Tommy Wiseau (director of The Room) “I think a filmmaker, director, producer, we have an obligation to give a message if it’s possible, a true message of a true life.”

You say, “Something that people will enjoy,” but I was also wondering, do you feel that there is any kind of imperative to either give a moral or a message with a piece of art or with your films in particular? I know you’ve also done a documentary about the homeless [Homeless in America (2004)] and there definitely seems to be a message regarding drugs, alcohol, infidelity, and suicide in The Room.

Yeah, absolutely. Generally speaking, I just want to say for some of them, maybe, I think some of the people don’t agree with me, but definitely I think a filmmaker, director, producer, we have an obligation to give a message if it’s possible, a true message of a true life. So, in this case with The Room, to respond to your question: Yes, definitely, we have a message, and hidden messages as well. For example: two’s better, three’s a crowd. And that’s why I disagree with Greg Sestero’s book [The Disaster Artist, his memoir of the making of The Room] about, you know, what he mentioned of the production, whatever. And I say I support his book, you mention about his book, whatever, 50 percent because some of the stuff, it doesn’t make sense, you know? Why even do [a] movie when people don’t enjoy it, or — you need the vision. If you don’t have vision, you know, how many people try to negate The Room?

Let me give you an example: on IMDB, I believe, which has some more statements incorrect too, um — we have only one title, that was 11 years ago, only one: The Room. And now you have, I think, 30 or 40 of the same title. So again, you see, I believe in original material. You may do research, you may do that, but I have [a] slightly different approach to what I try to create and definitely I try to — you see, I would say The Room is like, well, sort of, um, not even subtle, but for sure — red flag, instead of, like, waving flag, red flag, “Hey, don’t do this because it may happen this way,” you know?

So it’s very important that people have fun with The Room, but at the same time say, hey — I have dozens of examples when people come to me and say, “Hey, we met at The Room and we have better respect, we have better relationship,” and I like that. This is a compliment. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, you know what I’m saying? So The Room is actually real life and The Room actually connects people, you know?

Speaking of connecting people, in The Neighbors you are playing a landlord if I’m not mistaken?

Yeah, actually I play two people, two characters. It’s not really landlord, Charlie is actually manager-slash-landlord, you may say that, but actually I am also playing Ricky Rick, that’s another character who I’m playing. So I’m playing two people at the same time, but it looks [like] totally different persons.

And this is going to be more of a straight comedy, it seems?

Yes, well, you see, we already test it, like for example [at the] Chicago screening and other areas, and I mean, people — we got a positive response. So my guess right now is it’s for TV, it’s the TV format. It’s 22 minutes but we’ll be screening only 15 minutes and my idea is start it in September. We want to release it in the theater together [with] The Room, so you have The Room and The Neighbors together, screening at the same time.

What made you want to switch from movies to TV, or is that something you always wanted to be a part of?

I always wanted to be a part of it, you know? I did a couple shows like, um, Tim & Eric, and I’ve been, you know, on TV already. I think TV still exists and I think it will exist for the rest of our lives. And I think, um, I’m hoping I can have an appointment to work with some of the network people. But The Neighbors is for TV, you know?

Have you spoken to any networks yet? Do you know where it’s going to be airing?

We are talking right now, but right now I don’t want to say too much because we’re not sure 100 percent. It’s a grey area, like maybe sometimes don’t say it until it’s happened, you know? Currently, we are releasing The Neighbors obviously September only in theaters first, and then all over and hopefully we can work with other TV networks.

Do you envision it as a mini-series, or do you want to keep it going as long as you can?

We actually want to — my idea is to do it at least 12 episodes, so once a month people can see it in the theater together with The Room. Or earlier, this is the plan for now.

You had mentioned Greg’s book before. Have you read it?

Yeah, I did.

Overall, do you agree with his representation of what went on during production of The Room? You said you had some problems with it.

Yeah, I disagree 100 percent, because I disagree at least 50 percent based on the content, because it can’t, you know — it’s untrue, some of the stuff. So as you know, the book — I support James Franco as well, but I disagree with the approach because, you know, I have certain skills, for example. I learned this even when I built my first building, you know? And I think it’s very disrespectful, not just from Greg but all the actors bashing The Room based on their opinion. I mean, this is ridiculous, it’s completely ridiculous, you know? I am [a] very creative person, number one, a very sincere person I think people respect, and I have a right as an American as well as the producer and director to do the way I feel my project fit, OK? And I think it’s very disrespectful that you give somebody jobs or something, you know — if I say you’re the reporter, you write the article, and somebody will bash you because, say, “Oh no, you didn’t talk to Tommy, you just make up stories!” [laughs]

You know what I’m saying? How offensive would it be to you, you know what I’m saying? I’m sorry for laughing, Christopher, but just to give you an example, you know? Hopefully you attend the screening of The Room and somebody say, No, no, you did not attend the screening of The Room, you just say you saw it, you know? I just give you an example that this is, uh, you know, I give people jobs, you know, I create jobs in Bay Area, like when I was going to Laney College and I built bigger buildings in Bay Area and San Francisco. I have a lot of different skills and Greg knows about it and I think people should know that too.

