The Bad and the Beautiful
The key to understanding Tommy Wiseau's transcendently terrible cult movie The Room isn't just the director's erratic personality, writes Louis Bayard, but Wiseau's bizarre obsession with this book's co-author, actor Greg Sestero.
The Disaster Artist:
My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made
by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
Simon & Schuster
$25.99 List Price
An obsessed auteur, denied major-studio financing for his audaciously personal project, follows his own path to glory. Declaring himself writer, producer, director, and star, he makes the picture on his terms—ruling his set with an iron fist, shouting down naysayers, and, in his darkest hours, clinging to the belief that he is changing the face of the art form.
Am I speaking of Orson Welles? Jean Renoir? John Cassavetes? Or am I speaking, finally, of Tommy Wiseau?
If that last name doesn’t ring a bell, you still might know Wiseau’s chef d’oeuvre, a 2003 drama titled The Room. If even that has escaped your attention, then by all means station yourself at some designated urban theater in the vicinity of midnight. Watch a troop of Wiseau-philes perform their mystic rites: tossing around footballs, hurling plastic spoons at the screen, shouting “Shoot her!” and “Focus!,” chiming in like a choir when one of the characters screeches, “You are tearing me apart, Lisa!” Marvel at the devotion that has filled every seat and lured back some acolytes for their twentieth or thirtieth viewing.
Ask yourself: Am I watching the worst movie ever made?
The Room is ostensibly about a banker named Johnny (played by Wiseau) who is betrayed by his fiancée, Lisa, and his best friend, Mark. In fact, it is a stew of non sequiturs, crazy-quilt continuity, B-roll footage of San Francisco locations that bear no relation to any story, phrases from some misbegotten ESL phrase book (“Leave your stupid comments in your pocket!”), endlessly respooling soft-core interludes, and a heroine who travels