If you hadn’t heard of The Room this time last year, then you almost certainly have by now! After the incredible success of The Disaster Artist (the Oscar nominated no less), the author of the book and of course star of The Room, Greg Sestero, has become a household name.
Along with the man, the myth, and the legend that is Tommy Wiseau, Greg is back, writing and starring in Best F(r)iends; a surreal thriller told across two volumes. I chatted to Greg about all things The Disaster Artist, Best F(r)iends and of course, The Room, when he was over in the UK earlier this year.
So this run of shows at the Prince Charles is massive! Are you excited or intimidated about your schedule?
You know, the first time we came we had a great turn out and I thought that was amazing, but to have tripled that 6 years later is nothing I could’ve ever foreseen. Obviously I was writing the book [The Disaster Artist] the first time that we were here and I had high hopes for it, but I could never have expected 9,000 people showing up.
And is this bigger than the last time you came over, which was in September 2017 I think?
Yeah, twice the size. The Disaster Artist has obviously brought a lot of new people to it [The Room].
Is it something about the London audience that is so special and keeps you coming back here?
The Prince Charles is a very unique cinema and it’s got a really passionate fan-base that just brings in new people every year and it’s something that, like I said, you did it once and you think what a great turn-out, and it just continued to grow. Tommy came every year, I took 2 or 3 years off, and then when the new film came out I thought what a great way to introduce something new to this audience.
Whenever you guys are in town, or whenever The Room is showing at the Prince Charles, I’m always dragging along my friends who have never seen it before, what would you say is the key thing they’d need to know before seeing The Room in a theatre?
It’s really one of those things, one of those cinematic experiences that’ll change your view on entertainment I guess, because it’s unlike anything you could ever prepare yourself for, it’s something that almost shouldn’t exist but does. And it’s just you can’t get that experience anywhere else.
And bring spoons as well, that always helps!
That’s always a really good selling point, they’re like “now I really gotta see what this one is about!”
So this last year has been pretty crazy for you guys! How has that been for you?
I mean, it’s been everything I think you could’ve ever hoped for, the film [The Disaster Artist] was received very very well, critically as well as I think people really loved it, I didn’t hear anybody think that oh wait it didn’t live up to the story…I thought it was really terrific and it’s really brought the whole experience full circle with award nominations and it started off people knowing The Room as the worst movie ever, and the goal with the book was to turn that all around and give people something a lot richer and it’s really awesome that it happened this way.
In the Q&A on Monday (5th February) you mentioned an encounter with Tom Hanks, were there any other celebrity conversations this year that stood out for you?
It’s just really cool that everybody in the film industry has responded well and you know Tom Hanks saw it, and Angelina Jolie…Oprah enjoyed the film as well…just the fact this story reached so many people, but it’s through a good film and it’s through James Franco’s incredible performance. I’m happy that this story was brought to people in that way.
Has that now brought a new audience to The Room do you think?
Yeah, there’s been a lot more interest in it, and traction to The Room, people now are curious about it, which is good.
In the Audiobook version of The Disaster Artist you give a pretty accurate impression of Tommy, were you on hand to offer James Franco advice at all when he was getting in character?
I had a lot of tapes and things, weird stuff that James Franco was able to dive into, for his own interpretation, cos it’s one thing doing the voice, it’s also really tough to like become that character with the mannerisms and stuff, so you have to find your own way with that.
And he does a great job!
Absolutely yeah, I loved that performance, really loved it.
Was it weird to see someone playing Tommy that well?
I fell in love with Franco’s performance, like he made Tommy come to life in a way that was even entertaining for me so I loved that.
And you have a cameo in The Disaster Artist?
I had a cameo but it didn’t end up making the final film, but I am in at the end of the movie.
You were playing a casting director in the cameo right?
Yeah and so that part didn’t make it but the film ended up being better off without having that section in it.
What was it like seeing you and Tommy being brought to life by the Franco brothers?
I loved the film, it was therapeutic, I felt it was very sincere and yeah I’ve seen the film like eight times now and I really just enjoy it every time.
Do you think now the public’s reaction to Tommy and how they’ve really taken on The Room is some reflection of what you’ve always seen in him?
Yeah definitely, I think I saw it like 20 years earlier, but a lot of people were taken back by the exterior and I think that now they’ve gotten to see the weirdness and loveable character that he is and kind of accepted him for all his flaws and all his charm.
How has he taken to that, and the increased attention on him?
I think he’s just rolling with it, as he always does!
So moving onto Best F(r)iends, how did that process start and how did it move from idea to screenplay to production?
