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Many people say that The Room (2003) is “the greatest bad movie ever made.” It is indeed bad in every single aspect: writing, acting, filming, lighting, you name it. As the critic Tom Bissell said, “It is like a movie made by an alien who has never seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to him.” Yet The Room has a real cult following. Up until the 2020 lockdown, there were regular sold-out screenings of The Room in theatres across the globe. So what is the magic behind this cinematic failure?
The Room was created by Tommy Wiseau, a truly mysterious figure in American cinema. Little is known about the auteur. What we do know, we owe to his best friend, Greg Sestero. In 2013, Sestero wrote a book about their friendship and his experiences on the set of The Room, in which he starred alongside Wiseau. According to Sestero, Tommy was born in the 1950s in an Eastern Bloc country. He fled to France, and later immigrated — most likely illegally — to America. Wiseau started by selling bird toys on the streets of San Francisco, eventually establishing his own business and — somehow — becoming a millionaire. In the 1990s, Wiseau was involved in a near-fatal car crash, which became the turning point in his life that led him to pursue his life-long ambitions of becoming an actor and director. In 2001, Wiseau wrote the script and set to direct The Room, the movie that would cost him at least $5 million.
Both Tommy’s life story and his film are so bizarre that they made great material for Sestero’s hysterically funny memoir, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”. In 2017, it was adapted into a critically acclaimed film, The Disaster Artist, starring James Franco. What comes through both the film and the book is that Tommy’s story is ultimately the American Dream. This is a story about working hard and believing in yourself. At The Room’s premiere Tommy said: “This is my movie, and this is my life.” He made a sincere drama about himself, but the audience viewed it as comedy and laughed throughout. While this is not the fame Wiseau had planned for his film, he still fulfilled his dream. In 2017, Tommy (as played by James Franco) received the Golden Glove Award.