Monday, March 10, 2014

The Disaster Artist

The title: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made
The author: Greg Sestero
Publication: Simon & Schuster, 2013
Got it from: Amazon

My husband and I just finished reading this book (he read it in two days, I read it in three) and we had to stop every few pages to either 1) take a breather from laughing or, 2) discuss the baffling and horrifying psyche of Tommy Wiseau.

If you've never seen The Room, "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" (Entertainment Weekly), then here's a hint of what's in store for you: one reviewer who saw it during its initial 2003 release said that watching it was "like getting stabbed in the head."  I recommend viewing it at least three times before reading this book.  Watch it once to be horrified by how appalling bad it is, watch it the second time to laugh at the ridiculousness, and watch it a third time to stand in awe of how such a movie could ever have been made in the first place.

How exactly it is made forms the focal point of The Disaster Artist.  Young Greg Sestero, an aspiring actor, befriends the infamous Tommy Wiseau, who later writes, produces, directs and stars in The Room.  As the horror of the filming ensues (at least two crews walked off of the set because they couldn't deal with Tommy), we see flashbacks of how Greg and Tommy became unlikely friends.  They are the ultimate odd couple - Greg is just 19, blonde, good-looking, All-American, with a modeling career and a rising star in L.A.  Tommy Wiseau is a mysterious, fortysomething dark-haired vampire-like creature with a mysterious past, a strange, unidentified personality disorder and a confusing temper.  Trying to figure Tommy out will take up most of the reader's time in this book.  The answers are sketchy at best.  Even Greg, who has known him for fifteen years, has only the vaguest idea of Tommy's closely guarded past, which may involve growing up in Communist Europe and amassing a San Francisco business empire.

I have seen The Room about ten times now, and the one thing I wasn't prepared for is how much more bizarre the behind-the-scenes story is.  Greg himself had a front-row seat to the action, being first the line producer and then one of its stars, as he was convinced by Tommy to play Mark, Johnny's (aka Tommy's) best friend.  The narrative is at its best (and funniest) when describing the baffling filming decisions Tommy makes that waste huge amounts of time and money.  (For instance, he spends half a million dollars on film equipment that goes largely unused, but refuses to rent a $200 air conditioner even though one of the actresses faints from heat on set.) 

Whether or not you read this book, and you really should if you've seen The Room, you need to see the movie.  Be prepared to watch and wonder in disbelief how a man could spend $6 million on a vanity project that is just so mind-numbingly bad. 

"You are tearing me apart, Lisa!"

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