The Disaster Artist — a heartwarming tale of unlikely friendship
My brother was the first to introduce me to The Room.
"I've read about this film that people say is the worst of all time," he said. "Watch this trailer, you'll love it."
He knows that anything involving clichés, unintentionally funny serious situations and general eccentricity is right up my street. A few YouTube clips later, and we found ourselves attending a screening at Derby's QUAD. It was a far cry from what I now know a typical screening of The Room to be. No one joined in with the dialogue, and I was the only audience member to throw a spoon. Although fancy dress was encouraged, people wore their normal clothes. I bought a black wig, but my brother promised not to attend if I wore it. It's now survived many unsuccessful eBay listings.
The one thing this screening did have in common with those attended by thousands of avid fans around the world, however, was the laughter erupting from every direction. A lone, middle-aged man opposite me could not hold himself together. As someone who claims that my lack of enthusiasm for all things film stems from seeing The Lion King in the 90s and knowing it could never get any better, it was the single most hilarious cinematic experience of my life.
"There's no way the guy wrote it as a serious drama," I argued as we left the cinema. How could someone have written something so hilarious without an ounce of comedic intention?
"He did," my brother replied. "That's the whole point." Though me and a room full of strangers had come together to experience something truly joyous that night, I couldn't help but feel a tinge of sadness at what we might have just done. Did people gather in their droves simply to mock a man who tried his best? As a musician who's written some questionable songs over the years, I considered how I might feel if people held events around the world to dress up in costume and mock my work. Or even worse, me as a person.
It was this feeling that lead me to read The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. The book claimed to shed some light on the origins and creative process of the film, and at the very least would provide me with some comedy relief.
I ended up finishing it in a matter of days — a record for someone like me who wonders whether cutting out sleep might give me some more hours to do things. The Disaster Artist gave me everything I hoped for that night and more.
I discovered that behind the film was an unlikely, endearing friendship between two self-confessed outsiders who were just trying to make their way in the world. A complex, yet lovingly pure soul in Tommy Wiseau whose wisdom went hand in hand with his muddled feelings about humans and their behaviour towards one another. A man who had never been given a chance until he met a young model and aspiring actor named Greg Sestero.
Tommy's lack of inhibition and social anxiety was at times inspiring. He taught Greg to care less about the opinions of others and to have unbreakable self belief. Greg looked up to the new, mysterious figure in his life but was simultaneously acting as a role model to Tommy himself. To a certain extent, they both wanted to be more like the other. Greg saw Tommy as enviably brave, and Tommy saw Greg as enviably talented. This came to a head towards the latter part of the book, and their friendship hung in the balance at times which made me genuinely concerned. Concerned for the friendship of two randomers.
In the end, as both became more rounded individuals and made sense of their demons, I was touched at the resulting nature of the friendship which elevates The Room to a new place in my heart. Tommy Wiseau may be a larger-than-life, eccentric character with a mysterious past. He may have written something that became notorious as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies". Greg Sestero may be an actor who hasn't yet secured a role worthy of the critical acclaim he once dreamed of.
But they have brought millions of strangers together through creativity. Their dedication to their craft, and to each other, has driven them both to a place — though unexpected — far more exciting than any alternative destination. Though Tommy didn't quite get the reaction he expected upon the first screening of his movie, he has since provided enjoyment to audiences worldwide and will continue to do so for many years. Though Greg will forever be known as the guy who had a beard then shaved it off, The Room has allowed him to author a truly fascinating, quality piece of work and achieve his writing ambitions. In a sense, they both saved each other from getting stuck up sh** creek without a paddle.
I encourage you to look past the sheer hilarity of this astonishing film, and understand the story behind it. The Disaster Artist shows us that people are weird, they do weird things we can't always explain, things never really work out the way we planned, but
If a lot of people loved each other, the world would be a better place to live.
You can find out more about The Disaster Artist here — including where to buy it — though be aware that the Audiobook is not available in the UK unless you buy it on CD.
The book has also been adapted into an upcoming film called "The Masterpiece", which is scheduled for release in 2017.