Books

Oh, hi book: Looking back at The Disaster Artist

Without a doubt one of the greatest bad movies ever made, The Room has become a massive cult favourite since its debut in 2003, with many of its scenes and lines of dialogue becoming part of the pop culture lexicon.

The story of how such a movie came to be must surely have been as fascinating as the results on-screen and in 2013 that story came to the fore thanks to “oh, hi Mark” himself, Greg Sestero.

Set to be turned into an eagerly awaited feature film by James Franco, also portraying Tommy Wiseau, the book of The Disaster Artist is prime material to fashion into a feature film, and one that surely should be considerably better than the one it’s about.

Its story of filmmaking gone wrong, as well as a Patricia Highsmith-style friendship, is a compulsive read throughout, with Sestero and Tom Bissell’s prose brilliant throughout, telling its wonderful narrative in a manner that is strangely moving at times, and also frequently hilarious.

Best of all, it doesn’t just need the making of The Room to sustain itself. Sestero tells the story of how he first met Tommy Wiseau and their resulting friendship throughout as well, alternating the book’s chapters brilliantly between the making of the movie with the story of the two them getting to know each other whilst struggling in the early stages of their careers. Its tale of friendship is at times odd, funny and moving, but can also be unsettling and creepy, especially once the reason for the use of quotations from The Talented Mr Ripley that begin some of the chapters becomes clear.

It’s as much about the difficulties of trying to make it in Hollywood as it is about the making of the greatest bad movie ever made, but once the book gets knee-deep into the making of The Room, it is arguably the funniest and greatest book about the making of an independent movie ever written, where anything that can go wrong does go wrong, and does so in increasingly hilarious and sometimes downright surreal ways.

Directors of photography quit with frequency, Wiseau has trouble getting the most straightforward of lines right, there is question of whether the dog used in the infamous flower shop scene was real, whilst Bon Jovi’s Always will never sound the same again.

Most brilliant of all is how The Disaster Artist gives the reader so much to chew on. For anyone who has ever just looked at Wiseau and the movie as a figure of fun, or something to fire sarcastic remarks at, then Sestero’s telling of the story on how the movie was worked into existence comes with levels of dark humour and poignancy that comes as a genuine surprise that something so brilliantly awful has a story with a surprising level of emotional complexity to it.

The friendship between Tommy and Greg goes through so many ups and downs, emotional upheavals, surreal slices of humour and dark drama that one wonders how Sestero will eventually end up working on The Room given how emotionally manipulative Wiseau is at any given time, whilst the question of where he stems from makes him a figure of mystery that somehow manages to make Wiseau both even more funnier than before, somewhat frightening and yet with an aura of tragedy that is surprisingly poignant, which is then erased by his somewhat awful, borderline psychotic behaviour on set.

The journey to the moment action is called for the first time makes for a brilliant read. It is easy to see why a novel of such comedic and weird proportions would appeal to James Franco and Seth Rogen’s school of comedy, and the book itself is ripe for re-reading and has the ability to want you to rewatch the movie and play along with it preposterous awfulness that paradoxically makes it one of the greatest and worst things ever made.

The book has the capability to make you laugh, cringe, laugh some more and then make you wonder about the mystery that is Tommy Wiseau.

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