It’s like anything in this universe it’s so strange how it comes to life, as there’s so many things that just need to go right for that to happen, then I think it was just an idea that came to me and I followed through on it and luckily Tommy was willing to be a part of it and I think anytime you approach something with passion, I mean for Tommy The Room is his passion and something I think fulfilling comes from that, and that’s what I really wanted to do here, I didn’t want to make something that’s just like cheeky or just some stupid Room thing, I really wanted to see if we could make a film together that would be interesting in its own right and move away from The Room. And just take on the challenge of trying something different for Tommy, and I always see it like the shape of water, you don’t need to do anything to him or do a parody of him, he’s just a really interesting character and I wanted to try and make a film, like a thriller type film with him in the lead and started to follow through on that and really took it seriously and tried to make the best thing we could and it was very fulfilling, a lot like The Room was when we were making it you really felt like something is happening here and that’s what this was like.
Was it always the intention to have Tommy in the lead role?
I’d been writing a few ideas and like TV shows and when I sat down with an idea in mind, Tommy and I were working on something else together and it came together very quickly.
And the director [Justin Macgregor] as I understand was a fan of The Room, so how did that come together, did you approach him or did he find you?
We met through a mutual friend and we just had the same idea, of trying to make an actual film and take it seriously and try to shoot something, and try and make something compelling with Tommy in the lead role.
Much of Best F(r)iends is inspired by your real-life relationship with Tommy, how did you get from the truth to the surreal places the movie goes to?!
It’s just a combination of those two, and I think a lot of those experiences are surreal and they lend themselves to taking that even further. And then in the process of shooting usually a film takes on a life of its own those and that’s kind of what this one did.
How was the process of working on Best F(r)iends different to The Room…apart from in every way possible!?
It was totally different, when we rehearsed together over the phone, going over scenes and talking through them, and we just had more time to just like focus on one thing which I think helped a lot, it was a lot more enjoyable!
And Tommy enjoyed the process as well?
Yeah he did, I think it was a lot simpler for him and yeah just focus what he was doing with the performance.
Moving onto Volume 2 of Best F(r)iends, is London going to be the first to see it again?
We might do some advance screenings in the states but it’ll be the first place in September for the UK audience to see it. For me [part two] is my favourite of the two I think it’s going to be a really different experience from what people are expecting and yeah I think we’re just going all out on this one.
Any exclusives about Volume 2 that you can share yet?
It’s one of those things I hope…I mean the goal is that it’s something again, that it’s the same thing that 1 did in that it surprises audiences in a good way and I think it’s gonna be…you know, it’s gonna be something, it’s gonna be madness!
Do you have an official release date for it yet?
We’re supposed to do it at Prince Charles in September and yeah they want us to come back so hopefully we’ll be there.
Having now written a screenplay and a best selling book, what were the key differences in that creative process and which did you prefer?
Screenplay I always thought the format was a little limiting but I enjoyed it, and I’d say that writing the book was more my thing, but I did enjoy the screenplay process and would definitely be down to do that again.
Having now written, produced and starred in films, do you have any plans to give directing a go?
I’ve never really thought about directing, it’s a special kind of vision, you know I prefer more creating and writing at this point.
As well as Best F(r)iends Volume 2 what’s next for you? I’ve heard rumours about a possible follow-up book to the Disaster Artist or maybe even that Home Alone sequel you’ve been working on!
[laughs] Yeah I should take a crack at that! My next thing I want to work on is I’d love to make a horror film, something totally different, something not connected to any of this world in anyway. Yeah making something entirely different out of this universe, especially with the Oscar nomination you know it’s a great bow on this whole experience and it’d be really fun to challenge that and do something different; it’s important to always take risks.
Yours and Tommy’s story is certainly an incredible one, what would you want people to take away as the main lesson from your success story?
Really that in life anything is possible like if you have a goal or a dream that you know you owe it to yourself to try and not sell yourself short because more importantly than getting to that dream or accomplishing that dream is you’re gonna learn so much about yourself through that process and that is gonna be valuable to any aspect of your life. If you’re not taking risks you’re not trying and going after the things that you want then you’re gonna stifle yourself.
Best F(r)iends Volume 1 is showing in select cinemas across America on March 30 + April 2, and Volume 2 on June 1 + 4. Get your tickets here.
UK audiences can see Volume 2 (with Greg & Tommy LIVE on stage!) on September 10 + 11 at the Prince Charles Cinema. Get your tickets here.
My huge thanks to Greg for taking his time out to talk to me! You can check out my original review for Best F(r)iends Volume 1 here as well.