Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wiseau. Interview. PeterKnegt. Indiewire. 09 Jun 2011.

It’s been nearly eight years since the world first laid eyes on Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.” Initially hailed as one of the worst films ever made when Wiseau gave it an exclusive run for Academy consideration back in 2003, it’s turned into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. The film was infamously financed by Wiseau (he wrote, directed and stars in it), who somehow pulled together $6 million budget for production and marketing. Wiseau has been secretive about exactly how he obtained the funding, although he once claimed that he made some of the money by importing leather jackets from Korea.
However it happened, “The Room” has earned a totally bizarre and unique place in the history of cinema. The largely nonsensical story of a love triangle between Johnny (Wiseau), his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), “The Room” has a midnight-screenings track record that’s probably comparable only to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Audience members dress as their favorite characters, throw plastic spoons at the movie screen (a reference to unexplained framed photos of cutlery often seen in the background), and yell insults and criticisms about the quality of the film -- often with Wiseau in attendance.
This weekend, he’ll head to the AFI Silver Theater in Washington, DC for two midnight screenings, with a twist: As a companion piece, Wiseau and original cast member Greg Sestero will create a live staging of the film, featuring “never-before-seen scenes and characters.” It is perhaps a precursor to a full-fledged stage production of “The Room,” which Wiseau has always made clear as his ambition.
Last month, indieWIRE chatted with Wiseau over the phone when he was in Toronto doing a midnight screening at the Royal Cinema (one of the first theaters to start midnight screening of “The Room” outside of Los Angeles), part one of which is transcribed below. Though he occasionally rambled on in manner comparable to dialogue in “The Room,” the infamously mysterious man (despite an ambigiously eastern European accent, he claims to have grown up in New Orleans and lived in France “a long time ago”) was also very pleasant and charming as an interview subject, often bursting into laughter and always speaking quite sincerely to his film and his ambitions.

1.      Hello, Mr. Wiseau?
2.      Just call me Tommy. So how have you been?
3.      Great, how are you?
4.      Okay. So let me give you a little structure here. As you know, we have no restrictions. You may ask anything you want. So let’s move on ... Did you see “The Room”?
5.      Yes, many times.
6.      Okay, cool. Peter, right?
7.      Yes, Peter.
8.      Okay, Peter ... Go for it!
9.      Let’s start by going back. When did you first become interested in film and how did that lead to “The Room”?
10.   That’s your question?
11.   That’s my question.
12.   Okay, so long story short: I used to want to be a rock star, believe or not.
13.   I think a lot of us did.
14.   There you go  ... You, too? Anyway, long story short: I wrote this 600-page book and at first I decided I wanted to do it as a play instead. But then I decided, no, I’ll do this as a film. So I converted my 600-page book into a 99-page script, and that’s what you have today. But to respond to your question about my interest in film. I like a lot of classic movies, like for example “Citizen Kane,” James Dean movies, etc, etc.
15.   But going back to “The Room” itself, how long ago was it that you converted that book into a script?
16.   Well, whatever you hear or read online is very misleading because “The Room” is almost 20 years of work, if you really think about it. My background is in psychology and I’m also a stage actor. That’s my background. So to respond to your question, it took me like ... What is your question exactly?
17.   The question was about the origins of “The Room” and how that came together. At what point did that 600-page book become that 99-page script and where the film go from there?
18.   Oh, okay. You see, I did a study and concluded that in America the number of people who go to see theater on the stage is much less than the people that go to a cinema. And believe it or not, from the beginning I wanted to put it on as a play. But the cost was so much, so I thought to myself about how all this money would be spent and it would just run in a theater for like two weeks.
19.   So then you decided to make it a film.
20.   Basically, I did not approach any studios because, again, I did some research and I knew this movie would never be produced by a studio [laughs]. That was my conclusion! I have some friends who tried to pitch it to studios and it was very unsuccessful. That’s the facts. But I’m happy with what happened with “The Room.” That’s the history of “The Room.”
