Josh sat down with Tommy Wiseau to talk about The Room and ended up talking about James Franco, cinematic universes and fashion.
Back in 2003 when Tommy Wiseau’s debut film The Room opened to universal vitriol, some deeming it the worst film ever made, no one could have guessed it would became the cult sensation it is today. In honor of its upcoming theatrical rerelease, Mr. Wiseau sat down with us to talk about The Room, his vision as an artist (yes), his potential future in Hollywood (including $100 million cinematic universes???) and his new underwear line – with brief mentions of James Franco, and his admiration for Clint Eastwood. Enjoy.
Oh hai Tommy.
Hey, Josh, this is Tommy Wiseau. How are you?
Good. How are you doing today?
Ok, so we have interview, half-hour to spend.
Perfect. Do you wanna just jump right into it?
Yeah, absolutely. How are you?
I’m great. So I thought we’d start off simply: what was it that initially inspired you to become a filmmaker? What is it that appealed to you the most?
Well, you know, some of the stars are like, um… To respond to your question, I think um… This is good one, actually. I didn’t expect that but let me respond very quickly as much I can. [sighs] You know, life, you know. I like to share something on the screen, something when I learn, something when I can… maybe people relate to it, and I think that’s the challenge, I think – to be a filmmaker, or actor, or producer. That to present something that people relate to it. It’s pretty tough – tough cookie, you know but I think I accomplish that somewhat.
Every filmmaker really tries to have a distinct voice – a personality that only they can deliver. What would you say is your voice? How would you describe it?
That’s good one too. I think I have a very powerful voice, as you probably hear – distinguished accent, and I think I’m very optimistic. Whatever I’m saying, even though sometimes we have bad apples at the screenings of The Room and I always say you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourselves, but please don’t hurt each other. So I’m a very, uhm – I don’t wanna be self-centered, I’m just respond to your question – unique person. [Laughs]
It’s definitely clear that you have a voice. The Room wouldn’t still be playing in theatres over a decade later if people didn’t see something in it.
Well, you see I believe also your own creation, you see, so I always say many times for the past 12 years – we have anniversary of The Room this coming June – so I always say, you know, from the beginning I have a certain vision, you know? I don’t know if you know, uhm. Josh, right?
I replace like 4 times crew, 4 times actors, you know, cause they were try to tamper my project, and after 12 years people come from the blue and say “hey, I was working on your project, can I have a credit?” I say “well, you quit, so why should you get a credit in the first place?” you know. And people don’t understand when you do production, and especially film, that people quitting and trying to replace someone is much harder than you hire the person in the first place, you know?
I don’t know if you know but we have this trailer… It’s related to the script cause I say enough is enough – speaking of our characters and voice – I say “enough is enough” and, uhm, we put a little trailer related to the script because a lot of people say “Oh, the script does not exist.” You know, like this ridiculous statement, and it’s very disrespectful. Like some people [mainstream media] like, use it to be disrespectful of The Room. But they lost because actually the script exists and I’m very proud of my project and we’ll be releasing another trailer related to what transpired, why I bought the equipment, you know. Why I bought the equipment because I have a vision, you know I want to have a little studio that’s why we create the name first. We use the same the same equipment almost what we use it for The Room – for lighting, for example. Light is very important, as you know.
Why do you think that is? Do you think maybe people just don’t understand your creative process that well? Is there any way you could give them a clearer idea, maybe walk us through some of the ways you might choose to stage a scene, or some of the direction you might give?
Well yeah, two things going on in your question. The first part of the question, you see is like, I always say, you know, like, sometimes people don’t give you credit because what those people come from. Let me give you an example. Perfect example: we released The Neighbors in DC, right? As well as New York. We had sold out audience. The person who, the interviewer there, you know, instead of talking about what we’re supposed to talk about, The Neighbors (you can read that interview here), cause that’s what the interview was supposed to be – he was talking about totally different topics. How many assistants did I have? And he didn’t even know me. That I actually say very openly about it, you know, I built two buildings in the Bay area. I don’t know if you’re familiar with San Francisco but I built two buildings there and I have dozens of assistants – that’s a fact!
