A movie about one of the worst films ever made

Actor-director James Franco (right) recruited his brother Dave Franco to star in The Disaster Artist.
Actor-director James Franco (right) recruited his brother Dave Franco to star in The Disaster Artist. PHOTO: WARNER BROS

LOS ANGELES • In 2003, The Room opened in California and quickly became known as the "Citizen Kane of bad movies" - a melodrama so convoluted that it went on to gain cult status.

Writer-director Tommy Wiseau's production is still shown to delighted audiences around the world, with fans revelling in the awfulness of the acting and the script.

When James Franco set out to direct The Disaster Artist, a faux behind-the-scenes look at the making of what is often called one of the worst films ever made, he said it was not to poke fun at Wiseau.

Franco, who also stars as the eccentric, strangely accented Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, said he believed the film conveyed Wiseau's passion for the medium.

"He is an artist in that sense, so (The Room) is a disaster and it's a piece of art," Franco said in an interview at Sunday's premiere of The Disaster Artist at the American Film Institute festival in Los Angeles.

Franco recruited his brother Dave Franco to star as Wiseau's co-star and friend Greg Sestero, who co-wrote the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, which Franco's film is based on.

He also called on his sister-in-law Alison Brie, his long-time friends and collaborators Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, and big names such as Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith and Bryan Cranston to appear in the film.

"We never wanted to make fun of The Room or Tommy Wiseau," said Dave Franco.

"On the contrary, we wanted to celebrate Tommy and we wanted to celebrate this movie and celebrate people who have dreams and don't take no for an answer," he added.

The Disaster Artist, rolling out in American theatres from Dec 1, is seen mostly through the eyes of Wiseau's friend, Sestero.

The pair meet at acting school in San Francisco and move into Wiseau's apartment in Hollywood, where they spend a year unsuccessfully trying to break into the business before deciding to make their own movie.

Quite where Wiseau got the cash to keep two apartments and fund a motion picture on his own, remains one of the many puzzles surrounding the production of The Room.

Another mystery is his age and nationality. When he meets Sestero, he claims to be 19 and from New Orleans, but looks two decades older and has an eastern European accent.

With no idea what he is doing, he is seen lavishing a reported US$6 million on his cast, crew and sound stage, as well as equipment he does not need. He turns up late for work, forgets his lines and mistreats his actors when things start to go haywire.

The Room played in Santa Monica for two weeks - so as to qualify for the Oscars - and just a few hundred dollars, but it has since acquired a new life as a cult movie, easily recouping its budget at midnight screenings.

"People would make fun of The Room but 15 years later, it's still selling out cinemas across the world," Sestero said.

"At this point, how can you call it the worst movie? It's a success, you know."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'A movie about one of the worst films ever made'. Print Edition | Subscribe