There are so many surreal elements to The Disaster Artist. The first and foremost of which is the film that actually inspired it, The Room.
Those of you that haven’t experienced Tommy Wiseau’s utterly bizarre 2003 romantic drama, which is roundly regarded as the worst film ever made, don’t need to do so to fully appreciate James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist,” an adaptation of Greg Sestero’s memoir on the making of "The Room," which he also co-starred in.
If that wasn’t enough, both James and Dave Franco feel especially lucky to have made “The Disaster Artist” because they did so alongside a group of their closest friends and family. Lest we forget, that they are brothers, too.
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“It was surreal in a sense because we felt like we got away with murder just by being allowed to make this movie. Because in reality most people in the world haven’t heard of ‘The Room.’ We are so indebted to New Line just for allowing us to run with this thing, have creative control, and allowing us to cast our friends and family,” Dave Franco explained to me when I sat down with the brothers earlier this month.
“At one point someone on set tapped me, and said, ‘You realize you are making a movie with your brother and your wife and some of your best friends?’ It was one of those moments where I took a step back and realized this was a special scenario.”
There was another reason why production on “The Disaster Artist” was bizarre for Dave Franco, though, as his older brother went method for the entire film, using Tommy Wiseau’s accent when the cameras weren’t even rolling.
“It was surreal in the sense that my brother stayed in character while directing us so there was sometimes a feeling of us being transported back in time to ‘The Room’ set and feeling what it would have been like to be directed by Tommy. It was James’ personality, just Tommy’s voice. It didn’t hurt anything.”
“I didn’t even think about it that way. I think it helped everyone out,” James Franco confessed in response to the above, before then explaining why he took this approach.
“Let’s also just establish that it might be the only time in the history of film when the director was playing a part that was the part of a director in a film. It was meta upon meta upon meta. So to just play the guy on all levels was easier, and it just created an atmosphere. It wasn’t as though I gave bizarre direction as Tommy. You could talk to me as James.”
James Franco also recalled his first introduction to “The Room,” which was courtesy of a weird billboard for the film that Wiseau paid to keep up for between 2003 and 2008 at an inordinate cost.
“It just said ‘The Room.’ It didn’t say movie or anything. And then there was a phone number and this face. I thought it was a cult. You’d just drive by it. I was talking to Gary Oldman last week, and I was describing it to him, and he just went, ‘Oh my God! I remember that thing.’ You’d just drive by and think it was a piece of LA weirdness.”
It wasn’t until James Franco read “The Disaster Artist” that he instantly become interested in telling this story, though.
“Someone said, ‘This looks like something you’d like.’ And I just started reading it and before I was halfway done I just knew it was an incredible story of oddballs and outsiders. And I was very moved. I could relate. Even though they made so many strange choices, and the movie they made was not good, underneath I could really relate to everything they were going through and feeling.”
But while James Franco is the first to admit that “The Room” is technically a bad film, he insists that the sense of joy and fun that it provides to its audience shouldn’t be dismissed. In fact, Franco believes that it should make you question how we judge the success of a movie.
“One of the things we examine in our movie is ‘The Room,’ by most standards would be considered a bad movie, if you just looked at all of its parts. But the sum of its parts, and the sum of the experience is something that people are obviously getting something from. And continue to get something out of. So it makes you sort of question what we call a successful movie, or a good movie.”
“We have both seen ‘The Room’ more times than any other movie in existence,” Dave Franco added. “And there is something to be said about that. If a movie is that watchable, when can we just start calling it a good movie?”
“The Disaster Artist” is certainly just that, and audiences will be able to revel in its quality when it is released in New York on December 1, before it extends across the rest of the United States on December 8.