21.   Now that it’s clearly become successful, do you think you would turn into a play now?
22.   Absolutely! Actually, I want to show it on Broadway, not off Broadway. You know the difference, right?
23.   Yeah.
24.   For your information, we have an AFI event in Washington DC and we are actually going to put some scenes on the stage and I’ll be there. But we want to do it on Broadway, definitely. As you probably know as you’ve seen “The Room,” it is very easy to adapt on the stage. For a Broadway show, how I feel it should be moving. For example, a dozen Johnnys singing, as well Lisa, etc, etc. So I’m very excited to work on it, but it will be extremely costly and a big risk. But we’ll be doing it. For sure.
25.   That’s really great. I’m sure it will end up being as big a success as the film. And speaking of which, I’m curious what your expectations were going into it? And what has your reaction been in the past six or seven years as you’ve watched this film travel the world with midnight screenings and undeniably become a cult classic?
26.   Well, Peter, to be honest with you ... From the beginning, I did not expect that. My idea was to the “The Room” and then after “The Room,” I’d do other movies. But then it didn’t happen the way I had planned. It actually came out better than expected! But there was a lot of sacrifice ... Do you want to hear a little background about how this happened with the midnight screenings?
27.   I’d love to.
28.   So basically, long story short: I submitted “The Room” to the Academy Awards -- you can check that, it’s a fact. We followed all the rules by doing a two-week run in Los Angeles and I’m proud to be in the Academy database. After two weeks’ screening, I pulled it from circulation. But then we got all these requests from the audience demanding to screen it again. That’s a fact. We got several phone calls from the theater that people were campaigning because they wanted to see “The Room.” I said to myself, “What the heck.” We got thousands of e-mails. So I said, “You know what, let’s just screen ‘The Room’ at the Wilshire screening room.’ But then we got into trouble. Which is good trouble, I guess [laughs]. We violated the fire marshal code. Meaning that there were too many people showing up for the film. People were literally sitting on the floor. And they said we could not do this because we triggered the fire marshal code. So again, whatever you hear or read online is misleading. Because that’s exactly what happened. I called the theater back and said, “Can we screen it at midnight?” Because sometimes people are late. And we started screening at the Laemmle Sunset in Los Angeles. We had one screening and today -- I don’t if you know, but now you know -- we screen “The Room” once a month there and have 800 or 900 people come. So that’s the history of “The Room” and how we started the midnight screenings.
29.   Since then, you’ve truly become this cult icon and even a bit of a celebrity. What’s your life like now? Do you travel with these screenings?
30.   Occasionally. I’m fully booked this year. I do travel a lot. The fans of “The Room” want to see me and we have a groovy time. I think it’s beneficial for “The Room” as well. And I like to travel anyway.
31.   What’s one of your favorite experiences from these screenings?
32.   Sure! One girl said to me, ‘Can you marry me?’
33.   Did you?
34.   Of course not! At this time, no. She was nice, but you know ... Are you tripping me, Peter?
35.   No, I’m just joking! Sorry.
36.   I know, I am too. So don’t worry about it. Express yourself!
37.   Any more stories from “The Room” midnight screenings?
38.   I have dozens of stories. They want me to drink, they want me to do this or that. We play football. We always have a groovy time. I haven’t had one bad screening in my entire eight years screening “The Room.”
39.   How long do you foresee these screenings going on? And how long will you continue touring with them?
40.   Right now we’re fully booked for this year, but next year we have another tour. It’s called “‘The Room’ Blu-ray Tour.” We’ll be releasing “The Room” on Blu-ray and we’ll be promoting that. At the same time, and you can stress this, I encourage everyone to see it in the theater first. It’s the best way to see it. I always say, ‘You can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other.’”
41.   Ha. That’s a good motto.
42.   Thank you.
43.   What have you learned from all these screenings and experiences? Both as a filmmaker and as a person?
44.   Well, I’ve learned a lot. About people, culture. And about “The Room” as entertainment. I don’t want to be self-centered, but I guess I was right. You see, if I had produced the way they want me to produce in Hollywood ... Which again, I am very respectful of those people. I’ve worked with lots of people in Hollywood and I am respectful of any kind of project. But the fact is that “The Room” is a different cookie cutter than Hollywood. It’s much different than a regular movie. You probably know this, since you saw it. Again, nothing happened by accident. No. Keep in mind, 600 pages had already been written prior to the movie. What I decided to do is that I wanted to put as much perplexity [sic] and symbolism within “The Room” so audiences would say, “what is this about?” It’s that consistency from the beginning to the end of the film. How I tackle different issues relating to relationships? Two’s better than three, but three’s a crowd. But three is okay too, you know?
