James Franco stars in The Disaster Artist as Tommy Wiseau, the man who produced and directed 2003’s cult film The Room. It’s been called “one of the worst films ever made.” Franco, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role, spoke with Pete Carroll about the movie and its legacy.
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Do you work all the time?
I used to. But this year I only acted for two weeks—I worked on a Coen Brothers project called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. But other than that, just been promoting [The Disaster Artist]. I was very productive before. When I stared acting at age 17, I learned early on if I put in a lot you get a lot out of it. It’s like an athlete learning to play a sport. I learned the principle of working harder than I thought I could.
And it also worked out for directing—not only for the acting.
It paid off for the acting and I thought when I got into directing that the same principle would apply. Some of my work is more successful than others. And I got a lot of experience. I don’t think I would have been able to direct on the HBO show The Deuce if I hadn’t put in that time and effort. Nor could I have made this movie.
Your movie is about Tommy Wiseau, he did the movie The Room, sometimes referred to as the worst movie ever.
It is called “the best worst movie.” It stands apart from all the bad movies for several reasons. You can think about those thousands of thousands of bad movies you would never watch again. But people watch this movie now for over 14 years at the Prince Charles Theatre in London. That says something about this film. OK, for conventional standards it had horrible sets, bad acting, the writing—everything—if we compare it to Dunkirk. But my guess is they won’t be playing Dunkirk in a movie at midnight screens for 14 years. So there is something about it that people are getting from it.
When did you see it the first time?
I came to it through the book. The book came out about four years ago.
What does Tommy Wiseau think of you?
He likes our film. I offered him to watch the movie before anyone else had seen it, but he didn’t want to watch it. He wanted to watch it at the SXSW festival in Austin with a thousand people. We didn’t know what he was going to think because he said about the book that it was only 40 percent true. Well he was sitting with his shades on in the cinema after the screening and did not react much. I asked him what he was thinking and he goes, “Ahhh, I approve 99.9 percent.”
Why not 100 percent?
That’s what I asked him. What about the .1 percent? And you’d think he go like, “That scene did not happen or that is not true,” or something similar. But instead he says, “Well, you should think about the lighting in the film at the beginning. It is a little bit off.” (laughs) And then we realized that he was wearing his shades. (laughs) Bottom line: he has seen the film three times now and he loves it.
Could this movie be a second chance for him?
Oh, for sure! I think this movie will give The Room a whole new life.
And he is still friends with Greg Sestero?
Yes, he just said that to me last week. They still talk every day.