Wiseau is in Philadelphia this week to present the 12th Anniversary screening of THE ROOM over two nights-this Friday night July10th and Saturday night July 11th at midnight at the Landmark Ritz at the Bourse. For more information or to order tickets go to THE ROOM at the Ritz.
Tommy Wiseau was kind enough to let me toss him some questions. I must admit that I had some preconceptions about how the interview might go after years of watching other interviews with him but he was surprisingly honest, direct, and quite likable.
Oh yes, I’ve been here several times before. Lots of beautiful architecture, I think you could compare some of the areas to San Franscisco..
I’d like to start off by talking about some of your newer projects. The Neighbors for example? Can you tell me what that’s all about?
It’s a situation comedy/soap opera of sorts about a group of characters who live in the same apartment building. I play Charlie who is actually the building manager and there are relationships between the various characters. It’s basically relationships and interaction between different people.
Is it still streaming on Hulu?
Yes. Absolutely. We have a contract with Hulu and you can go to www.theneighborssitcom.com to see the trailer. There’s also a “Neighbors” channel on youtube where you can see various clips. We will also be screening it after THE ROOM this Friday and Saturday night.The program has been submitted to the TV Emmy Awards-so cross your fingers everyone!
Now THE ROOM has been talked about and analyzed about as much as CITIZEN KANE at this point . But just on a basic gut level I have to tell you that when I first saw it, I was so stunned and overwhelmed by it. I don’t think I laughed so hard since I saw MIDNIGHT 2 by John Russo. So on a basic level, I think that there has to be something said for creating a film that has inspired such enthusiasm and given such pleasure to so many people. Was entertaining the audience first and foremost on your mind when you made the film?
Yes, Brian, that was what I had hoped for the film. We actually just had the 12th anniversary of THE ROOM so I guess I did something right because people still enjoy it. You know it’s a different cookie cutter from Hollywood. Always tell your friends that if they are seeing THE ROOM for the first time, it’s a different cookie cutter from Hollywood so you may not like it but that’s OK with Tommy.
I’ve heard that THE ROOM started as a play, then became a novel before finally becoming a film. After all that time with the story and characters, when the film was finished, did you expect the reaction you received?
No. Not at all. As a filmmaker my vision was slightly different. The way it came out, I think it was sort of destiny I would say. But when I made the movie, I always thought about how to make it different. People are always complaining how the movies from Hollywood are the same-over and over. Lets just try to do something different. You probably heard the stories too-which are true-of how I had to replace the cast and crew several times in order to make the film I wanted to make. I actually had 4 Directors of Photography. Years later people would come out of nowhere asking for credit on THE ROOM and I would say, “Who are you?” because they quit or whatever. But it was really intended to be something for me to show my acting and directing and writing . Now with something like THE NEIGHBORS I think you can see some flavor ofTHE ROOM in it. That’s my style.
Was it your writing, directing or acting that you really wanted to feature with the film?
Well, I had studied acting for years with Jean Shelton. 85 years old and still teaching now. So yes, I wanted the acting but it was really the script, the story. It’s strange but for years people were trying to claim that there was no script, that it was all just made up on the set, so I said enough is enough and we just put the script up on the website for everyone to see. So you can go to www.tommywiseau.com and you can read it.
So those people who are bashing THE ROOM or putting my personality down, they are losers basically. Because I am open about everything. I am right here. I may have an accent but so what!
Since the time you first made THE ROOM and then saw the reaction to it-people saw it as a midnight movie or a cult film-they clearly reacted to the the perceived camp aspects of it-was this something you intended to do?
That’s a very good question, Brian. I have to say that lots of people can get in your way. I have a certain vision which I want to present to the public. I want to present something the way I want to present it not the way other people want to influence me. I told you earlier that I had to lay off some people. I had to say, “Hey gentlemen we have nothing to talk about-it’s going to be done my way.”
So I see you have several new projects-
Yes! I am working on my new film FORECLOSURE which will hopefully be ready by October and will be submitted to the Academy Awards. We actually submitted THE ROOM to the Academy as well but we never heard anything from it. But you have to try. So I have FORECLOSURE , THE NEIGHBORS as well as a music video. I’m editing the music video right now in fact. Very busy these days.
Now when you are working on your new projects, do you find it hard to approach them as purely as you did with THE ROOM? In other words have you been affected by the way the world has reacted to your work?
No, because basically I don’t think that way. I don’t think about reaction so much as original creation. So I always think that if you present something original, people can appreciate it. But if you turn around and say what is the commercial value of your product I don’t think that is the right way to go about it. So I don’t think, “let me check this or that”, I think, “What is my approach based on the script?” How do I see this scene myself outside of the way others do it. I think that if you present something original you have a much better chance of finding an audience.
Ok, so given your approach to filmmaking, what do you make of some of the criticisms of THE ROOM which seem to insinuate that you made the film as a joke? That you were intentionally pulling our legs?
I would say that I believe in my original material. This is why I’ve posted the script up on my website. I want people to understand that it was always my intention to make the film that I made. It comes out of who I am, what I wanted to present to the world. I always say look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what can you offer the world. I offer the world happiness. At the same time I want the public to learn about themselves. That’s what you see in THE ROOM.Two’s better but three’s a crowd you know.
-Brian Holcomb, Reel East Film Society