27 Wild Stories From The Making Of The Room, The Worst Movie Ever
By Reid McCarter on
More to every story
Even The Room diehards may be surprised at some of the incredible oddities on display in James Franco's The Disaster Artist, which dramatizes the making of Tommy Wiseau's infamously bad 2003 film. And the movie doesn't even capture it all--there's more, of course, in the book on which the movie is based.
The book was co-written by author Tom Bissell and none other than Greg Sestero himself--Tommy's best friend and co-star in The Room, played in The Disaster Artist by Dave Franco. And there are some details that couldn't even make it into the movie.
To make sure everyone is on the same page, here’s a selection of 27 of the wildest stories from the book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Pick up the book if you want to know the full story--you just can't make this stuff up.
1. Tommy appeared hours late to the first day of production--because he was doing his hair
“ . . . Tommy walked out of his bedroom wearing white surgical gloves stained to the wrist with black hair dye. Tommy had actually decided to redye his hair before heading over to the set . . . We were four hours late now.” (p.25)
2. Tommy insisted on buying all the filming equipment
“ . . . Tommy had made the breathtakingly expensive decision to purchase, rather than rent, all his equipment. This was a million-dollar investment that not even a large Hollywood studio would dare ... With one careless gesture, Tommy threw a century of prevailing film-production wisdom into the wind.” (p.25-6)
Image: The Disaster Artist
3. The Room's script actually was edited--albeit lightly
"It’s hard to believe, but The Room’s script was actually, at one point, worse than what was filmed. Script supervisor Sandy Schklair was given the unenviable task of trying to make sense of Tommy’s original work (which he, of course, resisted). Sample dialogue before Schklair did his best: “’Promotion! Promotion! That’s all I hear about. Here is your coffee and English muffin and burn your mouth.’” (p.28)
Image: The Disaster Artist
4. Donny and “The Mark”
The role of Mark, played by actor and The Disaster Artist co-author Greg Sestero, originally belonged to an actor named Dan (who Tommy decided to refer to only as “Don”). After convincing Sestero to play Mark instead--by offering him a new car and truckloads of money--Tommy, afraid of firing “Don,” decided instead to carry out an elaborate plan where both actors would be filmed, one after the other.
“’The producers want to see him as the Mark,’” Tommy used as an excuse until he finally worked up the nerve to officially change the casting. For good measure, he also fired another cast member, Michelle, at the same time as “Don.” (p.31)
5. Tommy had unusual casting call manners
“Tommy had a lot of trouble casting the part of Chris-R, probably because he chose to greet most of the guys auditioning for the part by jumping them when they walked through the door.” (p.33)
6. Tommy explains why Chris-R's name is Chris-R
Dan Janjigian, who ended up getting the part of Chris-R made the mistake of trying to learn more about his character’s background. “Why the name ‘Chris-R,’ for instance? What’s with that hyphen? Tommy’s explanation: ‘He is gangster.’ What about this drug business, which never comes up either before or after Chris-R’s only scene in the film? ‘We have big problem in society with the drugs. Chris-R is gangster and Denny takes drugs. So he must be rescued.’” (p.34)
7. They used green screens to recreate actual locations
Unafraid of spending money, Tommy decided not to film in actual alleyways or on actual rooftops, but to build them as strange sets instead. The final product, a surreal-looking assortment of locations, was completed with bizarre workarounds like compositing the San Francisco skyline with green screens. When asked why he made these choices, Tommy responded, “’We do no different than big studios.” (p.63)
8. Filming terrible lines required many, many takes
The famous moment when an angry Johnny/Tommy enters a rooftop scene to deliver a tortured “It’s not true! I did not hit her! It’s bullshit! I did not . . . Oh, hi Mark” was extraordinary difficult for Tommy to manage. It was only completed with the aid of a hastily introduced water bottle prop. The seven seconds of footage used in The Room took “three hours” and “thirty-two takes.” (p.71)
9. The Room almost had a supernatural twist
Unhappy with his work-in-progress, Tommy had a last-minute idea that, sadly, was never used in the film. “’I want my car,’ Tommy began, ‘to fly off the roof and into the sky.’” When asked how this would fit with the rest of The Room, he explained, “’It’s just possible side plot. Maybe Johnny is vampire.’” (p.92)
10. There was a massive fight over $80 boots
Tommy resisted replacing Chris-R actor Dan’s boots after asking him to wear his own shoes in a scene and scuffing them. “’I am not the Santa Claus’” Tommy told him, relenting only when Dan strongly reminded him how unprofessional he was being. After all, he had also recently re-shot a scene that “had no impact on the films plot"--which cost $80K. (p.98)
11. Tommy messed up stealing a line from another movie
The wonderful line, delivered by Johnny to his unfaithful fiancé Lisa during a tense moment, “You are tearing me apart, Lisa!” is meant to be an homage to James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Though he ended up filming the right words in the end, Tommy originally wrote it as “’You are taking me apart, Lisa!’” in The Room’s script. (p.126)
12. The Room's set had a private bathroom--that only Tommy was allowed to use
Rather than deign to use the nearby bathroom provided for the rest of the cast and crew, Tommy built himself a private luxury facility close to the sound stage. “The bathroom had everything: separate plumbing, extrasoft toilet paper, a vanity mirror, a sink. One thing it didn’t have: a door. Instead it had a little blue curtain for a partition ... Was [Tommy] really going to void his bowels in the middle of the studio, separated from the people with whom he was working only by a flimsy curtain?” (p. 29)
