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The 'Disaster Artist' Is So Bad It’s Good

The cult classic The Room finally gets the respect it never deserved.


James Franco plays the enigmatic Wiseau in The Disaster Artist.

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Tommy Wiseau, James Franco, Greg Sestero, and Dave Franco.

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“When you make a film, you never quite know what you’re getting into,” Greg Sestero says with a sigh. He would know. It was the Walnut Creek–raised Sestero who, in 1998, met an enigmatic would-be thespian named Tommy Wiseau in an acting class in San Francisco. The two formed an odd friendship that eventually led Sestero to costar in Wiseau’s punishingly awful self-directed 2003 feature, The Room—now widely considered one of the worst flicks ever to plague the big screen. “Not since Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, a legendary turkey from 1959, has a film been so revered for being so rubbish,” the BBC’s Nicholas Barber wrote.

And yet! Rather than fade into VHS obscurity, The Room has stumbled upon, if not acclaim, then at least something approaching recognition in the nearly 20 years since its release. It is a midnight-cinema masterpiece shown the world over, including at San Francisco’s Clay Theatre, where it has run once a month for more than 10 years. “People are lining up and wanting to see this film more than studio films that are considered good,” Sestero says. “It’s a very ironic success.”

Now, in a supremely meta development, the ultimate stink bomb is set to reach an even wider audience: Opening December 1 and starring James Franco and his brother Dave is The Disaster Artist, an adaptation of Sestero’s 2013 book of the same name, about the making of The Room. Sestero, who has a cameo in the film, has also been serving as an adviser. And in an even more ironic twist, the film is getting Oscar buzz. “I mean, it’s a weird business,” Sestero says.

To this day, according to Sestero, his longtime friend Wiseau insists the film is misunderstood: “He still believes it’s a great movie.” Wiseau’s overly earnest—and, let’s be honest, horrifying—acting is what lends The Room its perverse charm. Now he’ll be played by James Franco, so perhaps the last laugh is his. The Disaster Artist is first and foremost a comedy, Sestero says, but one that ultimately comes from a place of love. “The goal is to capture what it’s like to pursue your dream.” A bizarre, incomprehensible, terrible dream. But still.


Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco 

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