Book of da Week: The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

The Disaster Artist - Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
It’s a disaster!

The Room (2003) is a film which has gone down in legend – it is the “Citizen Kane of bad movies” as the now famous quote goes. An independent American film funded entirely by eccentric, enigmatic, strangely wealthy European export Tommy Wiseau, in the internet era his movie has become a sensation and there are annual (in fact, monthly) celebrations of it across the world with adoring fans getting in character to celebrate one of the worst films of all time.

Greg Sestero, a budding young actor in the early 2000s, through a fortuitous set of circumstances found himself starring as one of the lead characters – Mark. Working with author Tom Bissell a decade later, he helped put the Disaster Artist together for publication in 2013 based on his memories of the film shoot. The result is a quite fabulous account of one eccentric individual’s bizarre, delusional belief his project was anything but a disaster – in fact, in 2003, he was sure it would be the greatest film ever made.

The Disaster Artist

Sestero is one of those ridiculously good looking blokes you have to presume is going to be a complete git as he’s had everything his own way, but in reality comes across as personable, self-deprecating, and charming – even insecure. Having modelled in his late teens in Italy he, with a genuine passion for culture, began attempting to forge a career in Hollywood. Tellingly, he was stunned to find Jack Nicholson waded through over 350 audition failures before landing his breakout role.

This is acting – it’s an unbelievably brutal business. Despite this, Sestero managed to get small parts in big production films, including working with Robin Williams on one of his less popular works – Patch Adams. Taking up acting classes in 1998 to support his dreams, he wound up in the same class as the hopelessly untalented, but intensely mercurial and weird, Tommy Wiseau, one of the most eccentric individuals to have lived in the last 100 years. The pair formed an unusual friendship and, several years down the road, it led to one of the most celebrated cult films in history.

The Room

Wiseau (whose source of immense wealth remains a mystery, with the likelihood he inherited it at some point in his life) wrote the film and funded it to the tune of $6 million. Along the way, he made an endless series of increasingly bizarre decisions as his eccentricity swept way ahead of him like a bloody tidal wave of creative disastrousness – it simply couldn’t be curtailed.

What the Disaster Artist does is detail, or attempt to explain, Wiseau and all of those strange inconsistencies, continuity errors, surreal settings, and inexplicable dialogue which the writer and director came up with. Below is one of the most celebrated examples, although the above clip includes what is surely the most famous scene.

Sestero claims it took 37 takes to get the above clip, although Wiseau has contested his depiction as only 40% accurate and challenged Sestero’s assertion (to be clear, there’s no bad blood between them and they’re still friends). For the record, Wiseau is also now claiming the film is a black comedy, although the project seems more likely to have been born out of a personal issue in his life he was trying to spin into a Shakespearian tragedy. Whatever, to his credit he’s been very forthcoming with fans and celebrates the fact the film has brought a lot of joy to people.

The Disaster Artist has done the same, allowing fans an inside look at what happened during production. It’s a book bristling with self-deprecation, humour, wit, and intrigue and we enjoyed it a great deal. If you’re looking for some light-hearted, fun literature, then this is the one for you. Of course, you’ll also have to take the plunge sooner or later and watch the Room – it’s available for free on YouTube. Are you brave enough?

The Disaster Artist

Celebrity fans of the film include such luminaries as Zac Efron, Sharon Stone, Bryan Cranston, James Franco, and Seth Rogen. The latter two, working with Sestero, has adapted the book into a film set for release in December 2017. We’re not exactly massive fans of Rogen’s work (Franco has done some great stuff, mind), but find him amiable enough so we’ll probably give this a whirl. You do, too, if you’re keen.

On a final note, as we’re not going to do a post reviewing the Room (there are plenty online which have covered it extensively already), our first viewing experience of it was as follows: boredom. It is a boring film, but something sticks with you for days afterward – whether it’s a certain way one line is said or the peculiar use of green screen, you feel compelled to head back in and try and work out what’s going on.

From our perspective, although some of the more celebrated lines get the most attention (“You are tearing me apart, Lisa!”), the most bizarre parts of the film are the strangely protracted, gratuitous, and confusing sex scenes. There are about 5 of them and they drag on for bloody ages and include disconcerting chuckling and cheesy music – during editing, Wiseau had to splice sections of the first one into others as actress Juliette Danielle refused to do any more nude scenes with him.

Anyway, it’s certainly a terrible film but we’re always delighted when something like this is taken by fans and morphed into an international sensation. The Room is definitely just that and the Disaster Artist is set to give it another new lease of life for one of the most unlikely Hollywood success stories in history. Lovely.

9 comments

  1. I skip the long and tedious sex scenes but, other than those, I absolutely adore The Room. There are so many insane moments that I always forget half of them when I revisit it. I loved the Disaster Artist book, and can’t wait for the movie. TL;DR – more Wiseau please!

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  2. I can’t believe the “I did not hit her” scene took 37 takes to shoot. Then again, he did manage to blow money in many incredibly stupid ways such as by purchasing (and not renting) a high-quality (for its time) camera. I hope the movie ends up being good because I think it’s a really interesting story.

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    • Wiseau denies it took 37 takes, but then everyone else said it did so I’m inclined to believe Sestero. His decisions for the whole film were daft throughout and the book really adds some background in – before you watched it wondering what planet this thing arrived off, but Sestero has added meaning to it all. Which is groovy.

      Next on my bad films list is Samurai Cop. Have a look at some of the videos on YouTube – this one looks legendary.

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  3. WELL, I have worked on much worse films than this! Yet, I’m not famous. It’s unfair, I tell you. I have worked on morbidly awful films… I promise. Way, way more hideous and horrible. Why am I not famous? What have I done wrong?

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    • Yeah, the Room definitely isn’t the worst film ever. It’s watchable, it just has some moronic dialogue in it. I’ve also seen far worse, but I’ve not worked on a film.

      You’re famous enough, aren’t you? I’d expect an autograph if I met you. And a selfie. And a cheque for £50. And a gown. That’d be cool.

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    • Yeah, I don’t do selfies. Well, I did one for my profile picture but that’s it. I would wear the gown, though. I can dig the gown. Dressing gown, your gowns, other types of gowns – bring it on!

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