After experiencing all three stages of production with the producer/director/writer/actor Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell co-wrote the novel The Disaster Artist, documenting the ongoing behind-the-scenes insanity on Wiseau’s The Room.
Paired with the cult status that the film had eventually earned, the book was elevated to the mainstream, earning the attention of James Franco, who would end up adapting the the novel into a film, directing said film, and even portraying the enigmatic filmmaker himself.
That said, though, there are plenty of details surrounding The Room that are almost too bizarre to believe. Everything from futuristic vampires and aggressive farting to Matt Damon played a role in developing Wiseau’s vision (for better or worse). It’s a faulty foray into filmmaking, and can hardly be compared to any other film that has ever been produced, but that’s exactly where its cult status stems from.
I f you’re planning on seeing Franco’s adaptation of the novel (which has gotten Wiseau’s personal seal of approval), keep reading to discover 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Room.
15. Flying Cars & Vampires
As if The Room couldn’t be any stranger than it already is, Tommy Wiseau once had other ideas in terms of where the plot could potentially go. He had already gone all in on green screens and faulty post-production audio recording, but when he was toying with the screenplay, he played around with the idea of incorporating some sci-fi and supernatural elements into the story.
An original concept included characters Johnny and Mark having an argument, which then resulted in Johnny – who was inexplicably revealed to be a vampire (that would explain the sunglasses, pale skin, and lack of basic football knowledge) – getting into his car and… flying away. Thankfully, co-star Greg Sestero convinced him that this wasn’t a great idea. Though, then again, maybe the supernatural angle would have actually made some sense out of all the madness.
14. $300k for a single billboard promo
If you want to sell a movie, your marketing game needs to be on point. Even Tommy Wiseau (questionable though his logic may seem) understood this; so much so that he was willing to cough up a pretty penny in order to let the world (or LA, at the very least) know about his upcoming film, The Room. That said, his approach was questionable at best. Instead of reaching out to investors, he reached into his own pockets, paying for a billboard that cost him $5,000 a month.
What’s more, however, is the fact that the billboard’s shelf life was hardly minimal. He paid to keep it standing for five years, meaning that he put a grand total of $300,000 into a single billboard. You can argue that it ultimately paid off, considering that it’s still being discussed, but still… this is a prime example of risky investments.
13. “I did not hit her”… 32 times
There are quite a few perfectionists in Hollywood. The late Stanley Kubrick was famous for indulging in take-after-take during a single scene before he was satisfied, and David Fincher is another director who isn’t afraid to film up to 50 takes before moving on to another scene. When it comes to creating art, everybody’s different. Even Tommy Wiseau.
While filming The Room, Wiseau apparently had so many issues with the “I did not hit her” scene that it took a frustrating 32 takes before the crew got what they needed. This is even touched upon in James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, where he recreates the failed attempts of Wiseau trying his darnedest to make this scene work. The dialogue is awkward and stilted, but he deserves some credit for trying.
12. A No Farting Policy
Every job has rules when it comes to workplace etiquette. There are simply things you’re not allowed to do when you’re on the clock, and for the most part, they’re not often things that are especially difficult to temporarily give up. And while the same sort of rules essentially applied to the production of The Room, there was one rule about which Wiseau was especially adamant: no farting.
No matter how badly a cast or crew member’s stomach might have ached, and no matter how poorly one’s bottle of Gas X may have fared, farting was a giant no-no. As it so happened, though, someone on set did end up farting during the production, and Wiseau erupted into a tirade of gaseous objection, calling the deed, “Disgusting as hell!”
11. “If the jeans go, I go!”
Sex is a no-pants dance. Though it’s an activity that offers unique experiences for all sorts of couples, there is one fairly universal rule that tends to stick: nudity is necessary. However, while filming The Room, actor Greg Sestero kindly objected to this, insisting that he not remove his pants during filming. To each their own.
This led to the awkwardness that was the sex scene between Mark and Lisa. During an interview with Rolling Stone, Sestero said, “‘Uh, that’s not going to happen with me.’ So, luckily, he made the exception so I could have my jeans on.” It’s hard to say whether or not his lack of jeans would have improved the scene, but any sense of added realism to this movie would have done wonders. The jeans simply add to the madness.
10. The Room Meets “Eyes Wide Shut”
Actors need motivation when filming a scene. It’s technically possible for someone to simply assume what is going in with their character and to aimlessly read their lines, but the results are going to be next-level awkward. So, as strange an experience as watching The Room may be, Wiseau did at least attempt to give his actors something to work with in terms of motivation.
It just so happens that the motivation was questionable at best.
For Juliette Danielle, who played Lisa, Wiseau recommended that she watch and study Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. That said, though, he didn’t go into detail as to why he wanted her to watch the movie. If anything, it could explain the overall confusion in the film (if that helps).
9. Why The Dialogue Is So… Off
One of the most enjoyable parts of watching The Room is experiencing the lunacy of sound. The dialogue appears to be coming out of actors’ mouths, but something is off. It feels distant. Removed. Alien, almost.
However, there is an explanation for this after all.
Due to issue with audio recording on set, Wiseau was forced to resort to one line every filmmaker tries their best to avoid: “We’ll fix it in post.” A solid chunk of dialogue in The Room is ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording), a process that allows actors to re-record their dialogue over a scene in post-production. While the process itself might be helpful in some circumstances, using it often causes the film to suffer from a lack of realism (not that The Room has to worry about that).