Still to this day some of the people don’t grasp this. That what I come from, what I did in this country – in America – you know, I would say if you work hard you can accomplish something. They do it on purpose to basically… I know this a sad story to say about independent, any independent movies. I can give you dozens of examples. Just on a summary. I’ll give you a little summary: it’s tough out there because you have some of, I would say, weak system. That to get a credit from writers who writing about your project is much harder than somebody released a 20 millions dollars movie. And it’s sad that those people don’t have a conscience. That hey, you know, your audience is sold out, The Neighbors… Actually people like it, yet they [journalists] cannot say positive things. So it’s just sad that the person have to lie to themselves and live in this kind of dilemma. I grew up in an environment that a reporter will report what transpired, a reporter will not be leading towards because the reporter work for big sharks, you know, big studios. So since it’s an independent project, “well, why should we say positive things?”
Trailer for The Neighbors
I think in the past 20 years- I mean, 3 or 4 years, of The Room I noticed it has been changed. So I’m happy that actually people realize that some of the staff [journalists, are lying]… It’s not true and that people realize and say “hey, the script exists, he did this, he did that. So what you talk about?”
Sure. That it’s a genuine project.
Exactly!! Yeah, thank you!! This is the thing was driving me crazy and that’s why we released just recently, you probably see on The Neighbors [youtube] channel, that we have actually… The script exists, we have proof. I’ll actually be releasing, hopefully within few days or couple weeks, the what transpired; what’s the history of The Room actually is because people really discredit my creativity. And I think it’s wrong. It’s completely wrong.
SHAME ON YOU #TommyWiseau
It’s the same like you, we talking now, you interview me, and I don’t know. Whatever you want to write is fine by me, by the way… Uh. Uh, Josh?… I call you Josh?
So you can do whatever you want but imagine like… We talking now, you writing and somebody grab your article, put his name and say “hey, I did this” and then he say “hey, you didn’t do this, you didn’t even interview him” when we know for a fact. So this is the same dealings, this negative stigma, as well… Disrespectful behavior. And I think how with you guys there’s just bad apples. All countries have it, you know, so you cannot stop that but maybe you can say “hey, what you’re doing is wrong.” Because I always say you don’t have to like my movie, you know? But when people enjoy it, what’s wrong with that? [Laughs]
So you spoke a little bit there about you coming out and talking to people about the making of The Room – the behind-the-scenes, etc. And now they’re making a film about this. The “making of The Room,” so how do you feel about that? And how do you feel about possibly being played by James Franco?
Oh, yes, this one. I’m connected to this production of James Franco directly.
Oh, so that’s good. So it is going to be (hopefully) an accurate portrayal then?
Well… It’s, again, this is a grey area but let me, if I may, explain you a little bit.
I talk to James Franco. I think he’s a nice guy. Except just recently he misspoke about why Tommy Wiseau bought the lights for The Room. For example: equipment, because I have a vision to have a little studio which actually, I use the same… Some of it, the same equipment for The Neighbors, for example.
Long story short: I think we on good stand, but I don’t know… [laughs] It all depends on how they wanna spin. That’s James Franco production and Seth Rogen. I admire them. I talk to them. I think they are nice but at the end of the day it’s up to them how they wanna spin. I think it’s a good story. It’s an American story, you know. I grew up with family. We have respect, you know. People are… They don’t give enough respect for me as a filmmaker – I don’t talk about James Franco I talk about general speaking – as well for The Room, you know. The Room has been done intentionally, you know. Why I fire four people? Four times crew, you know? Because of the people… Uh, try and tamper with my script… My creativity, you know.
When you were making The Room – and obviously there were production troubles, or people being nuisances to your vision, whatever – did you know while you were making it, whether in the writing stage or the shooting stage, did you know that it would became what it is? Become this cult figure that few films genuinely achieve?
No. The answer is no. I say this many openly, very time. By the way this is good question, Josh. The answer is no. However… I knew that I would provoke the audience.
I knew this from the beginning, and actually, Greg Sestero in his book he saying that I told him my quirky statement that I say “you know, if I release The Room, people will not sleep for two weeks.” Ok? That’s my little quirky statement I think he put in his book there. However, again, even Greg Sestero… He’s in, you know, the web… of Hollywood?
