Funny, engaging first-person account of the making of The Room (2003), “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
French-American actor Sestero collaborates with acclaimed author Bissell (Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, 2012, etc.), producing a deft, energetic narrative as concerned with the romantic American obsession with celebrity as with his trying involvement with The Room and its notorious producer/director/writer/star, Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau dominates his bewildering, unintentionally hilarious film, so Sestero’s focus on trying to understand his friend’s baffling background and motivations gives the story of their relationship surprising depth, even though Wiseau comes off as creepy, self-centered and socially inept (though often bighearted and generous toward the youthful Sestero, possibly his only friend). The narrative follows two strands, one beginning with their 1998 meeting in an acting class where Wiseau presented “beautifully, chaotically wrong performances,” and the other covering The Room’s production, for which Sestero served as both line producer and (at the last minute) as a replacement actor in a key role. Fans of the film will be pleased to learn that making it was an equally punishing and surreal experience, as the manipulative, confusing Wiseau’s relations with the cast were “disastrously intemperate.” Yet, Wiseau spent so much of his own money that a major Hollywood equipment supplier felt compelled to aid him through the production, even as crew members routinely quit in dismay. Sestero now seems mystified by his willingness to spend time on “Tommy’s Planet,” having wrongly assumed that Wiseau’s vanity project would never reach completion. However, he argues that for all Wiseau’s flaws, their friendship provided his abashed younger self with needed inspiration: “He was simply magically uninhibited.” Sestero critiques the movie as Tommy’s “dream life in line with what he thought an American would want.” This may explain why his objectively terrible film nonetheless struck a chord, although the narrative does not explore its cult afterlife, ending abruptly at the film’s premiere.
An improbably resonant tale of warped creativity and friendship.