed. The fact that this movie is still playing ten years later to a loyal Rocky Horror-like cult following would seem to suggest that Wiseau knew something that we didn't. Sestero agrees; "Nobody in their right mind would have even thought of a movie like this. No one sees art and life the way Tommy does. So that's why I think it's such a strange experience to actually watch it. And Tommy still believes that The Room is the greatest movie ever made."
While that may not be true, it's still insanely entertaining and tonight's screening should prove to be a perfect introduction for Room "virgins" as well as a chance for us cultists to finally get some answers. It's $20 for the entire event, and $45 for the event and a copy of The Disaster Artist (which, it should be noted, is pretty goddamn good). The Room screens at 10 p.m. but a Q and A with Sestero starts at 7 p.m. and will be accompanied by a short film on the making of The Room, scene readings from the original script (which Sestero says is "actually worse than the finished film") and a book signing—where I plan to stand by the table with a clicker-counter and keep track of how many times Sestero has to grimace his way through those three magical words.
"Oh, hi Mark!"
Greg Sestero presents his book The Disaster Artist and a screening of The Room tonight, December 3, at The Music Box, 3733 N Southport, 7 p.m. $20-$45