Interview: Tommy Wiseau on 'The Room,' James Franco, and Ghosts
In the past, we here at Pajiba may have given you reason to think that any interview we run is a ruse. Dustin maybe didn’t talk to Bradley “EILF” Cooper about The Hangover 3.
Trust me on this one, people. I received a phone call from the man, the myth, the legend: Tommy Wiseau, the visionary behind The Room. I have done my best to get everything down here just as Tommy said it to me, if perhaps a little bit clearer. Slightly.
During our 30-minute chat, Wiseau and I spoke about The Room, The Neighbors, Rifftrax, and more. A big thanks to Jeff at RiffTrax, which is presenting a live show of The Room in theaters May 6, for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (and to Resa for transcribing). You can get tickets here.
Let’s do this:
Pajiba: How did you first get involved with the RiffTrax guys?
Wiseau: They approach[ed] us … with an attempt to screen The Room in theaters, … and I think it’s a pretty good idea because for the first time on main stage, The Room will be screening on 700 theaters across the world, actually in America as well, I believe, and Canada. So it’s very exciting for us to experience something [like this]. I was recently in London, and I didn’t realize that this is a very new concept where [you] have like [a] screening [with a] special band … . So I was very pleased that they actually wanted to purchase our license and everything was legit, and I like that they approach me. Even though, you know [laughs], of course what they have was making fun of The Room. I don’t mind. I would say of The Room: You can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself … This is basically what I’ve been preaching this for past 12 years almost. So to response to your question, they approach[ed] us and we approve[d]. … I thought, “Why not?”
Pajiba: Have you seen the first riff the RiffTrax guys did for The Room?
Wiseau: No, I never [had the] opportunity to see it except a couple of times, a couple of places to be honest with you, because we’re not on the same page. But I think by the same token, I think that we live in America, and I think that the concept is really the different elements of our entertainment, so I think, Why not? We can try it.
Pajiba: Well, I feel like the guys at RiffTrax, they kind of have to love the movies to even poke fun at them, you know?
Wiseau: Absolutely. … I think they are very dedicated people to … I call [it] different entertainment, you know. Again, we’re not on the same page because I personally think we, as the filmmaker[s], the directors, or whatever, [we have to let] the people decide. … I’m not forcing some other medium … but it is what it is, you know? So I would say, you know, have respect, and I think that as long as people are enjoying themselves, that’s the idea behind it, so I’m very pleased [and] excited that people decided to do that. Because I’m not sure if you know [the] history, but 700 theaters at the same time, that’s very exciting.
Pajiba: I’m sure there are so many people that know about RiffTrax, but maybe they haven’t seen The Room yet. So you have to be excited that it’s a huge audience that’s getting to see your work again.
Wiseau: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you. Absolutely. That’s great. I’m thrilled. I’m very confident that the people will be watching The Room and have fun with it. And I would say, you know, you can laugh and I don’t mind that people criticize it. That’s what the picture is … .
Pajiba: I saw that you have the new series, The Neighbors, on Hulu.
Wiseau: So thank you for asking, that’s very nice of you! Yes I do, and I am very proud of it, and we are actually shooting another four episodes based on the contract. We were supposed to deliver 12, and this is four, and it seems to me that people enjoy it.
Pajiba: Did you know most of the actors before you started on it, or was there a casting process?
Wiseau: As usual, thank you for asking, that’s very nice of you. Basically, there was a casting process [that happened] … I would say there were hundreds of actors to choose, and I think the people we chose did the very best and they were very dedicated. Again it’s real different entertainment. I don’t know if you knew, but I’ve been working on The Neighbors for seven years, so actually the concept of The Neighbors is nothing new except … You know, it is what it is, because I’m not here to bashing anyone, but sometimes people … you know, [want] to borrow my stuff, you know, because The Neighbors … you can still find some clips on YouTube. … But searching for network people, and Hulu was very kind to work with us, and I’m very pleased about it.
