Tommy Wiseau’s name branded itself suddenly but forcefully onto the cult film consciousness sometime in the late 2000’s, when his 2003 big screen debut (‘The Room’) became one of the most notorious bad movies of all time. Since that time, ‘The Room’ has developed a huge midnight-movie following, spawned a video game, stage-show and book, and generally captured the hearts of many. It also set the tone for a new wave of cult cinema that’s been making the rounds since that time, including new classics like ‘Birdemic,’ but also revival-screenings of films like ‘Troll 2’ and ‘The Miami Connection.’
Here, our very own Samantha Wilson sits down with Wiseau (writer, director, star of ‘The Room’) for a few questions.
We’re coming up on the 8th anniversary of The Room. What do you think the biggest thing you’ve learned from this whole experience has been so far?
Boy, wow. The biggest thing I learned, I’ve been traveling across the country right now as well as overseas and Canada, and I’ll also go to the UK, etc. So to respond to your question, we have a lot of fans of The Room. I do realize that now, again I would like to say thank you to all the fans – I don’t know if you want to print this or not – thanks for the support of The Room. We are very, very satisfied and what I learned from all the screenings is to appreciate what I created. Every time there’s difference of opinions and just right now people are much more kinder to The Room, and I’m not, I think it’s very positive and I’m enjoying it.
Right now I’m at AFI and there’s a big screening here and we’re actually doing it for the 1st time on the stage. Remember, I don’t know if you’re familiar with The Room – oh, you are? – My original idea was to actually put it on the stage, you know, and I’ve been working really hard and put in a lot of research and [sic] go to the theater as a location, and much more people go to the cinema. I changed my script based on the changes and said, “you know what, let’s do this as a movie, and that’s where it came from.” But speaking of eight years, we have a big celebration on the last Friday and Saturday of this month that will be eight years, and I’m very happy it’s happening.
Will the stage version tour?
You see, that’s good question, but I apologize you didn’t hear me right. My plan is for a broadway show. Not off-broadway, none of that. ON broadway, you know what I mean. So but again, this is AFI what we do on the stage. We have six screenings, two of them on the stage and four as the regular film, The Room of course. We already have our actors and today is the first performance (in Washington DC). I don’t know if you want to show up or not. But we’ll probably do this in New York too on the stage. We’ll be doing broadway, that’s my plan, okay? But we’ll be performing all over the world, doing what we do right now as well.
As a writer, what methods do you employ? What inspires your writing?
Well the process is I always want to visualize stuff what I want to write. You know my background is actually stage actor, I was on the stage at my house. I love theater, I really do. I had a great teacher where she opened up to me that acting is very complex. She taught for years in San Francisco and actually she’s still alive so that’s great. I got what acting is about and actually I discovered I had a lot of talent and I didn’t realize that existed and was in me. I’m working currently on The Neighbors and the vampire movie and other projects. I always go by, for some reason, I do know, I do have something where I visualize, like you give me the words, I can do what you want me to do. I’ve put some reporters on the spot and create a scene for fun. So I’m not scared of you.
It’s, I don’t want to use the word difficult, but it’s complex. It’s a process of thinking and then when you put it to paper it’s two different things, you don’t know if you want to do theater or you want to do a movie. Like I don’t know, I worked yesterday with actors, perfect example, you enter with a different approach because it’s different if you do with a movie, for example the actors could be slower. If somebody doesn’t realize that I wish they could ask me your question and I would be like you have to be extremely detailed oriented to seem like a writer. Like a painter, before you paint you have to know how many colors. I notice sometimes even there’s this misunderstanding about my personality on the set. Like when I’m talking about actors or acting, it’s all about colors, how you connect to the audience. I’m using many colors. For example, emotion. For me the chemistry is much more important than the work. You write the script, you need the performer.
Although The Room is undoubtedly beloved, there has been a lot of criticism from the press during the past eight years. What is your take?
You know it’s funny that some people who are blogging about The Room, for example, um…by the way I used the words ‘for example’ twice on purpose [laughs] THAT WAS NOT ACCIDENT THAT WAS NOT COINCIDENCE. That was on purpose, I know it. One hundred percent. So anyway, I just want to say to you people blogging that we did not have a script during the time we shot The Room, I encourage everyone, if you can – check The Room DVD and you will see clearly that we had a script. We directed the movie or whatever the controversy is right now. This is the thing, you contact me and you say “Tommy, can we have interview, I want to ask you questions” and I say sure there are no restrictions. Okay? Moving on, next question. Sorry, next question please.