45.   True.
46.   But it’s questionable. Is it okay to betray someone? Your friend? And again, it doesn’t matter who you are. He, she, they, whatever. It’s okay to love someone. “The Room” was designed for American people, but we have a great fan base in the entire world and I’m very happy. I didn’t expect it, if you ask me. I’m a very simple guy. So you know, I didn’t know this would happen. I like how people seem to really, really enjoy the film. It’s not like you force it on them. I did my job well, you know what I’m saying?
47.   Yeah, for sure.
48.   So whatever negative things mainstream media said ... They didn’t get it at that time. But little by little people learned about it, anyway. I like the way you ask questions. You’re very straightforward and ask about the movie and my experiences. That’s how it’s supposed to be. People don’t understand, for example, technical aspects of “The Room.” That I shot it in two formats: HD and 35mm. What you see in the theater is a 35mm format. Why? Because it’s better, etc, etc. But I still shot it on both formats. It’s not just because I said so. It’s because every time in Hollywood, they didn’t want anything in HD, for your information. That’s a fact. When you go way, way back you can see certain data that explains that Hollywood is afraid. Again, the system was set up on 35mm. Keep in mind, by now we convert some of the classic movies to HD. But the fact is fact. Film is the film. You know? You cannot change that. I don’t care how much you improve the technology that you have today. A lot of people are shooting on HD, as you know. It seems to me we can use technology for art. But it’s very expensive. That’s another aspect that people don’t realize. I don’t care who you are, you will still spend money. I don’t care what camera you use. You know, you can use your iPhone and shoot some scenes. But the fact is you can’t bring it to 35mm because it’s grainy, etc, etc. I always encourage people and say before you do something, please do research first. That’s about directing and acting and anything you do. Anyway, continue, move on [laughs] ...
49.   Well, how about a question that’s not about “The Room”? What else have you been up to, and where do you want to go as a filmmaker and an artist from here?
50.   Right now I’m working on “The Neighbors.” It’s a sitcom for TV.
51.   For Comedy Central, right?
52.   Actually, no. For Comedy Central, I completed something called “The House That Drips Blood on Alex.” But right now I’m working with someone else. I can’t tell you the name of the network because they told me not to tell.
53.   No problem.
54.   But the fact is that they’ll be releasing 15 episodes. And we’ll actually be doing theatrical release as well. A lot of people want to see it so we’ll be showing both in theaters and on TV. That will be a sitcom. Then I’m working on a vampire movie, as well as a movie that relates to the economy of America. I hope everybody will like it. With the vampire movie, I know one thing. If you see my vampire movie you will probably not sleep for two weeks.
55.   When do you think these projects will all come out?
56.   With “The Neighbours,” we will have the first episode within two months and then we will be continuing shooting one episode a month. Then with the economy movie, we want to submit to the Academy Awards so probably September or October and the vampire movie I’m working on. So it will probably be later this year. And for your information we are releasing “The Room” on Blu-ray at the end of this year, as I mentioned.
57.   Great. I look forward to all of it.
58.   Sure. No problem! And then I’m working with someone doing “The Tommy Wiseau Show” and also some other projects. I’m extremely busy. And then I travel too, as I mentioned.
59.   I don’t know how you do it.
60.   Yeah, but I like to travel, you know?
61.   Me too.
62.   Good! Okay, thank you very much and I want to say thank you to all your readers. Is this your website’s first article on “The Room”?
63.   I’m not actually sure. But it’s definitely the first in a few years.
64.   People like to hear and I encourage you to attend any screenings and interview some of the fans. It’s just a suggestion.
65.   That’s a good idea.
66.   Because some of those fans are really crazy [laughs!]

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