Meet Tommy Wiseau, the Wizard Behind 'The Room'

Tommy Wiseau as Johnny in 'The Room.' The Room/YouTube

Though the movie The Room was released almost exactly 13 years ago, Tommy Wiseau's dark comedy of errors lives on in infamy, immortalized through midnight screenings worldwide during which spoons are thrown, footballs are tossed and lines from the movie are shouted in packed theaters. It's getting a second life, too, as James Franco and Seth Rogen are currently in production for The Disaster Artist, a film about the book Wiseau's co-star Greg Sestero published about creating The Room, "the greatest bad movie of all time."

The Room is far from being Wiseau's sole piece de resistance, though, given that he's currently writing season two of his Hulu show The Neighbors, is working on a new feature, titled The Foreclosure, and is realizing his long-awaited vampire flick. We chatted with Wiseau about his projects, what The Disaster Artist got wrong and vampires.

How's your weekend going?

Extremely busy. We're working on The Neighbors, also The Foreclosure, and a vampire movie.

In his book The Disaster Artist, your former Room co-star Greg Sestero mentions a project called Vampire from Alcatraz: King of Vampires. Is that the one you're working on right now?


Can you talk a bit about where it is?

I'm working on both projects at the same time, but we'll be releasing The Foreclosure in theaters before September, so we're working on that first. Then we do vampire. I'm working on The Neighbors, as I mentioned, and potentially I have some people. So we'll see what happens.

Is the second season of The Neighbors going to be on Hulu?

Yeah. On Hulu. And we submitted to Emmy awards, so we'll see what happens (laughs). We did last year and we have a reaction. I don't know if you know, but we're also screening The Neighbors together with The Room, like a combo. Also we use animation on The Neighbors, so everything is slightly different.

I'm sure you've been getting a lot of questions about your role in James Franco and Seth Rogen's rendition of The Disaster Artist movie. While you're not directly involved with it, what made you entrust them with this story?

Well, as you know, James Franco is a very dedicated actor. They come to me, they want the life rights, to use my name, etc. I didn't want to do it in the beginning, then I say OK. Basically it's flattering overall, if you look at the concept of the movie and Greg Sestero's book. It's very flattering but at the same time, somebody takes something away from me!

What made you change your mind?

I created The Room for people, you know? It was a vision. And for the past 13 years almost, people have come from out of the blue and wanted a credit, this and that, a poster. I think it's very, very disrespectful. So if you want to do this movie, I tell James Franco and Seth Rogen, a production. I was hesitating.

But then I said, you know what? We can attract more people. I cannot judge James or Seth because we see what they give us, you know? I think they're very dedicated, I know their work, I'm a fan of James Franco and Seth Rogen. Coincidentally Seth Rogen was a friend of The Room 13 years ago. He still is, probably. He's a very nice person. I like to support something when they start doing something original, even if it's based on the original stuff.

You know, I don't support Greg Sestero's book 100%. I support it only 40% because of the stuff that is not correct.I can give you at least one example. He said—but let me stress that I'm not bashing Greg. He's still my friend. His mistake, I think, is that Greg got caught in the Hollywood dilemma, the Hollywood...I always say, sort of web. Hollywood web. Sometimes you're in a project or situation that's hard to get out of, that's what I always say to be nice, you know?

One example I can give you is one of the scenes I was playing Johnny in The Room, when I say: "I did not hit her, I did not hit her. Oh, hi Mark." That's the scene on the roof. He said in the book, as well as some other people in the book, that I did this scene in 37 takes. Seriously, if I'm making 37 takes of this movie, you know what? The movie will never be completed. And that's what the thing is with...sometimes people give you credit, sometimes people twist it in half.

Did Greg consult you before he put the book out? How did you feel knowing this was out in the world?

Well that's why I only support Greg 40%. But I will say that I blame Tom Bissell. Because he wrote 20 books or whatever, right?... [B]ecause some of the stuff is not called for. And Tom Bissell, he knew about it, and should consult with me about certain facts. He didn't, OK? And that's the dilemma.