Like I say, I’m not bashing Greg, I already told him, I said — well, you see, we have an agreement, with Greg I have [an] agreement that, um, he’s supposed to transcript — to send me transcripts to review. He did not, OK? That’s a fact. And what he put is very disrespectful, you know? That’s my point. Eventually people see the light, you know? James Franco, as you know, I talked to him and they want to make a movie, and I told him the same thing, so they dragged me into this project, so we’ll see what happens.

Are you going to be involved at all in Franco’s adaptation, or are you pretty much letting him take creative control?

It’s up to James Franco, you see. I met his brother, I talked to James Franco. I actually like him, we have a lot of stuff in common because of James Dean. I don’t know if you are familiar with James Dean?

And keep in mind of each time — when you have a rehearsal, anything you rehearse will come out different when you’re actually shooting because you have different pressure with actors. And that’s [a] given, and I don’t care who you are, OK? You can be Brad Pitt, you can be whatever — still be the same principle, because you have to learn your lines, the camera comes at you, you have 20, 30 people around you, and you’re doing your lines, and you have — you’re under pressure.

Yes, very much so.

Oh, OK, cool. The reason I am asking is because I don’t know, some people don’t know about it. So we have a lot of stuff in common and I think James Franco is an extremely dedicated person and I think — but we’re not 100 percent the same page, because you see, that book, seriously, you can do as a parody, for example. I am talking as a producer, right, because I am a producer, right? But it’s up to James Franco how he wants it. He assured me that he’ll be very respectful, but it’s up to him. But so far, based on the book, it, to me, is a parody besides a true story, you know? So you may swing this way, you may swing that way, even though I always wish all the actors well, it is, you know, like I said to you before, I think all the actors in The Room did a good job, but it’s too bad that they come out from the blue after 10 years and say, “Hey, we are here.” Well, where you been when I invite you? Because I did actually invite all the actors to be part of the, you know, promotion et cetera. Typical Hollywood stuff.

And another final thing on the book, on Greg’s book, let me give you one example, then we’ll talk a couple questions and we’ll go. For example, Greg’s mentioned that one of a couple students decided [for The Room] to be like a cult film or something. That’s [an] incorrect statement, and it’s [an] incorrect statement that The Room [had] been screening for only two weeks in the theater, because first of all, we have a contract, we have a signed contract with the theater running only for two weeks.

You know why? Because of the rules of Academy Awards, which — we presented the Academy Awards with the data, we’re very proud of it, you see, even though we didn’t win anything. To present to Academy Awards, the rules are, in part, you have to run in the theater at least for two weeks. And then we actually run in the Bay Area too, you know, different theaters. One of the theaters in the Bay Area was run for Academy members, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with the program they have — Delancey, I believe — that’s the sort of prison theater-slash-restaurant that’s on the waterfront in San Francisco?

I’m not familiar with that particular one, but think I’ve heard of that sort of prison arts program.

Yeah, yeah, so again, this all started at the waterfront very easily, and Greg knows about it. So again, you know, the reason we are up to two weeks screening of The Room — I got a lot of emails from people who I didn’t know, they’d actually been fans of The Room already and I didn’t realize. So I decided to screen at the Wilshire in Los Angeles, called the Wilshire screening room, and then we got in trouble because of too many people show up. And literally, Christopher, people actually sit on the floor, there’s no seat available, you know?

And, long-story-short, I got in trouble with [the] fire marshall because we’re supposed to pay some kind of ticket for 100 or whatever it was at the time, and the owner of the theater said, “You cannot do this,” and I said it’s beyond the control [of] me when people show up. And then I decided to call Landmark at the time, and we go to Sunset, and that’s where the story starts, you know? We had one screen, it became six screens, and international — we are worldwide right now. I don’t know if you are familiar with that or not. We’re very strong in Canada, the UK. I have once a year I go to the UK, usually it’s February, and I’m very proud of my progress, that’s basically what happens.

You mentioned James Dean; are there any other actors or filmmakers that you take inspiration from, either directly or indirectly?