My goal is to have The Neighbors be on TV and also online … . This is the new [entertainment format], … but I would still like to work with the TV peoples. And [during] the past seven years, … I changed the concept of The Neighbors because I want to include everybody. So The Neighbors represent[s] to me America, even though it’s a little crazy, but it is what it is. So, I represent everybody, so we have different ethnicit[ies] … and … I think it’s pretty exciting. … I don’t know if you’re familiar with I Love Lucy, the show, or other shows, but they have this thing — déjà vu, you know? Or a rollercoaster ride, but I believe in original material, and I hope that the studio people [do] as well. And the TV people that I extend[ed] this original materials [to], they create something that’s much more valuable that somebody borrow it, to be nice.
Pajiba: So are the characters in The Neighbors based on people in your life or just people that you’ve come across?
Wiseau: Yeah, I grew up in Louisiana … so I have a couple of characters [based on people I know, like] … my aunt, but she passed away. But when she live[d], she always had the chicken, you know, a real chicken. So my mom was the same thing. My mom, she still lives, so it’s a concept of yes, you grab everything what you can from life.
We actually have this ghost, but I stay away from ghost because this is like [a] sort of fantasy and we … Again, I’m very pleased that people don’t ask too much of the ghost, because I want to be much more real with people. For example relationships, you know … like we have [a] relationship with two girls [who] like each other … or we have a relationship with a tenant between the landlord and how far the person can go, and we can [have] humor about how to approve new tenants without even checking, you know, all this different stuff. But I think it’s also about society [and] how we react today. And probably your listeners know that the society have been changed in [the] past 10 or 15 years. I mean … wherever you turn you cannot live without internet, phones .. So I think … the film industry will change, but I still believe that the TV will survive in the same way the cinema survive[s].
Again, you know, a lot of people don’t realize, for example, that The Room, when I shot it, [it] was on 35mm and HD. We [were] the first company actually who shot on the HD commercial camera, which you call it H27, but til this day … The reason I’m speaking about this [is] because we … and the Sony Corporation, they [were] supposed to write about it, but they never did. So it’s just a, it’s a little quirky statement I want to say to you.
Okay, move on, next question.
Pajiba: So, in The Room, in The Neighbors, it seems like you really like to focus on the relationships between people. What if the studio approached you and asked you if you wanted to make an action film? Do you think that would be something you would be interested in?
Wiseau: Absolutely, yes, I would love to do that. Actually … [I’m] working on [a] new project, … but I cannot call it action movie. [It] is much more set back, drama, comedy, than can be classified … It’s funny about how people tend to classify The Room [it] was drama, [it] was comedy.
… [An] action movie is something I would love to do, because it’s a different genre and it’s the same as someone ask[ed] me how we did The Room compared to The Neighbors. So of course The Neighbors is, it’s a sitcom, and [the] pace is different, the situation is different, and the environment is different. But on the end of a day, if you look at entertainment, and see, that’s how we divide it into, like you say the action movie, action, it’s a fast pace. It all depends on the script.
Definitely I would do it, yeah, anytime. If you know somebody or if somebody else is listening (laughs) … But it sounds as if in jest but I mean it. And … I would like to say all the studios people, executives especially, thank you very much for your support … they actually did give us support. I talk about The Room and all of it as well, and they understand that it is what it is. The industry has been changed, but we have great support from everybody, so … Independents as well. I call it “Big Shark,” but I love them all because … but people don’t realize, my background is also business. People don’t understand, but any studio system — it is extremely difficult to sometimes make money, to get those numbers, you know? But the bottom line is you have to pay for the electricity. … Let’s say when I graduate from … before that, I didn’t realize, to be honest with you, what is going into mak[ing] a movie, for example, or even a play. They actually put The Room on, the play, on AFI, a few years ago, [and] it was very successful. And again, we got big support from AFI. … People were very excited about it.
Pajiba: That’s excellent. I have to apologize for all my “Ums,” because you’re actually the first celebrity I’ve ever interviewed, so I hope I’m doing OK.
Wiseau: You’re doing very well! Don’t worry about it! The first and best and ever! So you know! So we still have 20 minutes.
Pajiba: Do you still stay in contact with the actors that worked with you on The Room? Do you think you’ll ever work with any of them again?