People want to be famous for garbage. I'm going to say that. Even though I support Greg Sestero's book, because recently he asked me the same thing, and I give certain facts and I think he agrees with me, you know? But it was not called for: exaggeration, discredit me with my creativity based on the influence of Tom Bissell, because it's not called for that! Greg did not have experience writing book. Never. So if I am writing book, if I am writing about someone and I have experience, I say, hey, you know what, we need to consult some of the stuff with Tommy.... But I was completely shocked with pictures, for example. I never approved the pictures in the book, for example. So all this stuff was just like...I don't think it's right, is my point.

You said that a lot people now want to be famous for garbage, and I think that's related to the influx of content people have to choose from, whether it's on YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, going to theaters. Do you feel hopeful about the future of film?

Actually, I do, to be honest with you. All these platforms give us a choice, but also the consumer, I say is somewhat responsible to say, "Hey, this is not what I want." That's what the beauty is in America. We create all this stuff, and you decide which one you want. I'm so surprised with the cinema industry, because The Room is the only movie in the world shot in both format, HD and 35 mm. I don't get credit for it, but I don't need credit.

The fact is that before The Room, which you probably noticed in the Greg Sestero book, I was independent and pretty comfortable with my life. I was very successful because I designed clothes before. And I'm going back to it because I like designing clothes. I'm designing right now underwear.

Is this the underwear you've said improves your sexuality by 40%?


Why underwear instead of shirts or jackets?

By the way, I design jackets as well. But the reason is I got upset, I don't want to mention about the brand of underwear, but I'll say general, OK? But one of the best designers of underwear, I bought it and was so disappointed. I know about clothes. I'm tired, I'll design my own underwear. The quality was not there, it was very expensive.

I want to design underwear and people really like it and I already had the concept a long time ago, the time I had my store prior to The Room. There are secret pockets inside the underwear, bands, four inches, so it's very supporting. Ladies' ones too, striped ones. So we have a really groovy time and people like it, actually! So we'll be doing underwear, then shirts and tank tops a little bit, a line of sweatpants, etc., etc.

Would you be open to designing the clothes in the vampire movie?

It's a question of...I'm not sure yet and I'm trying to concentrate more on production as well. Underwear and other clothes I design just for fun but I notice people like it. And also open the museum of The Room.

There's going to be a museum on The Room?

Yeah, because I have a lot of props, I have the cameras, all kind of different equipment, so when we actually present this, people see. That's my passion right now, because we have so much material. Actually we have part of the stage too. Original, everything's original.

Have you read any good books recently?

I actually am writing right now, The Neighbors, and acting. I read a couple of little books but that's about it. Not spectacular books.

So nothing has floored you lately?

No...I did take out one book, Spy Games, and it was OK. Well I read the Twilight but I'm still reading that. That's why I like the written form of literature if the book asks you questions, and you ask the same time, what next. 50 Shades of Grey, I read that one! I did enjoy it actually.

I haven't read it.

Some people say they don't recommend it. But I think the description of action or interaction between characters is pretty spectacular actually.

And you're a fan of Twilight?

I love Twilight! I really enjoy it. Sometimes I've read also technical books related to film.

Do you have a favorite vampire film?

Actually I do. Interview With the Vampire with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Absolutely. It's my understanding—if I'm wrong, so be it. But after this movie Brad Pitt got really big. Some people say that he took over after that.

Room, the adaptation of the Emma Donaghue book, has been getting awards buzz. Have you seen it?

I did not see it. But I'm very surprised that they used Room in the title. There was a lot of confusion with The Room. We got a lot of email. They got a lot of nominations, didn't they?

Yeah, they did.

Oh, OK. I think it is what it is, I don't like when people copy other people. But they knew about it, you know? We've been playing The Room close to 13 years. But I just close my eyes because I'm like...I do not think it's right 100%. But eventually I will see it because they got nominations.

I hear it's a very good and sad movie.

Are they actually crying, too?

Everyone I've talked to said they cried watching it.

Really! I didn't know it was emotional. In this case I probably want to see it.