In his new movie, The Disaster Artist, director and star James Franco explores the question that everyone has asked after watching Tommy Wiseau's 2003 cult classic, The Room, which is: how the heck did that happen? Franco's film chronicles Wiseau's journey from moving to Los Angeles to eventually making what is now considered by many to be the worst movie in the world. Franco plays Wiseau in the film, in what some might consider an unflattering parody. But in this case, everyone knows that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, because what Tommy Wiseau thinks of The Disaster Artist is actually more positive than you'd expect.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Franco didn't get Wiseau's seal of approval until after the film showed at SXSW in 2016. "He said, ‘I approve 99.9 percent.’ And we were like, ‘What was the 0.1 percent? He said, ‘I think the lighting, in the beginning, a little off,'" Franco recalled. The actor recounted the exchange with Wiseau to the movie's cinematographer, Brandon Tost, who according to Franco responded with, "Yeah, maybe we should watch The Room, get some lighting pointers!" Clearly a joke, since lighting is one of the many issues with the highly flawed The Room.
Wiseau likely had a good idea about what to expect from The Disaster Artist since the movie is based on Greg Sestero’s 2013 book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Sestero co-authored his book with Tom Bissell and, as you can infer from its title, Sestero was in fact present during the filming of The Room. The author not only starred in and produced The Room with Wiseau, but he had — and still has — a close relationship with the long-haired enigma.
Wiseau's approval of The Disaster Artist wasn't necessarily a sure thing, however, because according to Franco, Wiseau hadn't totally approved of Sestero's book. According to EW, Franco mimicked Weiseau while revealing that his muse told him, "Greg book only 40 percent true." Franco described his apprehension following that interaction, saying, “It was like, well, that’s what we based it on, so what are you going to think about our movie?"
Luckily, Wiseau approved of the movie — besides that supposed lighting error — and it's a good thing too, as he didn't start off with having the greatest of confidence in either The Disaster Artist's source material or its creator. According to Vanity Fair, Franco wasn't exactly Wiseau's top choice in actors to portray himself. Franco revealed that while he was on the phone with Wiseau in the film's early stages of production, The Room's creator suggested that Johnny Depp play him. "I laughed," Franco told Vanity Fair. Wiseau reportedly asked why he was laughing, and Franco responded, "I don’t know, dude. He’s a big movie star. He’s in Pirates of the Caribbean." Of course Wiseau had suggested Depp knowing full well about his A-list status, but his consistency with reaching for things that most people would consider "out of his league" is exactly what he did throughout the filming of The Room, so it shouldn't come as any surprise.
According to Vanity Fair, Wiseau eventually approved of Franco impersonating him for The Disaster Artist, even if Franco wasn't quite perfect. "He said, 'Yeah, James, I’ve seen your stuff. You’ve done some good things, some bad things,'" Franco told the magazine.
The Disaster Artist offers a much-needed backstory to The Room, but certain aspects of Wiseau will always remain a mystery. One of the best things about Franco's film is how it both re-enacts everyone's favorite parts of The Room — like Wiseau's awkward timing when laughing — and gives even more information about the infamous director with which to confuse people. Wiseau will likely never be 100 percent figured out by his fans, but at least he's approved of 99.9 percent of the film about him.