Wiseau: Actually, yeah. We actually have [a] regular screening of The Room in Los Angeles. People show up. Some of the actors come in from time to time, and yes, definitely some of us keep in touch. I don’t know, like some people say that I’m not talking to [Room actor] Greg Sestero. That’s a completely false statement, because actually we just talked two days ago and he actually has official[ly agreed for me] to use as my script title of The Room… and he actually purchased license, which is one of the important things I want to tell you, but we did talk even though I don’t know if you’re familiar with his book Disaster Artist? I am not supporting [it] 100%, but the same token, you know, I mean, again this is the thing when Tommy comes, I believe for freedom. I believe that people should express themselves the way they want, except as it does in the way that’s not nice, but it is what it is.
Pajiba: Do you think you’ll ever write a behind the scenes book about The Room?
Wiseau: Actually, I know this already that I’ll be writing the book Disaster by Tommy Wiseau. I may do it, but after James Franco finishes his project, because I don’t want a compar[ison] of [the two]. And again, we are very supportive … we are not on the same page 100%, because I heard the stories of some people saying that, oh, I bought all the equipment. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what I shoot The Room … but guess what? The same equipment, for example, the lighting and other stuff, all the elements, which are part of a studio you wanna sell, I use this for projects like Homeless In America, which I did and was very proud of it, and as well as The Neighbors. So we’re using the same equipment and some of the lighting of The Room, believe it or not. So who was wrong, who was right?
Pajiba: Has James Franco reached out to you to prepare for his role in the movie version of The Disaster Artist?
Wiseau: My understanding, and I have talked to him, is that he’s preparing now, and we talked and we had an agreement that I’m not supposed to talk too much (laughs). But I think he’s a very dedicated actor, and I think he will accept some of the statement that is incorrect, like I already mentioned about lighting.
The reason I bought the lighting — I hope everybody is listening, because I have … to produce other movies, and if I just rent I will not have it, and that’s another thing of deja vu and the situation. What people don’t understand, but you can rent equipment — why? … Again, I like staying positive, and I think James Franco is a very good actor and I think he will do an excellent job [and I’m not giving him too much credit. Why should I, right? They have experience [and] they know what they’re doing, and I personally like James Franco … I love him actually, to be honest with you. We have the same interests, like James Dean, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him and his career, and I think … Again, people don’t realize that we — and I say we because I hope that people agree with me, including people maybe who disagree — but actors, we actors, generally speaking, we work so hard. People don’t realize [that], and how we prepare and how we expose our body, our language, and sometimes it’s positive and sometimes it’s negative. But I think the bottom line is we like when people … I like when people have a reaction whether [it is] positive or negative, as long as they enjoy themselves. And sometimes you have disrespectful people. But to me it’s secondary. I don’t even think about it. Let’s put it this way. Move on. Next question.
Pajiba: Did you watch a lot of movies when you were younger? Did you have any favorite movies that you watched over and over?
Wiseau: Yes! I actually collect movies and, again, that was the statement of some people that had not watched the movie and that was an incorrect statement. I’ve watched a lot of movies. And I have so few favorites for example, Giant, Casablanca, Guns of Navarone, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. I’ve seen all [of[ James Dean’s movies, Clint Eastwood’s movies. I love it. I think Clint Eastwood is one of the pioneer[s] of how to present it … you could learn a lot from him. But the same token people can learn a lot from me. That’s what I think. The reason I’m saying [this is] because I have a certain, I think, flavor that you can actually see in The Neighbors and in The Room. In The Room, I was in charge from A to Z , from editing, people don’t realize, to directing. … I always say, the more skills you have the better. I personally think The Room is like a foundation, like put the house on big foundation. So we’ve been doing this for 12 years and think how we’ll be doing more.
Pajiba: If you had the chance to remake The Room with anyone you wanted, who would you cast to play the parts?
Wiseau: Actually, that’s a great question that somebody posed me two years ago. I’ll be honest with you, I would not change so much, except definitely the not using two cameras. Because people don’t realize the reason I use two cameras … [is] because I want to see [one shot] compared to [a] former [shot filmed in] say 35. At the time I was shooting The Room in HD, that was not a respectful form of filming, but I should at the same time, because again I told you the Panasonic people that they said, OK let’s do this test, and nobody came out to the test, so I just said let’s just do the entire thing. People don’t realize that was the true story. I had all this data … and actually I’ll be writing [a] book about that eventually.