Do you see your other works gaining the same cult success that you’ve experienced?
First of all, The House that Drips Blood on Alex, for your information, was sponsored by Comedy Central. I was hired as an actor and people just demanded that we have a second. Lots of meetings and long story short they approved the second. The writing is a dilemma. Again, this project will be extremely successful, but it’s not really up to me. The Neighbors, I completed a 22 minute pilot, it was picked up by a network – I don’t want to drop any names, that’s not my style. But we will be working on beginning shooting. For me to produce one after The Neighbors, people don’t realize that this takes a lot of organization and a vision. I have 15 episodes in production. If it airs, I don’t know. The worst scenario we’ll release on DVD. I’ll try not to because I’m trying to work with TV. And that’s what we have.
I’m working on the vampire movie right now, and the economy movie which will be out this year. About The Neighbors, we also have an idea to show to everyone in theaters just for fun. We have a tremendous interest on this. Whatever I’m talking about that’s the answer you have.
Right now in Hollywood there have been a lot of remakes of film classics. Is there any movie you would choose to remake?
I choose to respond to you by saying always original material. Now, again, it’s not wrong if someone want to remake something. But to me, you know let me mention some names. Da Vinci, Chopin, Hitchcock, Orson Welles. All the style, you look it’s original material. They did it by accident – NO. It’s detail oriented process and some people do have it, some people don’t have it. I’m not here to criticize, but again I would choose original material even though sometimes it’s much harder because you start it from scratch. The Room is perfect example because you don’t have anything. Speaking of The Room, again everything was done from scratch, from the music to the scenes of San Francisco, which some people say “oh yeah he use the different footage” That’s incorrect. Next Question.
But do you have any filmmakers who have influenced you?
First of all, I influence myself. However, I am fond of these people (Hitchcock, Welles) because we deal with the same things like psychology. I always say that this relate to The Room, that you may not like it. You don’t have to LIKE The Room, however you will find at least 10 percent that relate to your life. I rest my case, that’s a fact. I can talk about The Room for the rest of my life. It will affect you directly and indirectly. Out of 99 pages I have everything there – as you know, cancer, relationships. Move on.
What is YOUR favorite movie?
Well okay, I would not say this but since you are very nice pretty reporter, I will tell you. One of my favorites is Citizen Kane. Yes, because you have so much stuff there and many times I recommend it. Also, Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor or James Dean movies. And Streetcar Named Desire for example, which I did on the stage and played Stanley. Long story short. Like I said, I love stage. I was very limited with work on the stage, it’s a grey area. The parts come and go. I really enjoyed it.
That’s why I thought The Room would be so good for the stage, but there are some parts that can’t translate because it would be too hard. For example, Johnny when he’s in the shower. I want to present it tastefully. Again, sometimes people say that The Room repeat all the sex scenes – first of all, we don’t have sex scenes, we have LOVE scenes. That’s a big difference number one. Number two, each scene looks the same, but it’s not. [laughs] Okay, that’s enough of that.
The Room is centered upon a very troubled relationship – what is your best relationship advice?
That’s good. I think respect is the key of any relationship. That means respect for he and she. The Room especially tells people, “two’s okay, three’s a crowd, but at the same time you can switch around.” There is no straight formula. Respect is the key. There is the character Lisa, she told Johnny she want to get away with the friend and ruin his life, what if Johnny changed with her or had been someone else? He doesn’t. She knew exactly what she’s doing. Is she right? She’s wrong. She could ask Michelle for advice but it’s too late.
So we have relationships and also behavior, and she wants the world but everything collapse. Let’s assume for a moment Lisa confronts Johnny when he says “I have recorded everything,” and she finds out later on and says “look, I’m sorry, I want to tell you about it, I’m in love with someone else.” As you know from the movie she gets a warning from the friend that you shouldn’t hurt Johnny. The thing with respect – I don’t care who they are, could be girls, could be guys – with any relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to marry somebody. In America I personally think that we should give up relationships because people think that between two people you have to do something sexual. That’s not what it is. Relationship – could be with your neighbor. What even is a good relationship? Coworkers, even someone on the street.
I think that’s the reason that the past two or three years, we’ve had more girls see The Room than ever. It’s what I know, I notice that some of the girls when I talk to them they learned from The Room. It’s a fact. Some people give me credit, I don’t need the credit. I just want people to enjoy themselves. You should express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other.
Interview by Samantha Wilson. June, 2011.
Reprinted by ALT FEEDBACK with permission, from HALLMARKS OF FAILURE.