8. Actors had to be on set at all times
Film productions may seem chaotic, but they’re usually meticulously controlled. Everyone has a role to play, not a single dime is wasted, and if you’re not needed on a particular day, then you’re simply excused from the day’s schedule.
As it turns out, though, Tommy Wiseau never got that memo. Instead of allowing actors a day off on days where the schedule didn’t need them, he insisted they appear on set—just in case. If Wiseau felt inclined to use an actor in a scene in which they didn’t originally appear, he had the luxury of having them on standby.
7. Based On The Book And Play That Never Happened
You might want to sit down for this one, but The Room wasn’t always going to be a movie. Once upon a time, before Wiseau wised up and turned his precious creation into a full-on production, he had other ideas. Originally, The Room was going to be a stage play. However, from there, inspiration took hold of Wiseau and his ideas evolved.
While writing The Room as a play, he eventually switched gears and rewrote it as a novel. When the process of trying to get it published failed, he eventually came to terms with the fact that this story simply had to be seen to be believed. So, the tides turned, the process transformed, and audiences now have the pleasure of witnessing Wiseau’s creation whenever they feel so inclined.
6. Busting The Bank
The Room looks fairly cheap, yeah? There is an overall lack of imagination or general finesse to the production, acting choices, direction, etc., which makes sense considering how low its budget must have been.
As it turns out, though, The Room was actually a fairly expensive movie to make, with a $6 million budget. What’s more, the money didn’t come from outside investors. Oh, no. Just like the billboard, the budget’s money came straight out of Wiseau’s pocket. He packed the film to the brim with every penny he could get his hands on (which turned out to be a lot), but he still managed to make a movie that didn’t really do its budget justice.
5. Mark Damon
When Wiseau was creating characters for The Room, he was influenced by some of Hollywood’s greatest talents; specifically Matt Damon when it came to writing the character Mark. A proud fan of Damon, Wiseau was so inclined to use the Bourne Identity star as inspiration that he went so far as to use Damon’s first name for the character. Only, in case you hadn’t noticed, Wiseau made a goof. He confused Matt’s first name for Mark, and then never bothered to change it.
So, despite the fact that Mark has no discernible ties to Damon, the influence is strong. It’s skewed and laughable, but it’s there all the same.
4. Unknown Mental Disorders
Denny is an awkward character in The Room (which is saying a lot, considering the overall awkwardness of the entire movie), but there is a reason for this. Tommy Wiseau intended for the character to have an unspecified mental disorder; however, this is something he never bothered explaining to Philip Heldiman, the actor playing the character. He was completely unaware of the motivation behind his character’s behavior and simply acted per Wiseau’s direction.
If you’ve seen The Room, you’ll be well aware that the result was muddled at best. Denny’s dialogue is very childlike but because he’s a grown man, it comes off as extremely creepy.
Again, though, considering how incomprehensible all of the other characters are in this movie, Helidman hardly has anything to worry about. By comparison, his portrayal is pretty much on par with everybody else’s.
3. The Laughter Tent
If you think The Room is amusing, you’re obviously not alone. Despite the fact that it was intended to be a hard drama, The Room is as famous as it’s become on account of the accidental humor (on account of a bad acting, bad directing, etc.). In fact, it just so happens that the audience isn’t alone on this. During production, the crew had such a difficult time holding in laughter that there was a special tent erected for the sole purpose of expressing emotions that Wiseau would have naturally deemed inappropriate.
Director of Photography, Todd Barron, would casually dip in and out of the tent in order to keep his amusement as private as possible. Considering Wiseau’s issue with gas-passing, one could only imagine how he might react to fun-poking.
2. Butts sell movies
If you couldn’t tell already, Tommy Wiseau is brimming with confidence. No matter what audiences, critics, or even his crew, might think of him, he’s got confidence to spare— so much so that he was more than happy to strip naked while filming The Room.
As it so happened, his nudity didn’t really benefit in the long run, especially considering how the nudity was ultimately displayed. During a sex scene, Wiseau is buck naked, with his rear end propped directly in front of the camera. It’s awkward, it’s unashamed, and it’s apparently where the overall success of the movie resided. According to Sestero’s book The Disaster Artist, Wiseau said, “I have to show my a– or this movie won’t sell.”
1. The Room Lowers Crime Rates
Claiming that a piece of art can help prevent crime is a bold statement. However, when it comes from someone like Tommy Wiseau, it’s expected. During in an interview with Gawker, Wiseau explained that his movie could be a quick fix to crime—assuming criminals take their time out to watch it, that is…
Wiseau said: “Screening The Room midnight eliminated crime in America. Look at how many young people—you been young, I mean we still young, whatever—go in the street, you know, walking on the street, nothing to do, go see The Room, have fun. Let’s assume you don’t see The Room, you don’t have The Room, you walk on the street, grab the rock, and by accident you hit somebody, you know? Accident happen, get ’em arrested, go to jail, whatever. Instead, you see The Room. So high probability crime, high probability… you know what I’m saying?”
Will someone please make The Room mandatory viewing for hardened criminals?
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