The Room: The best worst movie of all time

Noah Dawley, Staff Writer

It’s been over 18 years since the beautiful love story turned betrayal, The Room, hit theatres. But why did one of the weirdest productions of all time turn into such a global phenomenon?

 

Tommy’s early life

Thomas P. Wiseau, better known as Tommy, is very selective about what he wants others to know regarding his personal life. He’s led fans down a rabbit hole trying to discover where and when this mysterious guy was born. In an interview Wiseau did in 2010 he claims to have been born in either 1968 or 1969, yet this doesn’t add up completely. In the 2013 memoir The Disaster Artist, written by Wiseau’s close friend, Greg Sestero, Sestero claims to have seen Wiseau’s immigration papers that tell a different tale. According to the paperwork that Sestero saw, Wiseau was born in an Eastern Bloc country in the mid to late 1950’s; this is only the icing on the cake of Wiseau’s mysterious origins.

Up to this point, fans didn’t know what to believe. There are so many people telling so many different stories. This was until 2016 when the documentary Room Full of Spoons came out. In this documentary, researcher and long-time associate of Wiseau, Rick Harper, claims to have looked into Wiseau’s country of origin and confirms that Wiseau was born in the city of Poznań, Poland, in 1955. This makes Wiseau 66 years old in 2022. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where he was born. Wiseau moved to America and found life here, saying on Twitter in 2018, “I’m an American and I’m very proud of it ! VOTE !” Wiseau met Sestero at an acting class in 1998, which was only the beginning of a long and rocky journey.

 

The friendship of Sestero and Wiseau

Wiseau and Sestero instantly became friends. “I decided to take an acting class in San Francisco,” said Sestero in an interview he did with FACT Liverpool in 2016. “Everybody was kinda quiet and it was in the basement. And then he walks on stage. Everyone just got quiet, and we all thought, either this guy is gonna kill it, or it’s gonna be eventful, to say the least.” It’s said that the teacher stopped him early on, which only led the two of them to get into a pretty heated argument. In true Wiseau fashion, he started to correct the teacher while everyone else just sat and watched this all unfold. Whilst the audience was shaking their heads, the only thing Sestero was thinking was, “Screw this, I gotta meet this guy.” He then went up to Wiseau and asked to do a scene together. Of course, this eventually led to Sestero and Wiseau moving to LA to pursue acting, as any future star does.

 

Every great movie starts with a great script

Wiseau originally wrote The Room as a play in 2001, inspired by the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. After that, he molded it into a 540-page book, which was unsuccessful in its publishing. After both of these failures, Wiseau had enough. Finally, he adapted it into a film and decided he was going to make it himself and maintain control.

How did he have the money to do this? Well, Wiseau hasn’t exactly been the most open about this aspect either. The mysterious funds were kind of a joke amongst the crew of The Room. However, according to Sestero, Wiseau would buy up and rent out large retail spaces, which is a bit obscure, to say the least. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how Wiseau was able to make round-up funds for The Room; he wanted to make it, so he did. Now, all he needed was actors, a crew, shooting locations, equipment, and a team of editors, so he was already there… kind of.

 

Production

Finally, all of Wiseau’s cards were in line. Somehow he had managed to rake in everything needed to turn his script into reality, and that’s exactly what he did. This historical movie was shot in a little over four months. I’m sure I can write a whole different article on just all the weird stories the crew left set with. After four months of drama, from Wiseau screaming at Sestero about creative differences, to the entire cinematography crew being replaced four times by Wiseau personally, they finally had the movie all shot and ready.

Not much is known about the production after shooting. There was a full soundtrack for this film, made by Mladen Milicevic, a music professor at Loyola Marymount University, so at least it had that going for it. Wiseau then submitted the film to Paramount Pictures, looking for a distributor. It usually takes about two weeks to get a reply, but The Room was rejected in just 24 hours. However, this didn’t stop Wiseau. All promotion of this film was put on one billboard in Hollywood. The billboard depicted just Wiseau’s face and The Room in bold font hovering over. This no doubt excited anybody blessed enough to gaze upon this. The whole world was ready for this monumental debut.

 

Premiere

The Room, written, directed, and produced by Wiseau, finally debuted on June 27, 2003, to not-so-spectacular reception. From the start, it was everything you’d have expected it to be, cheesy dialogue, weird camera angles, and the impending sense of “should I be laughing or crying” hovering over the audience. It’s said that a large chunk of the theater walked out within the first five minutes of the film, but the ones who stayed sure did make the best out of it. It got to a point where the theatre was being filled with laughter with every line that was said. It’s still hard to say whether Wiseau took offense to this wacky premiere, maybe he even liked the reactions that came from fans, but what we do know for sure is that the fans loved it. Word quickly spread throughout Hollywood and even celebrities like Paul Rudd, Judd Apatow, and Kristen Bell booked private screenings just to experience The Room.

 

The result

All of Hollywood was fascinated with this weirdly enjoyable film. The Room’s influence only got larger when the internet began to bloom; it quickly became a cult classic among fans. Do you remember that billboard I mentioned earlier? Wiseau kept that up until 2008, he reportedly paid $5,000 a week to rent it. All these years later, The Room is still as popular as it ever was, with fans online crowning it the best bad movie of all time. It’s pretty much a required watch for any aspiring film critique. Wiseau and The Room left their mark on Hollywood, and quite frankly, the world.

 

The Disaster Artist

The Room made a big resurgence in 2017 when a docu-movie about the film was released. Based on a book of the same name written by Sestero, The Disaster Artist stars James Franco as Wiseau, Dave Franco as Sestero, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Wiseau himself even makes an appearance. The Disaster Artist was more of a passion project than anything, just a culmination of Hollywood’s deep love for The Room. The Disaster Artist had a budget of $10 million and made $29.8 million at the box office, but at the end of the day, that wasn’t the point.  I went to the premiere of The Disaster Artist, and when I tell you the environment was amazing, that might be an understatement. Just a bunch of people getting together to appreciate one of the weirdest productions of all time, even saw a few people dressed up as Wiseau. 

The Disaster Artist would eventually be picked up by Netflix, where it is still available. It’s also important to know that Wiseau and Sestero had a role in the production of this movie, and they loved how the film ended up turning out. With all that being said, I would heavily recommend The Disaster Artist to anybody even slightly curious about The Room. It’s fascinating to see everything that went into the making of The Room, it’s a visualization of all the weird stories that came from the set.

 

After The Room

Wiseau and Sestero have remained friends since the film’s debut in 2003. They even went on to make a couple more movies together, the most notable being Best F(r)iends Volumes one and two in 2017 and 2018. I’ve heard both of those movies aren’t bad, so check those out if you’re still intrigued about Wiseau and Sestero. They both have gone on to do countless interviews and podcasts, using the traction they gained from The Room to further their career. As I mentioned earlier, Sestero wrote a book about his experiences during production, which was fairly successful.

 

The Room’s impact

It’s impossible to put into words the impact that this film had. It’s by far the most widely known bad movie of all time; it leads a whole genre of “so bad it’s good” films. I grew up watching it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I think it’s safe to say that Wiseau and Sestero have left their footprint on the film industry. It started with just two guys wanting to make something bigger than themselves, and that’s exactly what they accomplished. Lastly, some words from the man himself, Thomas P. Wiseau.

The Room is a special place. It’s not ‘A room’ it’s THE room. It’s a place where there is no restriction. If we title it ‘a room’ it can be any room, but it’s THE room so it is a special place. We all have this place. It’s like our little corner that you are comfortable with.”