When it was initially released in 2003, “The Room” was panned by critics, with many calling it the worst movie ever made, and the box office turnout was a disaster. But despite all the negativity, “The Room” has developed quite the cult following since its release, with midnight screenings selling out around the world, and has brought attention to its writer/director/producer/star, Tommy Wiseau.
With the popularity that “The Room” has garnered over the years, the guys at RiffTrax have decided it is time for a live spoof of the B-movie. Fathom Events will be airing the special event live in theaters on May 6 in the U.S. and Canada, and an encore will be shown on May 12 in the U.S. Tickets are on sale now, and can be purchased by visiting the Fathom Events website or your local box office.
Written, directed, produced by, and starring Wiseau, “The Room” tells the story of Johnny, a successful banker in San Francisco, who is engaged to the beautiful Lisa. But what Johnny doesn’t know is Lisa has been having an affair with his best friend, Mark. Johnny must uncover the truth about Lisa before he goes completely insane.
Recently, the Chico Movie Examiner talked to Wiseau about “The Room” and the upcoming RiffTrax Live event. Check out the full interview below.
David Wangberg: I actually haven’t seen “The Room” in its entirety, but I did watch some clips online through YouTube. But I tried to find it at Best Buy and Redbox and the rental store in my town, and it wasn’t there. Why is this film so hard to find, unless it’s through Netflix or Amazon, even though it has a cult following?
Tommy Wiseau: Did I talk to you before?
DW: No, I’ve never talked to you before.
TW: Oh, OK. Your voice [sounds] familiar. Actually, you can find it very easily on Amazon.com, that’s number one. And number two, you can find it if you enter theroommovie.com; we sell it directly. Actually, right now, we’re happy where we are. Basically, we’ve screened “The Room” for the past 12 years; I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.
TW: So you can actually go see it in a theater near you. If not, send us an email; we’d like to accommodate the needs of your community that want to screen “The Room.”
DW: OK. I saw it on Amazon and on Netflix’s DVD catalogue, but it wouldn’t get to me in time before this interview.
TW: Yeah, no problem. Eventually, you will see the entire thing. [laughs]
DW: Well, I do plan on seeing it when they do the RiffTrax. Is it OK if that becomes my first viewing of “The Room,” or should I try to watch it beforehand?
TW: Well, that’s up to you, you know? I always encourage people with [however they] want to see it. RiffTrax is very… first of all, I’m not a fan of RiffTrax. However, I support [them], because they have a sort of different entertainment… different [than the] cookie cutter from Hollywood. I think they are nice people, and that’s the reason we issued [the] license.
They’ll be screening “The Room” in 700 theaters across the U.S. on May 6 and 12, as well as in Canada on May 6. To respond to your question, it doesn’t matter when you watch it. I always encourage people to see it in a theater. If you don’t have access to it, eventually, you will have access to it. [laughs]
DW: And it’s screening in 700 theaters nationwide, and a lot of the people who are going to see it will probably have never seen the film beforehand. What’s some advice that you have for those who are going to see it for the first time?
TW: I would say you can laugh; you can cry; you can express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other – and just have fun with “The Room.” That’s basically what I’ve been preaching to people for almost 12 years. It’s something different, [that’s] number one, and number two, everything you see in “The Room” was done intentionally.
It’s not like [what people are blogging about] with, “Oh, this is a problem; that’s a problem.” I’ve been involved with [the] entire production from shooting to editing, et cetera, et cetera. Sometimes you can see a certain imperfection, but I say let it go, you know? I mean, you can do so much with a movie. I’m talking as an editor; I did not edit, but I was part of [the editing process approval].
DW: When “The Room” came out, it got a lot of bad reviews. Were those something that you just had to look past, or did they affect you in some way?
TW: That’s a good question, David; I commend you. That’s a very good question actually. I’m a very optimistic person, so it does affect me to certain degree, but I grew up in a family where you could say whatever you want, and you cannot [get] punished, with respect to all the siblings or your environment.
It does affect me as a filmmaker as well as an actor, but at the same token, people are… my statement is that Hollywood was not ready to see something different, because I don’t know if you know, but I never pitched it to a big studio and said, “Hey, let’s produce my movie.” I produced it from scratch, and I’m very proud of it.
