The Disaster Artist: What You Need To Know
It has been estimated that, in any given year, Hollywood churns out anywhere between 400 and 600 movies. A handful of these may be genuinely described as 'great', some are good, some are OK and a few, inevitably, will be just plain bad. But every now and then, a movie comes along that is so objectively, indefensibly terrible that something strange begins to happen; through a mixture of scathing reviews, word of mouth and the same kind of innate curiosity that prevents us from being able to drive past the scene of a car accident without taking a peek, the movie in question starts pulling in audiences. In some cases, the film in question – and those responsible – begin to earn themselves a cult following.
For a long time, Ed Wood's 1959 'masterpiece' Plan 9 From Outer Space was the standard-bearer of so-bad-it's-good filmmaking, brilliantly illustrated by the manner in which Wood deals with the death of his 'star' Bela Lugosi, by recycling clips of his performances in other films and having a lookalike deliver his remaining lines while obscuring his face. Wood himself became something of a cherished figure amongst filmmakers, even becoming the subject of a lovingly rendered biopic directed by Tim Burton.
So it has been with Tommy Wiseau, whose 2003 film The Room has been referred to “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”. Originally intended as a powerful melodrama – although Wiseau now claims the film was designed as a comedy – The Room has generated a bizarre cult of late night screenings in which the audience arrive in red dresses or ill-fitting tuxedos and delight in throwing plastic cutlery at the screen. Wiseau himself is something of an enigma; purportedly from New Orleans, although quite clearly of Eastern European descent, Wiseau refuses to discuss his past, his age or indeed any aspect of his personal life, making him an intriguingly odd figure amongst Hollywood's airbrushed glitterati.
In 2013, Wiseau's friend and The Room co-star Greg Sestero authored The Disaster Artist, a book about his experiences working on the film that was quickly snapped up Seth Rogan's Point Grey Pictures for a big screen adaptation, which made its way into cinemas last year.
This week The Disaster Artist makes its arrival in stores on DVD and Blu-ray, here's everything you need to know...
Who's in it?
James Franco stars as Tommy Wiseau, alongside a cast that includes his brother Dave Franco as Greg Sestero, as well as roles for Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Zac Efron and Sharon Stone. There are also numerous cameo appearances from the likes of Kevin Smith, J.J. Abrams, Kristen Bell, Bryan Cranson and Lizzy Caplan, all of whom appear as themselves.
And who's directing?
Much like the story's protagonist, James Franco both directs and stars in the film.
What's the plot?
The Disaster Artist begins with Greg's first meeting with Tommy at an acting class in San Francisco, with Tommy being criticised for a ludicrously overacted performance in a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. However, Greg is intrigued by his apparent fearlessness and the pair strike up a friendship, with Tommy eventually suggesting they move to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers.
As Greg's life and career steadily begin to progress, Tommy finds himself rejected by all manner of talent agencies and casting directors, becoming envious of Greg's relative success. When the roles begin to dry up for Greg, he and Tommy share their frustrations with the film industry, and Tommy resolves to make a movie himself for them both to star in. Greg is somewhat reluctant but accepts Tommy's offer of a co-starring role in the film and a production credit. Tommy then writes the screenplay for his film, a melodrama called The Room about a love triangle between a banker, Johnny, his fiancée Lisa and his best friend Mark.
Greg is initially skeptical about the film ever getting made, especially Tommy's assertion that he will fund the film himself, but soon discovers that Tommy appears to have access to seemingly inexhaustible funds and hires a production studio, even buying the cameras himself. Production begins smoothly, but Greg and his fellow cast members soon find Tommy almost impossible to work with. His poor treatment of the cast and crew is highlighted when he points out to an actress about to enact one of the film's many sex scenes that she has acne, going out of his way to embarrass her in front of the crew. On the last day of filming, Greg confronts him about his behaviour, but subsequently agrees to attend the film's press screening, if only because he is convinced that nobody will show up.
To Greg's surprise, the screening is packed, and both he and Tommy sit mortified as their reaction turns from horror into outright mirth. A visibly upset Tommy heads out into the lobby, where Greg convinces him that even if their reaction isn't what he intended, he has succeeded in making them happy.
Does it deliver?
The story of Wiseau and his unlikely path to fame proves the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, and it's a story well worth telling. Franco does a good job here and is careful not stray too far into mocking Wiseau himself, although it has to be said that most of the film's laugh-out-loud moments are the result of Wiseau's oddball behaviour. Instead The Disaster Artist nicely manages the tightrope walk of gently poking fun at its subject, but still creating a touching portrait of its protagonist while remembering to be a lot of fun for its audience.