Now to respond to your question about the who I would shoot, I have dozens of skilled actors and also new actors. For example, I suggested Johnny can [be] play[ed] by Johnny Depp, but I also very openly [suggest] James Franco. He is very Wiseau; I think he has a range, and he could change accents and he can be places he’s never been before, so this is why I chose this. Lisa, for example, could play with other actors, I don’t want to drop the names because I have a lot of people interested. Kristen Bell could play Lisa, I see very clearly. This again was a process of casting, and again I would say to you if you give me actors who are supposed to be very good, but me as a director, it doesn’t mean they will give me what I want. Okay. Because acting is giving. Being given you as an actor. Because if you don’t give what I want, we have nothing to talk about. However we can work with you, but it’s much harder. When you see in the actors in television, they may be good, everybody is good, but they have a limitation to what they can give me when I want to put together [something].
That’s why I disagree with a lot of statement[s] by some people who said that they helped me to produce The Room, but they was basically my assistant but they did not put the vision-making. For examples, somebody say they fired Greg; that’s not true. Greg Sestero was my assistant, and he was also line producer at the time when we shot The Room. I’ll be honest with you, we didn’t even know what the line producer mean[t]. I know what he means, but he didn’t. He was line producer and, again, people give him very disrespectful or statement on Greg Sestero and, once again, is very unpleasant to actually analyze something like that. I would say look, when you were born you were not born as an actor; you studied acting and the filmmaking. You say this is your first day and, so again, this is what we are learning, the process of learning. So shame on some of you people, hopefully not you, but some of your listeners, you criticize someone when actually you as a person do not have the courtesy to actually do the research and say ‘wait a minute, maybe that’s not what happens.’ Maybe I’m wrong. Because it’s easy to criticize and … in our society, people [are] jumping to conclusion[s] very quickly. But on the same token it’s not nice, and it’s not nice, and I always teach to young people … I have a saying that you may not know … Talking to young person, we [are] all ingredients of society. Don’t think about 100 percent; before you’re 100 percent, think about 20 percent. Think about who you are. Think about how nice you can be to another person. By the same token then, to have your own opinion about life, you as an individual, with respect. But I think that’s what the key to success [is]. Move on. Next question.
Pajiba: Do you think you will do another season of The Neighbors? Maybe a Neighbors movie? Or do you think you’ve done what you can with that and you’ll be moving on?
Wiseau: Actually, we want to produce Lisa … instead of The Neighbors. That’s the idea, and I hope we will have the support from TV, as I mentioned, and I know from Hulu we have support, and I hope they will continue that. Then … [in] September then working on [a] vampire movie as well as the 3D movie of The Room. I have other projects I’m working on. People giving me some jobs you know like, for example, voiceover I did two weeks ago. One was [for a] cartoon and then other projects. I like to be busy, I’m actually busy. So the final question, a couple of more questions?
Pajiba: I think I’ve got everything. If there’s nothing else you would like to say.
Wiseau: I just want to say thank you and I know you’ll be airing this interview but I want to say thank all of you who support The Room, who continue to support The Room, as well as The Neighbors, and I hope that you guys will be watching. I’ll be part of it, the big event, it is May 6th, which is we’ll be screening The Room in, I believe, over 600 theatres across the country, and you can go to Rifftrax.com and also www.theroommovie.com and also TommyWiseau.com.
Also I do have the — I don’t know if you know, I just want to plug it in — I design underwear, believe it or not, and you can go to tommywiseau.com and you can … we actually have big campaign of the script of The Room, which is a big thing, and again, that I’m trying to teach young people that … be positive. You know, some people say negative stuff, but if you can prove it, and in this case we did prove it, that the script for The Room exist[s]. So we call it the script with underwear just for fun. So, I wish you all luck, and thank you very much for support, and I’ll see you at the screening of The Room. Thank you, I love you all.
We love you, too, Tommy.
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