Sure. I see what you’re saying.
So you see, again, he’s very innocent guy but at the same token when I talk to him a few days ago I told him openly, I say “you’re in the web of Hollywood and you cannot get out.” You know, like this movie. You know, they suck me in but they cannot get out. That’s basically what the Greg’s saying here. I think he’s a very dedicated actor however he’s in the wrong hands right now. That’s my take on that ok?
Because I personally think you should – and especially in America – we as an individual should speak out to your mind. Openly. Without, you know, “oh yeah, because someone make $20 million; I support this person. And somebody who only make $1000; I don’t support.” I think that’s wrong thinking, if I can say that. I always say that we in America, we should speak up our mind, you know? It’s wrong to report that The Neighbors is not good and at the same time sold-out audiences, and actually people are talking about The Neighbors and we have good response, and very positive response, actually without big, propaganda, how good is it? So, again, I think it’s important that we create better society.
Having been in the industry for so long now – and, you know, now even created an original television show – do you think that there’s a chance that you’re going to expand even further? Do you think you still have room to evolve? Is there anything you’re working on now?
Well one of the things I’m working now for Foreclosure, that’s my movie, but I actually have some contracts from other people… Not contracts – we’re talking. But personally I think that I’m ready… You can put in your interview… But I am ready to, you know, direct a $100 millions movie as far as I’m concerned.
I have a vision. I am here. And Hollywood eventually understand that. And all that stuff that happened in the past, like some people give me a job… Let me give you a little example, uhhhh, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Tim & Eric Show for example?
I know their show.
Oh, cool. Very nice people, very supporting. They gave me job as an actor. I’m a SAG… I don’t know if you know this? Screen Actors Guild? And they gave me a job and say ok “this is your character.” I’m supposed to play Steven, the director. And they spinning it the way like I was taking over the stage and people actually believe that. And at Q&A people ask me about this and I say “hey, I was hired as actor!” It’s as simple as it is. They gave me a script. They go by scripting. And it’s sad that either Tim and Eric, you know, very disrespectful way they actually talk about me that why… For example, we have sold out audience in London, and they released a movie and not as many people show up. Why the surprise for them?
Which I say very openly to everybody: when you have original material you should proud of it and eventually people will appreciate and that’s what we have with The Room. The past 2-3 years I noticed mainstream media as well, reporters in America – as well in Canada and other countries – they are actually… They understand, you know? Of course we have big apples sometimes. I saw one interview, like, it was related to James Franco and The Room, and they say “oh, this is such a bad movie, bad movie” so everybody say it’s bad movie but nobody asks one simple questions: well why people see it over and over? It’s accident? No. Nothing happen by accident.
The Room definitely speaks to people. Now, being as outspoken as you are in the industry – you said you’re ready for these big projects – you know, obviously the new thing in Hollywood right now seems to be these cinematic universes. This comic book films and big franchises with multiple films – they’re looking for all kinds of different directors with different visions. Do you think you might ever try something like that? Maybe one of your own? A Tommy Wiseau Cinematic Universe?
Well, you know what? That’s a good question. Like I say I’m always ready but I think – this is my take on that – you can’t push creativity. So you cannot, you see like… How you create it? What is the formula? The formula is you! To be honest with you I talked to a few people in past few weeks actually related to huge… [Laughs] I’m actually embarrassed cause they ask me what’s the budget on your Foreclosure movie, right? And I say “well it’ll be $1-2 million, something like that.” And they are in numbers $40 million, $100 million movies – big sharks, basically. I call them big shark with respect, of course. They know that. But anyway, this is thing: they talking to me and I was just sometimes shock, you know, but at that same token I say “hey, I’m ready,” you know, if you want me to do something let me know because I personally think that I’m ready for big stuff.
But The Room … I’m proud of it but we don’t have enough directors – this it my take on that – who actually have certain vision, you know? I have a certain vision. I think you may bash me, you may say negative stuff about Tommy or “he has accent” or this or that or whatever but on the end of the day I think you hav- [laughs for extended period of time] on the end of the day I do have a vision because I think a director with no vision is no director. That’s my take on that.