13. Things got so tense that Tommy feared he would be poisoned
Aware that his crew and actors were getting fed up with him, Tommy began to fear that someone would try to tamper with his food. “He didn’t like anyone but himself preparing his food plate, especially after the difficult first week of production. He occasionally voiced concerns that someone might spit in his food or drink. Tommy also refused to eat off plastic utensils, which he worried could be poisoned.” (p. 153)
14. The character Mark was named after "Mark Damon"
“’I know the name of your character now,’ Tommy said, looking at me. ‘You will be called Mark--like this guy Mark Damon.’” (p.189)
15. Tommy self-medicated with Nyquil and Red Bulls
“Tommy was sick with a cold and his voice was almost cartoonishly froggy. To combat that, he had drunk half a bottle of NyQuil. To combat the NyQuil, he’d drunk about seven Red Bulls. As a result Tommy wasn’t making much sense. One moment he was weird and peppy, the next he was leaning against a wall for support. Just about everything he said was slurred.” (p.194-5)
16. The "love scenes" were as awkward to shoot as they are to watch
Juliette Danielle, who plays Lisa in The Room, was unsurprisingly eager to find ways to make her love scenes with Tommy and Sestero more natural, but her suggestions didn’t go over well. “Juliette, in an attempt to make things more comfortable, suggested playing an Alicia Keys song [during the shoot]. Tommy’s response: ‘We are not here to promote other people’s work.’” (p.234)
17. Tommy believed showing his butt was crucial to The Room's success
“In the love scene’s final shot, Johnny gets out of bed and walks bare-assed to the bathroom. Tommy thought long and hard about his decision to show his ass. ‘I need to do it,’ he told me. ‘I have to show my ass or this movie won’t sell.’” (p.235)
18. Johnny's sex scene with Lisa's dressed surprised everyone
“’Wait,’ someone nearby me said. ‘What is he … is he … Oh, dear God. He is. He’s really … Oh, God.’ Everyone knew they’d just witnessed one of the most genuinely perverse moments in the history of American cinema.” (p.236)
19. Tommy couldn't tell if the flower shop dog was real
“’So is it real thing?’
The flower shop owner looked at Tommy uncertainly. ‘I’m sorry?’ she said, after a moment.
‘Your dog,’ Tommy said, unfazed. ‘Is it a real thing?’
The woman kept looking at Tommy, probably trying to figure out whether this man who’d taken over her store was really asking if her dog was real. Did Tommy think it was a robot? An android pug of some kind?
‘Yes,’ the woman said finally. ‘My dog is a real thing.” (p.256)
20. Tommy had a weird approach to fine dining fashion
Sestero describes Tommy’s outfit on a night out at a fancy restaurant: “Nighttime sunglasses, a dark blazer as loose and baggy as rain gear, sand-colored cargo pants with pockets filled to capacity (was he smuggling potatoes?), a white tank top, clunky Frankenstein combat boots, and two belts. Yes, two belts. The first belt was at home in its loops: the second draped down in back to cup Tommy’s backside, which was, he always claimed, the point: ‘It keeps my ass up. Plus it feels good.’”
To complete the look, Tommy “had dumped a bottle of Arrowhead water over his head to keep ‘this poofy stuff’ from afflicting his considerable curls.’” (p.1)
21. Apologizing to Tommy requires specific steps
Following a flubbed scene in their acting class together, Tommy, who considered the bad performance Sestero’s fault, required an apology. “When class let out, he demanded I buy him ‘apology chocolates’ from the nearest See’s merchant. ‘Get me the mint,’ he said.” (p.74)
22. Tommy comes up with new names for hairstyles on the fly
Early in Sestero and Tommy’s friendship, Sestero had slightly long hair. Tommy, for whatever reason, decided to point out to him that “’You have the donut hairstyle.’” (p.47)
23. Refreshments at Tommy's leave something to be desired
Rehearsing a scene for their acting class at Tommy’s apartment, Sestero is offered a drink. “’How about some carrot juice?’ Tommy asked.
I checked the date on the bottle he gave me. ‘This expired three months ago,’ I said.
‘Well, excuse me,’ Tommy said. ‘The maid is on vacation.’” (p.55)
24. Tommy created, filmed, and starred in a commercial to get his SAG membership
Without the film credits necessary to earn Screen Actors Guild (SAG) membership, Tommy shot and starred in a commercial for his clothing company, Street Fashions USA, to fulfill the requirement instead. In the ad, he sells jeans by dressing up as a strange Renaissance man likely meant to resemble Shakespeare and reciting “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
25. Tommy is, of course, a roommate from Hell
“I was fast asleep when my door opened and Tommy began doing pull-ups on the bar he’d installed in my doorway, which I’d somehow not noticed. It was 4:00 a.m. After a grunty set of ten pull-ups Tommy dropped to the floor with a thud and turned to pace around the living room like a caveman, after which he hit the chin-up bar again. Once he completed four sets, he closed the door.” (p.182)
26. Tommy wasn't afraid to rough it at home
“For a bed, Tommy had placed a regular twin mattress over a half-inflated air mattress, which meant he was sleeping at a tilty thirty-degree incline every night. For pillowcases, Tommy was using old T-shirts. He noticed me pondering these Wiseauvian masterpieces of squalid home décor. ‘How do you like my new creation?’ he asked, as he held up one of the pillows. ‘This is my new thing.’” (p.184)
27. Tommy really loves Thanksgiving
“Tommy’s favorite American holiday was Thanksgiving, but he didn’t just celebrate Thanksgiving Day. He celebrated Thanksgiving Month, eating a full turkey dinner every day for the next thirty days. I once asked him about this. His explanation: ‘We live in America. Anything is possible. I love living American life.’” (p.191)