To find out what it takes to make a cult film, look no further than Greg Sestero’s book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. The book, co-written with Tom Bissell, documents the relationship between Sestero and Tommy Wiseau, the mysterious writer/director/producer/star of The Room.
Later this week Sestero will present The Room as well as Wiseau’s newest film, Best F(r)iends, at a special double feature at the AlamoDrafthouse. The latter is a work-in-progress screening, with the screenplay by Sestero, and Houston audiences will be among the first to see it.
On December 8, James Franco’s adaptation of Sestero’s book, also titled The Disaster Artist, opens at area theaters. In the film, Franco plays Wiseau and his brother Dave Franco plays Sestero. Franco’s version of the book differs wildly from Sestero’s account yet manages to tell the same story. Co-stars include Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Seth Rogen, Zoey Deutch, Bryan Cranston and Sharon Stone among others.
Free Press Houston tracked down Sestero over Thanksgiving while he was in Australia and conducted a brief email interview.
Free Press Houston: While the legend is that Tommy’s past remains secret, your book seems to explain his powerful, unfortunate and influential experiences in France as an immigrant and the source of his money (the clothing merchandise and owning valuable property). Is that the way it really happened to Tommy, or is that artistic license on your part?
Sestero: Tommy was the first person I told that I wanted to write a book. I interviewed him a few times about his life in Paris, New Orleans and San Francisco. So those chapters are him telling his own version of the story.
FPH: Do you feel that your career path as a performer in films and television was stunted or bettered by your association with The Room?
Sestero: The Room came out in 2003 and didn’t really emerge as a cult film until 2009, so it had no effect on me during those years since it was an underground LA in-joke. I can honestly say that The Room has only brought me good experiences. It’s not a film that will get you much acting work, but has taught me a lot and allowed me to realize a different dream that is far more rewarding than just being an actor.
FPH: You use quotes from Sunset Boulevard and The Talented Mr. Ripley before the chapters. Talented Mr. Ripley in particular seems like a metaphor for your friendship with Tommy. The part where you and Tommy watch Ripley together was riveting. Did you and Tommy have a similar experience with Sunset Boulevard?
Sestero: I never watched Sunset Boulevard with Tommy, but it was a big inspiration for the book. I saw a lot of similarities with my story, especially when Tommy lived in a place that had a pool and wanted to make his own vanity project. Luckily, our story had a happier ending.
FPH: Do you think that Tommy has mellowed with age? And has the eventual success of The Room as a cult film made him review his way of thinking?
Sestero: The Room has changed all of us in a way, but I think Tommy has always maintained his uniqueness. Maybe the only change from the success of The Room is that it definitely pushed Tommy towards his retail limits. There’s Tommy Wiseau merchandise everywhere now, including his own line of underwear.
FPH: Is there anything about the new collaboration with Tommy that you can reveal? Was shooting Best F(r)iends as much an ordeal as making The Room?
Sestero: The film is based on a road trip Tommy and I took back in 2003. It is far more bizarre than The Room, but hopefully in a good way. I think Tommy is excellent in the movie, and he was great to work with this time around. It comes out later next year.