BookDrunk: The Disaster Artist
It’s not uncommon for someone to try to capitalize on the success of a cult film with an accompanying book, but The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, is so much more than that.
For starters, it was written by Greg Sestero (with co-writer Tom Bissell), who not only acted in the film (he’s the Mark of “Oh, hi, Mark” fame), but, serving double duty as “line producer,” also signed all of the checks. Meaning that perhaps no one else was in a better position to know how much Tommy Wiseau, The Room’s infamously eccentric, self-described vampire auteur, spent on it. It was reportedly upwards of $6 million, for a film which nonetheless looks like some college kids could’ve knocked it out in a weekend. And probably gotten a C. Among other baffling, needlessly wasteful decisions, Wiseau attempted to shoot all of it on HD and 35 mm film simultaneously, as well as bought, rather than rented, all of the equipment.
As one of Tommy Wiseau’s closest friends and his former roommate, Sestero was also in a unique position to tackle some of the most enduring Wiseau mysteries. Where is Tommy Wiseau actually from? How old is Tommy Wiseau? Where did Tommy Wiseau’s seemingly endless fortune come from? Not to mention an endless source of Tommy Wiseau anecdotes, from his 4 am pull-up sessions to his strange demands (a cup of hot water, every time he goes to a restaurant, which he never drinks), and bizarre fashion sense (baggy blazer, cargo pants with pockets full, two belts).
What makes The Disaster Artist so compelling (and I’m not the only one who thinks so, James Franco is attached to direct a film adaptation) is that it sets aside the usual, dull question of “what makes this bad movie such a cult favorite” to tell the far more interesting story of Sestero’s strange friendship with this strange man. (It’s in the vein of My Best Fiend, for the film fans). Befriending Tommy allowed Greg to move to LA to pursue his dream of acting, but also became his albatross, spending years studying acting from the best teachers only to become best known for movie widely regarded as terrible.
Or at least, it could have. These days, I’m starting to wonder if Greg Sestero’s secret is that he’s actually pretty good actor. Hearing him read The Disaster Artist audiobook, in which he does all of the accents, including a dead-on Tommy Wiseau, gives you a whole new perspective on the guy who once growled “Leave your stupid comments in your pocket.” A perspective fleshed out further in Dude Bro Party Massacre III, in which Sestero plays a major role and turns in arguably the most believable performance.
Recently I sat down with Greg and Dude Bro’s co-director, Michael Rousselet, of the 5-Second Films mafia, who, as one of The Room’s very first viewers, is often credited with helping to start The Room cult, as well as some of its first audience participation traditions. It also happened, through sheer coincidence, that the first screening of Dude Bro Party Massacre III coincided with the 12th anniversary of The Room’s first screening.