Some of the blogging you hear about with “The Room”… let me give you an example. People say the script did not exist, so we put [together] that little teaser trailer in [relation] to the script. It does exist. A lot of stuff happened. For example, Blu-rays are available on Amazon as well as DVD, and you can see very clearly what went on behind the scenes, which we have a clip on the DVD and Blu-ray.
To respond to your question, it did affect me somewhat, but at the same token, I’m the kind of person that says, “Well, they can say whatever they want, and I’ll do my stuff.” [laughs] If you have a good spirit, it doesn’t affect you as much, if they think they can affect you. Do you know what I’m saying?
DW: Yeah. And you’ve said in other interviews that you aren’t bothered by the fact that RiffTrax is going to be poking fun at this movie…
TW: That’s what I’m saying right now. Again, that’s a good question, because I support them fully, and I said, “You can say whatever you want.” Again, to me, I don’t know about your take, but based on what you’re asking me, based on their form of entertainment, I think “The Room” has potential one of the best movies they have riffed, you know? There are so many funny lines. For example, “Two’s great, but three’s a crowd”; “How’s your sex life”; et cetera, et cetera. I can recite the entire script.
Long story short, you have a lot of different situations within “The Room” that you can use it very easily. And I think it’s funny because it’s easy to understand for the audience, and at the same time, they can be making fun of it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I support them; I say this openly. I’m not a fan of the RiffTrax [as a whole], but I support them. The idea is different, and it seems to me that people really appreciate it and like to be a part of it.
DW: Was there any hesitation when they first approached you about it?
TW: Oh, yeah, absolutely. There was big hesitation. [They said] “What do you want to do?” I said, “I’m tired of you making fun of ‘The Room.’” [laughs] But at the same token, let me give you an example. For my screening, I [have always encouraged] people to express themselves in the past 12 years, except I tell them always, “[Don’t do it] in a hated way.”
You may not like “The Room”; it’s OK with me. I have no issue, but I do have an issue when you steal my stuff, [and] you don’t pay for the license or if you do something crazy, pretend that everything is hunky-dory, and then say, “Oh, it’s a parody.” You have to draw the line [with] parody. If I assume you are making money from my project, I’m entitled to charge you for license.
To respond to your question about RiffTrax, we had a discussion about four years ago when they riffed it the first time. To be honest, I didn’t like it, because – again, this is the thing I learned – it’s my project, and I think I should be compensated for it. At the same time, I should be informed about it. It’s different if you’re doing one minute or three minutes; I let that go. But if you’re talking about the entire film, this is original material. Everything was done from scratch from the music to the storyline to creating the characters. It’s a process; it’s a very intensive process.
I was talking just recently to one of the big executives from a network, and they said, “Oh, today, you can just grab an iPod and make a movie.” I said, “Wait a minute; I disagree with you.” To be that easy, sure, everybody will be doing what these people are doing, but who’s watching, you know? We’re still in the same process when you want to put something, say radio programming or interview, we have a certain format we abide by. We’re living proof that a job [needs to be done] a certain way, but at the same token, we still obey by certain formats. [That’s the same] with “The Room.”
When I saw RiffTrax, I was very skeptical, but I said, “Wait a minute. We’ve screened already for 12 years; it doesn’t hurt us at all.” Plus, I am pro-freedom. I say this many times, because sometimes people put me on the spot at a Q&A at my event. I say, “Just ask. What do you want to ask? Ask whatever you want.” If you’re making fun of “The Room,” fine. If you want to play football, that’s fine with me. If you want to yell, that’s the idea behind it. [laughs]
So I approved, and we worked with them, as you know, and I’m promoting their event – that’s May 6 and May 12, and we’re doing it in Canada on May 6. I’m hoping next year, we’ll do it again; we’ll see how successful it will be. I think they [will] get really good, I will say, feedback from fans of “The Room” as well as from me. That’s where we stand. Move on, next question.
DW: [laughs] And it’s not like they’re being mean-spirited about it, either. They’re just having fun.
TW: You see, that’s a good statement. I hope you can go, David; I’m sorry if I call you David. That’s OK with you, right?
DW: Yeah, that’s fine.
TW: I think you are absolutely correct. You see, that’s the idea. What I would say of “The Room”… people have thought I’m just laughing or, “Oh, now he changed his mind”; I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the reports and statements. No, I never change my mind, and I never will. I think entertainment is… I don’t know if you know “I Love Lucy,” if you’re familiar with it.
DW: Yeah, I’ve seen it before.
