The_Disaster_Artist

So it’s the first post of the year and I’m reviewing… a book?

Yes.

Because it’s not just any book. The Disaster Artist may be the funniest book ever written. There is a catch, however. If you’re going to buy this book, I highly advise you get the audiobook version. Why? Because the book’s author (who also reads it) adds his hilarious impression of the book’s eccentric subject, Tommy Wiseau, whenever he quotes Tommy. And about half the book is quoting Tommy.

To understand why this would be funny, go watch this interview of Tommy Wiseau. As you’ll see, Tommy’s accent very well might be the eighth wonder of the world. There is no origin for it, no logic, no rhythm, no reason. Every time he speaks it’s like watching two cars playing chicken on the highway.

To provide some context for the book, you’ll have to have heard of The Room. The Room is a 2003 film that many consider to be the worst movie ever made. In the tradition of Ed Wood, however, The Room is insanely watchable in a “so bad it’s good” way.

If you don’t die of uncomfortable laughter during the five-minutes-too-long love scene, you’ll fall down laughing from lines like, “Hi Doggie,” and “I did not hit her! It’s not true! It’s bullshit!  I did not hit her.  I did not!” (throws water bottle – then, completely happy within a nanosecond) “Oh, hi Mark.” Then, of course, there’s the moment where Johnny (the main character, played by Tommy) has sex with his fiancé’s dress before shooting himself.

What’s The Room about? Well, to hear it from Tommy’s perspective, it’s a complex character drama about seven people whose lives intersect on a daily basis as they come in and out of this room (Johnny’s apartment). But things start to unravel when Johnny’s fiancé starts cheating on him with his best friend, Mark.

Mark, it turns out, is played by actor Greg Sestero, who is the co-writer of the book (Tom Bissell is the other writer). And Greg finally puts to rest the mystery of how this movie was made. And when I say he finally puts it to rest, I mean he goes into EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of the movie’s pre-production and production. Which would seem like overkill. But it’s not overkill when you have the most interesting man in the world to talk about.

Some of the highlights of Greg’s memories of Tommy include how the original actor slated to play Mark was an actor named “Dan.” But Tommy always called him “Dawn.” Whenever anyone would say Dan’s name around him, Tommy would say, “Who is that??” since he knew him as Dawn. This forced everyone to gradually call Dan “Dawn” as well.

Then there was Tommy’s decision to replace Dawn with Greg during production. Except he didn’t want to fire Dawn as he feared confrontation. So his plan was to shoot all the scenes with Greg under the pretense that the “producers” (there were no producers) wanted to see tape on Greg. Then when Dawn would come in to do the scene, Tommy would instruct the cameraman to only pretend to record him. As you would expect, this didn’t end well.

Tommy also did such things as buy a two camera set-up so he could record in both film and HD at the same time. Whenever anyone asked him why he would do such a thing, he would say because it was “big American production.” Whenever they went out to eat, Tommy would always order a glass of hot water (he got in an argument with the waiter every time he did so). Tommy would hold impromptu five minute silences for America. He would drive five miles per hour wherever he went. He didn’t know how to use windshield wipers so when it rained, he would push his face against the window to see.

Maybe the funniest moment in the book has no relation to The Room at all. Tommy and Greg first met in an acting class in San Francisco many years before The Room. Tommy, who had a tempestuous relationship with the acting teacher for always vehemently dismissing her critiques, had picked a famous scene from his favorite play, A Streetcar Named Desire, to perform with an unfortunate female student.

As you all know from the scene, in it, Stanley is screaming at Stella up on the stairway. With “Intense Emotion” being Tommy’s favorite thing to play as an actor, he went… shall we say, “overboard.” Tommy rarely remembered a single line when he was acting, much less an entire scene of them. This forced him to always make up his own lines.  In this case, he didn’t remember any lines.  So he just continued to scream “Stella!!” over and over again, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 times. All of this while never once looking at the actress actually playing Stella, who stood dumbfounded next to him. Tommy instead delivered the scene directly to the audience. According to Greg, everyone in the room realized that they had just witnessed the single most horrible performance in the history of the world.

room-lisa-tearing-me“You’re tearing me apart Lisa!!!”

