In James Franco’s new movie The Disaster Artist, Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, the director, producer, writer and star of the legendarily bad film The Room. Based on the book of the same name, The Disaster Artist charts the friendship of Wiseau and author and The Room co-star Greg Sestero, from the two meeting in an acting class to opening night of their so-bad-it’s-good masterpiece. Despite the awful reception their production received on release, it’s become a legitimate cult classic with regular showings around the world, Wiseau himself often attending screenings for a meet-and-greet with audience members.
You may think that Tommy has since taken it easy, enjoying the regular income from his incidental fame. Quite the opposite: as the auteur has continued to work in and around Hollywood on various projects, many within actual studios. Ironically or not, the eccentric creator has the kind of audience and reach many producers and top brass can only dream of, so some production houses have gone out on a limb and hired him in the hopes he’d work his particular brand of magic for them. None of the results have quite managed the same kind of staying power, all falling by the wayside as new devotees continue to line-up to experience The Room on the big screen for themselves.
The first thing Wiseau worked on post-The Room was actually a documentary he directed on the homeless in the United States, called Homeless In America, in 2004. Though little known, the 30-minute piece is well-reviewed from users on IMDb (from the five or so there, at least), one criticism being that it focuses only on Los Angeles rather than America in totality. It even won an award, Best Social Documentary, from an independent film festival in LA. There is some controversy as one interviewed subject left a comment stating they weren’t homeless at the time of interviewing and merely went along with the questioning, but other than that, it’s a perfectly normal piece of filmmaking.
The only real reason The Room exists is because Tommy and Greg were struggling to get hired as actors. Thus, most of Wiseau’s work hence has been getting hired to act, for better or worse. A 2009 bit part in an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! from comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim began a small stream of b-movie film roles and web-series for the entrepreneurial producer. Studio8 cast Tommy in a short produced for Comedy Central called The House That Drips Blood On Alex, and produced The Tommy Wi-Show, a sci-fi themed pseudo-chat-show featuring Wiseau kidnapped and interrogated by aliens. Other acting credits include one-offs in comedy series Playboy Adventures (nothing to do with the magazine) and The PET Squad Files, a paranormal spoof on The CW. It was from 2010 onwards that social media and forums had allowed The Room to garner worldwide infamy, culminating is what’s been dubbed the ‘Love Is Blind’ tour – a string of dates in which Tommy MC’d showings of his movie across Europe and the US to much aplomb.
Tommy launched his own YouTube channel too with Tommy Explains It All, a series of candid monologues about the enigmatic artist’s philosophies. The channel has since become a sporadic dumping ground for various vlogs from the intrepid director, including an advertisement for his own line of underwear, which is still available.
More recently, in 2015, came two bigger releases: Samurai Cop 2, an independent sci-fi action film crowd-funded through Indiegogo and the Hulu-distributed The Neighbours. The former has significance as Tommy’s casting is something of a spiritual affirmation for the performer: 1991’s Samurai Cop is one of the most famous in the so-bad-it’s-good “genre,” and Wiseau’s involvement in the similarly wacky and lo-fi sequel has a kind of “one of us” air to it. He may not be making Oscar winners, but he’ll always be welcome within the straight-to-video world of indie-made schlock.
The latter was a passion project that began a little after The Room, a trailer which Tommy had made and put online back in 2007. Following his brief role on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Tommy and the titular comedic pair had become friends, with Tim and Eric wishing to help produce a TV series with him. The comedy duo’s involvement eventually fell through and The Neighbours was funded solely on the back of Tommy’s wealth with his sole input in all other creative aspects. After several years of expectation, the first season premiered and it is, for a lack of a better term, The Room: The Series. The acting is melodramatic and corny, the narrative barely holds together from scene-to-scene and, in a bold move for a sitcom, the intro theme is an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’. Six episodes of The Neighbours have ever been released, and Tommy has recently revealed a second season is coming in 2018.
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And with The Disaster Artist, both Tommy and Greg are now enjoying a renewed wave of interest in their exploits. The two have joined forces once again after almost 15 years for Best F(r)iends, a comedy thriller that premiered this year at BeyondFest in Hollywood. Directed by Justin MacGregor and written by Greg, the movie’s about a mortician (Wiseau) and a drifter (Sestero) who get in way over their heads doing some dirty dealings. Justin, Greg and Justin’s brother Kristopher MacGregor produced the picture, expected to be released sometime in 2018. In an interview, Tommy stated that “your mind will find paradise” watching the film – just in case you wondered if he’s ever wavered in being his own number one fan.
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