TW: So, it’s [a] perfect example. It’s a funny show – to actually laugh. I would say you can outplay comedy, but you create situations and [if] you provoke the audience in certain ways, they will laugh. “The Room” is the same thing. Johnny is yelling and screaming, and there’s a reason for it. To be honest, I did not anticipate that I would be talking for 12 years about “The Room,” and we still continue to do it. Maybe it is destiny or something, but I am happy where I am now.
DW: Other than San Francisco, there are a lot of screenings for this film across the nation like midnight showings and all that.
TW: Yeah, we screen all over. Other screenings we have include Chicago, New York, [the] main cities, and we have small cities as well. Some people screen it every two months, but we have regular screenings for the past 12 years. International screenings, for example, London, at the [Prince Charles] Cinema, I believe it’s screened every month for eight years. Australia is the same thing, and [there is] New Zealand, as well as Canada. We also have screenings in Europe and other countries come and go.
DW: Do you make it out every single one of them, or do you just go to one here and there?
TW: [laughs] That’s a good one. Thank you for asking. No, I just don’t have time for that. I travel once a month on tour. The next one is actually a big event – a midnight showing here in Los Angeles on June 5 and 6. And then we have Philadelphia for a special event, and we go to Europe and to other cities as well. I just don’t have time. I usually have a regular screening in Los Angeles and as many screenings as I can, but I’m working on a new project. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it; it’s “The Neighbors.”
DW: Yeah, I’ve heard about it.
TW: We’re very happy to work with Hulu and other people, and other projects come and go; I’m very open about other projects. I’m ready for a big studio to call me, man. [laughs] OK, move on, next question.
DW: Is “The Neighbors” done filming for the season, or are you still in production on it?
TW: We are still in production. We are shooting another four episodes; [there are] four episodes now available on Hulu, and on the contrary, we are supposed to produce four more [episodes] and at the end four more. We’re leaning toward producing at 16 [episodes]; we’ll see what happens.
We’re open with TV people, because I actually want to put “The Neighbors” on a regular [network]. That’s the idea behind it; we’ll see how successful we are. But we got a really good reaction. I don’t know if you know, but we screened “The Neighbors” with “The Room” – a combo screening – for the past six months. Again, people like to see it in the theater as well.
DW: For “The Room,” I was reading that you used both HD and 35mm cameras that you purchased. Do you still have those in your possession, and do you alternate using them?
TW: Yeah, well, with those cameras, we actually may be dedicating… I’m thinking of creating “The Room” museum or something like that. It’s a good question. We just recently put a little trailer [together related] to the equipment. People don’t realize that, for example, some of the equipment I used from “The Room” I use for “The Neighbors.”
You see, this is another thing where people don’t realize that nothing happens by accident. You have to plan certain stuff and with every mistake I make, I admit it; there’s nothing wrong with that. But at the same token, if you have a vision, you can create something and hope that people enjoy it.
DW: What did filming “The Room” teach you about the filmmaking process, and how has that helped you in later projects?
TW: Oh, that’s a good question. Again, I commend you. It [taught] me a lot. First of all, let me go back and tell you about my background. I’m a professional stage actor, but my background is also [in] business. My business background did help me to produce “The Room” if I think about it. I didn’t realize that my skills… for example, I built a couple of buildings in the Bay Area. It did help me with my organization, for example. It’s very complex, when you try to do directing, acting, and producing – it’s a lot of different skills you need.
Sometimes, I notice that I have to make a decision instantly. Some of the decisions I make [are] correct; some of them are partially correct. When shooting “The Neighbors,” I always try to refresh myself and say, “OK, what did I do wrong? How can I improve production?” One of the big obstacles that production [taught] me is that you can replace everybody, and you can still have a project. That was very tough for me, and very stressful, because I always believed the first crew we hired – I hired with my assistant – would complete the project, [and] it did not happen that way.
It’s sad, because I thought people really believed in my project, and it didn’t come out right. But at the same token, I learned that we have a lot of – especially in Hollywood – a lot of skillful people who actually are very honest and very dedicated to their craft, whether it’s the lighting, grip guy, my assistant, set design, et cetera, et cetera. I learned a lot from “The Room.”