You’re 100% correct on that. But say you were offered something that you didn’t have the opportunity to influence the vision? Say you were asked to be an actor. Would you consider joining one of these big movies, one of these Marvel movies, or something like that? Being one of these guys who interacts with these heroes?
I would love to do that. I’m ready for the Star War or whatever they want me to do, you know, because I really like acting but acting is also giving. You see, I have different spin. Acting is also dedication. I would say that emotion… I’m saying, you know I used to have a workshop for actors? Orson Welles, with his movies was pioneer of acting/directing, you know. Clint Eastwood was perfect example, you know, I always say… Multi-tasker? Same here. I’m multitasking. It’s not like I want to be but his is part of it; that you have to be, I would say. As a director. If you wanna be good director you have to have vision but at the same token you have to believe in original material. To respond to your question, yeah, if somebody gave me good part like Star War and others, but some of it – you know what, I’ll be honest with you – some of the stuff we see on TV is pretty dull. Some of the stuff. I don’t know. That’s my take. Again, I have respect for any actor in the world. Let’s be clear of this, ok? It’s very difficult. And I don’t care who you are, when person say to you… Like a big star, I don’t wanna name the name but she said openly “oh no, I never studied acting” she’s lying. [Laughs] simple as it is. Ok? Because when you go to different characters – it’s psychology 101 – you have to do the homework. By studying your character or words or how you stand or conduct yourself, indirectly you are studying. People are always bash actors for, I don’t know, taking from Egyptians, you know. So people don’t really understand that the theatre, uhm, exist a long time ago. From Egyptian, I believe.
You sound like you’re a well-versed guy when it comes to movies. Do you watch many movies throughout the year? Do you keep up with what’s playing theatrically?
I do. I collect DVDs so that’s another statement, when people say “Tommy never watch movies – he only watch Casablanca and Guns of Navarone”… and that’s not true. I actually collect movies, you know?
Any you saw recently? Any last year that stood out to you?
You know, someone just gave me DVD called Power and that was pretty, uh, struck me. And the Clint Eastwood movies I love all of them and just recent saw that new one and really enjoy it.
Yeah. Snipers, I think. This is another movie I saw in the theatre and my take on it… You know the expression “heavy?” Heavy but good?
So you see this is, again, it’s too bad he didn’t get enough recognition. It’s pretty difficult subject to talk about. To create what he created. I think, again, it was heavy movie but I think it was interesting movie to watch it.
You’ve named a couple of different I assume that you admire. Is there anyone specifically you would want to work with?
I admire – to be honest with you – Brad Pitt, I love all of his movies. I’d like to work with him. I don’t know why I’m saying this. He represent to me… I don’t know if you saw the movie Interview With [The] Vampire?
I remember very clearly. I would say that’s when his career started… Brad Pitt. And that’s also when my career somewhat started but quietly, you know? You know what I’m saying?
I know what you’re saying. [?????]
And other actors, you know, I think we have a lot of dedicated actors. I would like to work with Clint Eastwood actually. I think he’s… I talked to him dozens of times believe it or not.
Yeah, I did. At like party. I think he’s one of the charming… One of the most charming-ist guy… And others as well, you know. We have industry. Very small industry. It’s big but small at the same time, I don’t know if that make sense or not.
It’s tight-knit. Everybody knows everyone.
Yeah, basically. You go to the same party and you see this big star who’s right there but at the same token I’m very respectful guy. So I’m trying not to quote some of the names but the past few years I am doing this people say “is he THAT strange?” No, I’m not that strange. I’m just maybe a little different [laughs].
When you meet some of these people is it ever daunting? Are there any conversations you’ve had at one of these parties that stands out?
Yeah, well, I’ll give you a little story: when I talk to Clint Eastwood I give him poster and say “hey, we got a screening of The Room next week” and he say “no, I don’t have time.” But at the same token I’m very respectful so I’m not pushing my project but I think people know already. I think all the major actors in Hollywood – they know about The Room. I mean, as you probably know, we have support from some of them like Jonah Hill and others. Even though, you know, it’s funny because… I don’t understand, they support The Room but they don’t support Tommy Wiseau sometimes (referring to people like Kristen Bell “supporting” The Room). It’s pretty strange. But that’s ok. Eventually we’ll be working together; that’s my belief.
