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Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero dissect the oddball friendship that gave us The Room

It’s not what The Room’s Tommy Wiseau won’t tell you about his past — it’s how he won’t tell it.

2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards  - Show Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The challenge of every good interview is not boring your subject with a litany of questions they’ve been asked a million times before; but when the subjects are Tommy Wiseau, the enigmatic creator of The Room, and his best friend and co-star Greg Sestero, you’re met with something like the opposite of this problem. Wiseau is like a river: You can’t step into the same interview twice, and the uncertainty over which Wiseau you’re talking to, even from question to question, might just carry you away.

Of course, this unpredictable quality is one of the things his fans love most about him, and what has made his inexplicable 2003 melodrama a cult classic unlike any other in recent memory.

For most of 2017, James Franco’s film adaptation of The Disaster Artist, Sestero’s fantastic memoir about his friendship with Wiseau and the making of The Room, got heavy buzz as an awards season frontrunner, though this campaign was largely subdued by accusations of sexual misconduct against Franco (which he denies). Still, the film is a strange, magnetic hybrid: a classic Hollywood tale of struggling outsider art, starry-eyed actors growing jaded and disillusioned as they chase their dreams, and unlikely stardom forged out of an even unlikelier friendship.

Sestero has essentially become known as the Wiseau whisperer — the one person who has stuck by Wiseau in all his quirkiness and occasional volatility. On the eve of The Disaster Artist’s DVD and Blu-ray release, I sat down for a chat with both of them about The Room, friendship, and Wiseau’s ever-shifting origin story.

Aja Romano

I’m a huge fan of The Room, I’ve seen it hundreds of times. I actually listened to the audiobook of The Disaster Artist [which Sestero narrated] before I read it or saw the movie, and you did an amazing job.

Greg Sestero

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Aja Romano

What was that experience like for you? Were you ever unsettled by how well you were channeling Tommy?

Greg Sestero

I feel like I’ve always been very connected to Tommy. We spend hours talking on the phone, and I feel like I understand him in a way. I’ve always been drawn to characters growing up, and so Tommy was the ultimate character that I really just got. Combine that with the years of working with him, hanging out, and I was able to very much get across what Tommy was going through.

Tommy’s very, very funny, but he’s authentic, and I think the comedy comes from the character. And I really tried to capture that in the audiobook. It was a great challenge, and I wanted to do it justice. I think a lot of times people try to make a caricature of it, and it’s not that; it’s real. And the interesting part of the story comes from playing straight.

[Wiseau gets disconnected during the question]

He must have not liked my answer.

Tommy Wiseau

Hey, how are you? Who are you?

Aja Romano

I’m Aja!

Tommy Wiseau

Oh, hi. How are you? What’s happening?

Aja Romano

I was just talking about differences between the Disaster Artist book and the movie. The book made a whole theme of The Talented Mr. Ripley and that wasn’t really touched on in the film, and I wondered if the two of you have ever discussed that theme and the effect the movie had on Tommy.

Tommy Wiseau

So what do you think, Greg? Did we discuss that?

Greg Sestero

That was a really strange night, I think. It was the night of the Golden Globes 18 years ago.

Tommy Wiseau

I was furious. Remember?

Greg Sestero

Yeah, I mean, I think there’s just a period of time where, like, you’ve done it, you’ve done the headshots, you try to get agents, and it’s the night of the Globes and you’re just, you want to be there, you want to be working, and you’re not.

And I think it kind of hit a breaking point that night. I think something about the combination of that movie and watching that movie — it’s unpredictable, it’s violent, and I think it probably brought about a reaction that, hey, maybe it’s time for me to do my own project.

The 2018 InStyle And Warner Bros. 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards Post-Party - Inside
James Franco celebrates his Golden Globe win for portraying Tommy Wiseau by posing with the man himself.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for InStyle

Aja Romano

I wonder if you think leaving that out of the film changed the character in any way?

Tommy Wiseau

No. It did not change anything. You’ve got the minor stuff. I was really frustrated. I didn’t realize — I didn’t know about Hollywood. But now it’s different. I was very innocent. Still I am. The success of The Room is my heart, basically.

Aja Romano

Another part that got left out of the film but not the book was speculation about your origin story. And I’ve noticed that you’ve recently been telling people that you are from Europe, which is something you weren’t admitting before. And I was wondering if you guys discussed the decision to leave a lot of that speculation out of the film with James Franco.

[Note: Wiseau spent much of 2017 attempting to quash a documentary, Room Full of Spoons, that traced his origins to Poland. Shortly after a court lifted an injunction against the film, Wiseau publicly confirmed in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel that he is from Europe.]

Tommy Wiseau

No, no. Let me explain; you’ve got the wrong direction. You know what, we live in America, do we? How long you been writing?

Aja Romano

Oh! A long time. My whole life.

Tommy Wiseau

All right. Then you should know — put somebody down with a question is not nice. I’m American, I’m very proud of it, okay. Your question is very disrespectful behavior if you ask me. Did you see Disaster Artist?

Aja Romano

Oh, many times, yes.

Tommy Wiseau

Okay, so Disaster Artist, you ask me where I come from, I’m American and very proud of it. You don’t like my accent, that’s your problem, that’s not my problem, is it.

Well, putting somebody down, I speak very openly about this.