Again, this is the thing, I remembered today I had a meeting with [the] actors, and I said, “Hey, look, this is the first project for some of you.” [For] 90 percent of our actors, that was their first project. And I [wanted] them to be a part of it from beginning to end, but it did not come out the way I planned, to be honest. But that’s their loss, not mine, you know? [laughs]
Because, again, you can learn in school – I learned a lot of stuff in school – but when you do it [the] practical way, what you’re actually doing is two different things, and that’s the story here, you know? The more you do it, the better you are. You ask me about HD or 35mm [cameras], I can tell you what the difference is or whatever you want me to talk about. Again, I learned so much that I was actually proud of myself, but it’s just too bad that some of the people quit.
For example, I replaced the crew four times. Because I had to replace someone, every logical person in business will tell you the same thing I’m telling you right now, to replace someone who you need costs more money than the person puts in to do work. People don’t realize that, you know? Money’s one thing, but then you repeat yourself with the instructions, the accommodations, et cetera, et cetera.
So, that was pretty challenging. Also, it was challenging, [because] we needed a second unit when we shot in San Francisco. Everything, I would say, is a first-class production as well as everything’s original, [and] that’s why I’m proud of “The Room.” And I think I’ll be prouder with my life. [laughs] Whatever people say [that is] negative, that’s their problem, not mine.
DW: I saw online that there’s going to be an adaptation of “The Disaster Artist,” and James Franco is going to direct it and possibly star as you?
TW: Yes, I think he will [star in the film].
DW: If Franco does portray you, what are the things he would have to do in order to create the perfect portrayal of Tommy Wiseau?
TW: That’s a good question. I don’t know if you knew, but [we have a] certain agreement, where we’re not supposed to talk about it, but we can just say general [things]. So, first of all, Seth Rogen and James Franco, my understanding is they will produce [a film about the making of] “The Room,” based on the Greg Sestero book, and James Franco will play me, and David Franco will play Greg Sestero.
To respond to your question, as I say to James Franco and others, “You know what? You’re the director, you’re the producer, you can make magic.” So the idea is that I’ll be much more involved with production, but it’s up to them. I’m involved a little bit, but, again, I cannot talk about it.
Long story short, it’s up to them how deep they can… I think [James Franco] is a very talented person, as well as his brother. So, I think they will do a pretty good job, but it’s up to them on how we’ll do it. He said very openly that he’ll be very respectful. [I said that] to a reporter, and they said, “James Franco respectful? Are you kidding me?” And I said, “Well, you know what? He’s a good actor. It’s up to him on how he wants to spin.”
Greg Sestero’s book, I’m not supporting 100 percent, I don’t know if you heard or not. I’m supporting only about 40 percent; that’s the bottom line.
DW: I had to reach out to people who had seen “The Room” to get some fan questions, and one of my friends wanted to ask you: How do you get your roses to be so red?
TW: That’s a good question. First of all, [they’re] real roses, that’s number one. We always had real roses on the set, not the plastic [kind] or whatever. And keep in mind, what you see, [whether it’s] DVD or Blu-ray, it’s actually from 35[mm], not HD. Hopefully, I will eventually finish writing the book [about the] differences between HD and 35mm, because I still would say that we don’t have a book [on that], and I did have a certain agreement from Panasonic that they would do some way to use both cameras, but it didn’t come out right.
Let’s put it this way. By the time “The Room” is done – we shot on both formats – HD [captures] a good red color, but I agree with you because red color – I’m surprised you asked; it’s a good question – because, when you shoot a red color, and you don’t have good lighting, you may have a little shadow from the colors; I don’t know if you know that. And some of the movies, when you see someone filming a person wearing a red dress or jacket, you will see imperfection and that’s related to lighting and the camera, and the lens. So the fire, when we’re shooting the fire from the candles, we’re using a special lighting. Again, it’s the same principle.
So, to respond to the question, it was very complex. It was a test on how we could shoot, you know. But the main thing is lighting. I learned from acting and production school and different workshops that when you are a filmmaker and you try to film a movie, you know what kind of equipment you use best? Lighting. Not camera so much, but lighting and also lens. These two are things you can use for the rest of your life.
DW: Tommy, that was the last question I had for you, and my recorder is about to die on me. I thought it had more life on it, but apparently not. Thank you for taking the time.
TW: OK, thank you very much. Again, we’re doing the special screening with RiffTrax on May 6 and May 12 in the U.S. – and in Canada on May 6. I would like to say thank you very much. You can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself. And I love you all, OK? Thank you.