15 Years after its first premiere, notorious bad film, The Room (2003), has continued success with regular screenings all over the world. This success is down to its growing cult fanbase, and in turn, The Disaster Artist, a film based on the making of The Room, is created by those fans.
In August 2010, journalist Tom Bissell wrote a brilliant piece for Harper’s magazine entitled ‘Cinema Crudité’, charting his growing obsession with The Room, which he describes as “…the movie an alien who has never seen a movie might make after having had movies thoroughly explained to him.” His deep dive culminates in an interview with the director/screenwriter/producer/star himself, Tommy Wiseau.
In his interview, Bissell eludes to an article by Clark Collis entitled The Crazy Cult of ‘The Room’, which charts the growing cult success of the film among Hollywood’s comedy elite, including Judd Apatow alumni Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd. Bissell asks Wiseau if he had been approached by any of his celebrity fans, to which he gives a typically left field and cryptic answer, a roundabout way of saying ‘no’. Funnily enough, it would be Bissell, and his book The Disaster Artist (written with Greg Sestero, Wiseau’s friend and co-star), that would finally connect Wiseau with his celebrity fanbase. It was the book that also introduced director/star James Franco to the film, which he is already envisioning as a film of sorts in his 2013 Vice article about it (“The book reads like the combination of two Paul Thomas Anderson film scripts…”).
The film version of The Disaster Artist begins with a prelude of talking heads, including Kristen Bell (who is interviewed in the original Clark Collis article), trying to articulate their complicated relationship with “the Citizen Kane of bad Movies”. The film itself is made up of high profile fans of the film, including all three hosts of the podcast ‘How did that get Made’, who interviewed Sestero before The Disaster Artist book was published (at that point with the working title of ‘Lost inside The Room’)
Richard Brody’s review of The Disaster Artist for The New Yorker, describes the acting style of Tommy Wiseau (played convincingly by Franco) as a “theatre of attention” which is most apparent in a scene played out in a cafe, where Wiseau and Sestero command the attention of bemused patrons. This was an inspiration for producer A24’s viral campaign, an award given to the best scene from The Room acted out in public. This in turn mirrors those early midnight screenings, as it was a staple, to dress up as characters from The Room and act out scenes, in the aisles and in front of the screen, which essentially provides the core of The Disaster Artist. Apparently around 25 minutes of the The Room was recreated shot-for-shot, evidenced in the films closing credits.
There’s a clip on youtube (below) of Tom Bissell before he went to his first midnight screening of the film, the one he wrote about in his piece. In the video he is asked about his favourite scene, one which he calls “incomprehensible”. At that point he had only seen clips online, recently he said he has seen it “More than 100 times”, I wonder if it makes any more sense to him now, or if the delight is still in the incomprehensibility of it all.