Well, I like Citizen Kane, for example. Orson Welles, I meant, for example, of other directors. Clint Eastwood, for example. I don’t take example from him, however, I think he’s [a] very creative person. Well, this is perfect example for me to compare myself, because I feel like I’m [a] multi-tasker, and I think Clint Eastwood — I didn’t realize that he actually — he’s a very charming guy, as you probably know. I think people don’t give him enough credit. This is my take, and I didn’t know he actually creates music, you know?

The audience and us will do scenes and just, we sing sometimes. We do all kinds of different stuff, you know, so it’s not just Q&A and I’m trying to always put everybody together, sort of like have respect to each other, you know, et cetera et cetera, you know. So I’m going always extra miles with the fans, and I like it.

Yes, for most of his recent movies. He’s a very accomplished pianist.

Absolutely, and this is the thing — I didn’t know this for many years, and when I talked to him, I said, Hey, you know. And we talked, he knows about The Room, believe it or not. And he’s very, very — I think people should know about it, so sometimes when people ask me, I say, Yeah. I mention him and I say, “You guys didn’t know that,” and a lot of people don’t know about it, you know? They watch his movies, they say, “Oh, I didn’t know he actually created this music”; yes he does. But this is sort of like, I’m doing some other stuff, like, you know, I have, like, a business background as well, so.

And again, you see, like I told you before, I think, um, messages in my movies, in the future projects that I have, I like to present really good messages at the same time, because that’s a part of the life, you know? We make a lot of mistakes in our lives, you know? We as a human, we as whatever you create — writing, producing, or whatever you’re showing to people, you know, you have to be responsible. But at the same time, I like that people have fun. That’s why The Room, I would say, is different cookie-cutter from Hollywood, you know? It’s not like people, you know, expect that. And that’s why I think The Room has good foundation. I always say, you know, if you want to build, Christopher, a house, what do you need first?

A strong foundation.

Exactly! Without foundation, you may buy windows, but you don’t have foundation, you don’t have a house. It’s as simple as it is. Same here, with The Room we have a solid foundation. That’s why I’m sometimes — I mention actors in this interview with you because, you know, sometimes people, like, if I have a Q&A they ask me, they quote it, or they send me a link to it and say, “What do you think about this? Is this correct or true or not?” [laughs] Sometimes I get a lot of emails, I have no time to respond, but I try to respond, you know, eventually. So, again, some of this stuff is fucking laughable, you know? But it is what it is.

I’d read that you have a poem by Dean Alfange called “My Creed” framed in your house. I’ve highlighted three specific lines which I feel resonate with your career and more broadly with the American Dream, and I was wondering if I could read them to you and ask what it was that spoke to you about this poem.

Yeah, sure, absolutely! Great idea! I like the creativity from your part. [laughs]

“It is my right to be uncommon / I want to take the calculated risk / To enjoy the benefit of my creations.”

Absolutely, I agree totally.

Starting out as a businessman, was this something you carried into your film career, or something that you always took purely as an artistic statement?

My God, you’re good! [laughs] Actually, yes. The answer’s yes. Because, you see — again, you know, I’m a very complex guy a little bit. I studied movies, you know? And I studied actors. And, you know, in America, you know, you have to have respect for yourself, but to have respect for yourself you have to define you as a — you know, nobody [can] decide for you. You may go to school, you may educate yourself, this and that, but you have to decide as a human who you are. That’s where I’m very strong and I’m very comfortable [with] who I am. Not what I am! [laughs] You know the quote, right? I am who I am. Because of my knowledge, you see, and knowledge is the key to success. And what do I say? But not necessarily, [because] you have to create an environment for yourself, so this is an aspect — I like it, but I always wanted to be an actor. But I say, I am not going to Los Angeles or anyplace and working, you know, for the restaurant business, because that’s not why I’m here, you see.

I feel that I have a real vision. My vision always leads to something big, the bigger the better. But at the same time, you have to study, you know? Like we all do. And that’s why, you see, I disagree with some of the statements in text books as well as some of the actors, because I know who I am and what I told them, you know? And I say, I want you guys to be part of the team, I want you guys promoting, but, you know, nobody’s willing to do it. It apparently looks like it, it seems like it, and I don’t know what the story is. A lot of people don’t believe in the project, The Room, which I did and I always will. Because, you see, when you create something, especially something different, people also have to adjust to your creativity. This is what I want to say on this interview, if you print or not: I want to say thank you, Bay Area, and the entire world, for supporting The Room, and I hope we’ll get more support and we’ll create more stuff and people have fun with it! I always say, You can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other.

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