[The Lionsgate coordinator breaks in to emphasize that while there may have been rumors that Tommy was from Europe, his nationality is American.]

Aja Romano

Oh, absolutely. I wasn’t intending to disparage that at all.

Tommy Wiseau

That’s why I ask you — the culture, when you talk about The Room, you talk about football — by design, I create The Room for American market, for us here, at a time when I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana, then I move to Bay Area, etc. That’s one thing.

The second thing — you may ask Greg, why he did not, too much, talk about my private life, where I come from, origin, whatever. That’s not important. What’s important is to interact with people.

Like, for example, The Room, I always say, you know, you can have fun, etc. And people misquote me many times. And I think you doing this, maybe you didn’t realize that, but I’m just telling you, that was not intention.

I think the film industry is — I would say, you have a vision, you can create something. The creative process, sometimes I say, you can leave it alone, but maybe Greg can respond better. Ha ha. I just try to correct you — there’s nothing wrong with you, but I’m very touchy about that.

Aja Romano

I was going to ask you how you felt about all the massive amounts of speculation, but I think you’ve answered that question, so thank you.

When I look at your body of work, I see in The Room, The House That Dripped Blood on Alex, and Neighbors, Tommy, you tend to play this kind of landlord figure surrounded by people you have to take care of. Why are you drawn to that character?

Tommy Wiseau

In reference to the Neighbors, I create based on what I see, it’s original material, that’s number one. In House That Dripped Blood on Alex, that was the script. So, you’re right, I don’t know, maybe it was coincidence or whatever, I don’t know, it happened that way, I didn’t think — you give me good spin, I appreciate that. You see, now I appreciate you. I don’t know if you’ve seen Best Friends, but maybe Greg can talk about that.

Greg Sestero

There are no landlords in that one.

Tommy Wiseau

Ha ha ha.

AFI FEST 2017 Presented By Audi - Screening Of 'The Disaster Artist' - Red Carpet
Wiseau and Sestero attend a screening of The Disaster Artist in 2017.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for AFI

Aja Romano

I feel like I’ve been hearing about Best Friends for a very long time, and I’m looking forward to it.

Tommy Wiseau

Well, you know, all of the movies I mentioned before, if you talk about The Disaster Artist, which will be released on March 13 on DVD and Blu-ray, it’s very good at setting and the comparison to The Room, and I’m very happy that, actually, the team of Disaster Artist as well as others who are talking about the movie are also talking about the book. Because people tend to get confused because the movie is based on the Greg Sestero book.

I’ve been surprised at the reviews — at how people have embraced Disaster Artist over the past eight months. I didn’t hear one single negative stuff — that’s not the case about The Room, but never mind about that.

But we are happy where we are! Let me stress that, including you, as well as others, the media, they’re very enthusiastic of The Room, and I appreciate you guys, that all of you guys realize that The Room is not necessarily “accidents happen.” It never happened by accident.

Aja Romano

The Room and a lot of your work is about you, Tommy, surrounding yourself with unofficial families.

Tommy Wiseau

Absolutely! You have something there! You know, when I was living in New Orleans, you know, your door is supposed to be open. And people say, why? You remember the scene of The Room with Mike and Michelle and they want to do crazy stuff. The door is open, they don’t have a key. I wrote families that you don’t need a key.

That’s what drive me crazy because — for the first time, the past two years, people actually analyze all this detail, including yourself. Definitely, you’re right on the money. All this group of people, they have something in common, they reach out to each other. But one of the problems is, as you know, in The Room, the plot is that they betray Johnny. That’s the red flag that I presented, was my vision: Don’t do this type stuff, because you will burn yourself. But I want people to have fun, so. Greg, do you want to respond before this is over? Ha ha. About The Room?

Greg Sestero

Yeah, I mean, I think The Room — a lot of that comes from real life. That’s what I think makes it interesting — it’s drawn from a very different life experience and perspective. In the book, in the author’s note, I kind of called it a cry for help, to try and communicate with the world and put a message out there. I think a lot of artists do that, you see a tone throughout, and I think especially with The Room it’s an attempt to connect and fit in and show that you do have something to offer.

Aja Romano

I feel like your friendship was born in a moment where you were both kind of vulnerable. If you had to do it all again, is there anything about your friendship you would change?

Tommy Wiseau

For my part — this is Tommy speaking — the answer is no. Because I think we have a roller coaster ride sometimes. From the start, what I did with Greg as a friend was very great, you know — play football, do whatever you want. I will cherish the rest of my life. And actually, we do the same thing right now as we speak to you —we have a relationship as a friend. It’s very unique, actually.

Greg Sestero

Yeah, I think I had a few girlfriends over the years that I think maybe kinda tried to get in the way, or didn’t understand, and I think that affected me in some ways. So I think the one thing I kinda wish I could change is not listening as much to naysayers and people making me feel like I was doing something wrong. And just owning everything more and not second-guessing myself.

But it’s been a really great ride, so many great experiences. You can’t just take the good and leave the difficult times, you have to accept it all. I’m definitely grateful, looking back on everything.

Tommy Wiseau

Just keep in mind if you look at The Room, you look at The Disaster Artist, and you look at Best Friends, all these three movies have something unique. So I always encourage people to give a chance to Best Friends as well. I know The Disaster Artist is a great success, and I know how they think about the theme of the Disaster Artist, and I notice it’s a great success and I think everyone should see the movie.