So obviously the cult status of The Room has made you something of a celebrity but celebrity is a double-edged sword – you get these great opportunities but you also get people trying to take you down. How have you dealt with that transition?
Well… You know what, I will not. I will tell you one thing: one of the big star, and I will not name the name of the star, was right on the money about my life, and I was very surprised. But at the same token to respond to your question I will never say that The Room is “cult” to be honest with you. People create cult. What is the definition of cult? You see a movie many times? You crazy about it? But at the same token it is for me flattering, you know, when people actually say that. Some of the doors did open these past few years more and more and I think people realize who I am and what I create. But on the end of the day it is also competition. You can say nice to this person or that person but on the end of the day I always believe my original material. Big star, small star, whatever, they can bash but at the same token I’m very proud of my project and, you know, the winners always survive. But actors, you know, it is what it is. Acting – I always say – is a very hard profession. Whatever you wanna do as an actor, you put yourself there and then sometimes you have to understand that the human psychology 101 can be very brutal. As I told you already, sometimes people disrespect me and make up stories like “well Tommy, doesn’t watch the movie” or “he has big, thick accent.” I know have big accent! I graduated from Laney college. I’m very proud of it. I’ve built a few buildings. That’s a fact!! So whatever I’m talking about myself it’s true story, you know? It’s not the story… It’s a funny story, it’s a happy story because I always wanna be filmmaker or actor. So I’m ready for Hollywood but as the same token I have a respect for them, and if you wanna create something you can’t push it to much.
Right. So speaking of these personal questions; there seem to be a few that many wonder about, just simply not knowing much about you. So I have to ask. Where are you from?
Well first of all my age is incorrect on my IMDb (October 3rd, 1955). That’s number one. Number two, I’m American… I’m proud of it. I grew up in New Orleans. I used to live in Europe long time ago so that’s basically my answer. Move on. Next question.
The belts? Why the multiple belts?
That’s good one [laughs]. I encourage all the guys actually try to wear at least two or three. You will feel better.
Why? Because I really like it to be honest with you. I discover that certain part of your body feel good. That’s my answer. And I also I want to do all sorts of fashion.
Ah, so it’s a statement.
It’s a fashion statement. I don’t know if you know this but in America that baggy jeans, for example, they always people bashing the person who wear baggy jeans. I’m against this kind of behavior… Like this statement that “you cannot do this” or “you cannot do that” I’m just say “hey, you can wear whatever you want as long as respectful” and people don’t understand that you cannot condemn expression – you, as an individual. If I choose to wear seven belts, or one or two, that’s my choice, you know? And I feel good about it and I’m very proud of it, you know? 1) I feel good. 2) It’s my right to express myself. In other words that means no guys can say “hey, you cannot do it” because I decided to do it voluntarily and that’s what I like.
Just to cohere this into the larger discussion that we’re having. Do you think that these fashion statements and these things that you do – that clearly get people talking – are what you’re aiming for? Are some of these ideas/statements what you want your art to be about?
Well that’s indirectly. I never thought people would be talking/taking pictures of my belt to be honest with you. Plus, I design stuff. I don’t know if you know: I design underwear. My underwear have a secret pocket in them.
TW UNDERWEAR™ DESIGNED BY TOMMY WISEAU
Are you a boxers or a briefs guy?
Actually both. I like boxers better but I design brief boxers and trunk as well. So basically I design this the last three years and I’m proud of it and actually we have a great response – we sell millions of them. But it’s again, you know, this is the thing I like to do. Just to be different. All my underwear have little secret pocket in it so you can put credit card in it or key or anything else. I like underwear to have little pockets. So, again I believe in original material.
Sure. They have personality. Are you happy with where you are? I mean you travel around to screenings packed with fans, and you design underwear now; would you say you’re in a good place?
Absolutely. I’m very happy with where I am. I have many friends and collect DVDs believe it or not. My movie is screening not just Canada but all over the world, and as you know May 6th and May 12th we have a special screening of The Room in over 700 theatres and in Canada on just May 6th who interested to see The Room with the RiffTrax and enjoy it. At the some token I’m not a fan of the RiffTrax, I’m just supporting the concept and I think it’s something different that people might enjoy it.