The first time I watched The Room, it was on the late-night network Adult Swim sometime in the late ’00s. As the credits rolled, my friends and I wondered what the hell had we just watched and whether we had drunk too much booze and that’s why we couldn’t follow the movie’s plot.
Turns out, it wasn’t just us.
The Room, released in 2003, is just a terrible movie. It’s so bad that it’s actually really good, an accomplishment that it shares with fellow horrible productions, such as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Sharknado.
And there’s lore with The Room, which led to a book and then another movie. Lead actor Greg Sestero leads a Q&A that follows a screening of the movie at Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Twenty years after the movie’s release, Sestero tells Eugene Weekly that The Room remains popular with audiences around the world and is a movie worthy of a theater experience.
“It’s such a combination of so many human elements that are so alien on screen, but they resonate in a strange way,” Sestero says. “For college kids, it really brings them out to do something, an initiation to go out and experience this movie and bond over it.”
Don’t let The Room’s 26 percent Rotten Tomatoes score fool you. Once you get over the awkwardly timed dialogue and acting, it’s a work of art. The film is about Johnny (Tommy Wiseau), a successful man who lives with his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Daneille Worden). But Lisa is involved in a love affair with Mark (Sestero), and what follows is a rat’s nest of a plot involving drug dealers, love and death.
The Room inspired Sestero to write a book called Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, covering the making of the film and Wiseau, its mysterious director, financier and actor. In 2017, a film adaptation of the book starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen and Alison Brie went on to win critical acclaim.
While writing the book, Sestero says he wanted the story about the making of the movie to be relatable for people who don’t care for bad movies that become cult classics. He realized how The Room combined the elements of being a movie that you want to show to your friends for shock value but also something that you want to see in the theater for the cinematic experience.
“What’s funny about these bad movies is that they’re hard to find, and that’s what’s amazing about The Room,” he says. “It’s hard to find and hard to watch, yet people still seek it out and support it.”
The movie’s popularity knows no borders, either, Sestero says. On a previous trip to London, some Japanese fans of the movie came up and told him that they had seen the movie in Tokyo and loved it. “I kind of throw my hands up at this point in trying to comprehend it, but it’s a great lesson for any filmmaker that you’ve got to make something that people have never seen before,” he says.
Part of the legend of making The Room that Sestero documents in his book was the uncertainty of where director Wiseau was from and how the relationship between the two began to decay while making the film. After writing the book, Sestero says the two are family, or “odd cousins,” at this point.
In his book, as well as the film adaptation, Wiseau is portrayed as a mysterious person whose accent is untraceable and vaguely eastern European. While on set for the film, he would also be overly demanding, often firing crew and actors, which is partially why the movie’s budget skyrocketed.
Sestero says that he wanted to maintain Wiseau’s enigma and how he basically self-funded a $6 million film. “He was almost like a mystery that I couldn’t solve,” he says. “He’s such a fascinating character. I wanted to reveal that in the book but I didn’t want to give away or take away from the experience of The Room.”
As Sestero wrote in his book, Wiseau’s expensive pursuit of making what he hoped would become the next great film was also a work that was meant to be shown in theaters. And it’s in the theaters where this film should be seen, many of which have been hit hard as film production companies pivoted to streaming services during COVID-19.
“There’s magic when you’re sitting in a theater that you can’t really get in your house,” Sestero says. “You lose those details that make you fall in love with movies in the first place.”
The screening of The Room with in-person Q&A with Greg Sestero is Saturday, Jan. 28; doors open at 6 pm. Presale general admission $20, $25 at the door. For more information, visit WhitesideTheatre.org.