The Disaster Artist




For many years, any list of ‘The Worst Movies Ever Made’ would usually be dominated by the productions of the eccentric, cross-dressing Ed Wood.  At least until 2003 when a mysterious figure named Tommy Wiseau burst upon the scene and gave the world his film THE ROOM.  Wiseau financed, wrote, produced, directed and starred in this truly awful farce, and while he made it as a ‘serious’ film, when it premiered in Los Angeles the audience erupted into howls of derision and very swiftly it became a cult movie playing regular midnight screenings in many countries and with a hardcore base of fans who would shout the dialogue a la THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.  The film made only $1800 on first release and only lasted for two weeks because Wiseau paid to keep it running.  In fact, he paid $5000 a week for the next five years to maintain a billboard advertising the film.


James Franco has decided to make his own film about the making of THE ROOM and the story of Tommy Wiseau and titled it THE DISASTER ARTIST.  Franco directed and stars and succeeds in both roles.  He based the film on the non-fiction book by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero (Wiseau’s close friend and also his co-star in THE ROOM.)

Wiseau (James Franco) met Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), a handsome but appallingly bad actor, in San Francisco in 1998 while Sestero was butchering WAITING FOR GODOT in a tuition theatre school run by Jean Shelton (Melanie Griffith.)  The two became friends and Sestero moved in with Wiseau who up until then had been shown the door by every worthwhile agent, talent scout and star-spotter in town.  So Wiseau decided to make his own film in which he would co-star with Sestero.  There are many things we do not know about Wiseau (and to my knowledge they still remain unknown.)  He ponied up $6 million dollars to make the movie, has lavish apartments in Los Angeles and San Francisco and a bank account that is always flush with funds.  Where did the money originate?  We also have no idea of his age (he says he is 19…puhleeeeeeeeese!) or where he came from.  While he repeatedly says ‘New Orleans’ when asked this question, his accent and speech patterns with a noticeable lack of the definite and indefinite articles bespeak Middle Europe / Balkans origin.


It would be so very simple for a project such as this to merely be a series of mocking interludes shot in a chaotic fashion as was its inspiration, THE ROOM.  But full marks to James Franco here.  He not only has recreated the 2003 turkey with unnerving veracity and exactitude but he holds a rein on the chaos and never allows it to descend into incoherence.  What we don’t learn (and to be fair, very few people on earth would know anyway) are the driving motivations fuelling Wiseau’s frenetic attempt to create cinematic immortality.  We can only surmise whether Wiseau felt himself to be a frustrated artist, stymied by the Hollywood machine and needing freedom to create his vision, or just in thrall to a burning need for fame and notoriety.  Or is it all to impress Sestero with whom he may be subliminally in love? 


You will have lots of fun spotting the stars in small roles or cameos.  Seth Rogan, Jackie Weaver, Zac Efron, Judd Apatow, Megan Mullally, Josh Hutcherson, Sharon Stone and more are in the mix, while other Celebs appear playing themselves.  Bryan Cranston, J.J. Abrams, Adam Scott, Zach Braff, Kristen Bell, Lizzy Caplan are a few and even the real Wiseau and Sestero make momentary appearances.


This is a cleverly made character study of a man whose ambition far outstripped his talent and whose inept overconfidence was his undoing.  A case where profound self-belief led to profound self-delusion.  Funny without being mean-spirited, and impeccably faithful to the source material, it does have some technical flaws but I found them minor.

The deadpan humor through the movie is enriched by the vein of pure irony contained in the story.  That in a bid for towering fame in filmdom, a man who genuinely believed that he was creating his magnum opus, his dramatic masterpiece for the ages, instead created what may be the worst movie ever made — thereby achieving towering fame in filmdom.


Perhaps it is a case that anyone can make a mediocre movie but to make a truly bad one requires the dab hand of an artist, a disaster artist.




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