Ahead of his appearance at Filmbase, Gemma Creagh talked to Greg Sestero, co-star of cult film The Room. Greg is also the best-selling author of the The Disaster Artist, a memoir of his time as an aspiring actor in Hollywood, leading to his bizarre friendship with the mysterious and iconoclastic director of The Room, Tommy Wiseau. The Disaster Artist garnered critical acclaim and commercial success with the book recently being released in the U.K by Little Brown and also adapted into the film, The Masterpiece by director James Franco.
First off, how did you meet Tommy Wiseau?
I met Tommy in acting classes in San Francisco. It was quite a conservative class. People were quite reserved. When Tommy went up there, he performed a Shakespearean sonnet that was so mind-blowing I thought, ‘I got to do a thing with this guy’. And so I approached him. That’s how we met.
So, you were obviously friends with him when he was working on The Room. How did you become involved?
We were roommates when he was writing. He always wanted to be an actor and Hollywood didn’t really see his talents, so he decided to write his own screenplay. He wrote a part for me to be in it. At first, I was reluctant. Then the night before filming he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – if I didn’t make the movie it would be the biggest mistake of my life.
With regards his writing process, how did he come up with his ideas?
I think he was inspired by his own personal stories and the way he sees life. He’s also very much into ’50s films, Tennessee Williams, Marlon Brando and James Dean – I think The Room was a culmination of all that and his perspective on life.
How involved were you in the filmmaking process itself?
I just pretty much helped to Tommy carry out his vision. It was his vision from the start and I was just there to support him. I never really wanted to change any aspect of it. I felt it would work a lot better for him if he just did it his way. I was just kind of there to pick up the pieces and make sure the whole thing went forward.
I know there were a lot of last-minute rewrites, what was the mood like onset?.
It was the first time making a movie so there was chaos and some dysfunction – and a lot of humour! A lot of things happened that were pretty funny, looking back. Ultimately, it was Tommy trying to make a movie his way and a bunch of people trying to understand that.
What was it like when it all blew up as a cult phenomenon?
I observed the film for a few years after it came out and film students picked it up and started spreading it. A few years later, I was living in Europe when the movie really blew up. I was stunned to know it was playing in places like New York and London to sold-out crowds. It was intriguing for me, despite being in the movie, just how people were responding to this vision that Tommy had of this drama. They loved it for all these different reasons. Soon enough I was attending screenings with Tommy. I came to Dublin and was in London – there’s something about the film that people love.
One of those things that struck me about The Room is that there’s authenticity there; there is real emotion behind it.
There really is something there. I think that it’s the fact that he was really trying to send a message through his film. People can see that and they respond to that.
Let’s talk about your book The Disaster Artist – how did that come about?
With the cult success and the touring, I was getting a lot of questions about how I got involved in the film and my relationship with Tommy. I thought the best way to tell the story was for me to go to the beginning and share what a crazy and surreal journey it was meeting Tommy, our unique friendship and how it led to the both of us stumbling our way into this cult success; what it is like to have a dream and try to pursue it against all odds. I thought there’s a lot more there than just the making of a cult movie. My goal with it was to really share something that had heart and humour as well.
So how did the James Franco ‘The Masterpiece’ adaptation come about from your book?
James read it and wrote a terrific article in his column about what he liked both about the book and The Room. He got it and wanted to turn it into a film. I have been lucky enough to see a cut of the film and it’s really terrific. I’m just grateful that someone with James’ talent saw the message the book was sending.
Is it strange to see another actor play yourself as an actor playing a role in a film?
It was a pretty fascinating and surreal experience. But with the book I always saw it as a film, so I removed myself from myself at that time. It was more exciting than anything else. It’s taking your story and putting it in another dimension – it’s very freeing in a lot of ways… it’s no longer your story. It’s great therapy actually. I recommend it!
What can you tell us about the documentary you are screening on Tuesday here at Filmbase in Dublin.
It is a short documentary with interviews with all the actors about the making of the movie and it becoming a cult phenomenon, and the fans. It gives you a well-rounded perspective of what it was like to be inside The Room. Also, I’ll be doing a book reading and, hopefully, I’ll be showing a big surprise to the Dublin fans of something new.