One of the biggest focuses of the book is the mystery behind Tommy’s fortune. For those who don’t know, Tommy financed the 6 million dollar “The Room” all by himself. Yet no one could identify where Tommy made his money. Greg makes it a point to ask Tommy, over their 10 year friendship, questions about his past, but his past is the one thing Tommy won’t give up. It’s clear that something horrible happened there and to bring it up is the equivalent of yelling “Al-Queda” on a packed flight just before it leaves the gate.

While the book is mostly laugh out loud moments (I literally laughed over 200 times) Greg realizes that if this book is going to resonate he’s going to need to explore Tommy on a deeper level. It’s actually a great reminder for screenwriters. Audiences will laugh at jokes for awhile, but sooner or later they want a reason to stick around.

Part of the appeal here is seeing how misunderstood Tommy is, how lonely he is, yet how hard-working and optimistic he stays. Greg points out that at one point, years before they made The Room, Tommy, who lived in San Francisco, would actually fly down to LA every Thursday night to take an acting class, and then fly back home the same night. Of course, because Tommy is also a living contradiction, he showed up 4 hours late filming The Room every day.  Go figure.

Slipped into this is Greg’s own journey. And it’s a harsh look at Hollywood. Greg is trying to become an actor but even though his looks give him an above-average audition rate, he rarely lands any roles. Hearing him go through stretches where he doubts himself and wants to quit, is a familiar monologue any artist can relate to.

But I actually think there are some great screenwriting lessons to be learned from The Disaster Artist, starting with that one. Greg was 23 years old when he wanted to give up. Granted he didn’t go to college, so he started acting at 18, but I’m of the belief that if you want to be something, you commit yourself to it. Giving up at 23 – one year after you would’ve graduated college, is a wussy move. That’s the main way Hollywood gets rid of its wannabes. If they’re going to give up that easily, then they weren’t meant for the business anyway. Greg even notes that Jack Nicholson went through 350 auditions before he got his first part. It takes awhile to build connections and to get better at your craft. It never happens overnight. And the same can be said for screenwriting.

Also, as crazy as Tommy Wiseau is, there’s something admirable about the fact Tommy made this movie. There are too many people who only talk about doing something in this town yet never do anything about it. He went out and actually made something.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “Well yeah, he had 6 million dollars.” But when you read this book, you learn that Tommy could’ve made this movie 10 years earlier, or 20 years earlier. He had the same amount of money then. So why didn’t he just bankroll the film then? It’s because money isn’t the real reason we don’t do something. It’s fear. It’s fear of putting a piece of yourself out there. Money is great but movies can be made for very little money these days. If you really want to do it, you’ll find a way. Tommy finally forced himself to make that psychological leap, got over his fear, and did it. And there’s something to be said for that.

Hopefully, some of you guys can make that leap this year as well.

  • paul

    I never laughed so hard watching a movie.

  • klmn

    OT: The latest chapter in the Sony Hacking Saga…

    http://nypost.com/2014/12/18/sharpton-to-have-say-over-how-sony-makes-movies/

    • CJ

      Jesus Christ.

      Just throw him some money and tell him to go away. That’s all he wants.

      • Magga

        The movie about this whole Sony hack situation, whenever someone makes it, will be the Dr. Strangelove of our time

    • charliesb

      Hopefully since its the NYP, it’s an exaggeration.
      But God help us if it’s not.

  • Ryan Sasinowski

    Oh my god, I love this book! I’ve been a fan of the flick since I saw the Nostalgia Critic’s review of it. It’s hysterical. I was overjoyed when I learned of the book on “How Did This Get Made?” and my brother was nice enough to get this for me for my birthday the other year. I devoured it in a week. SUCH a funny read.

    I’m stoked that James Franco is making the flick, and that the book is being adapted by the scribes of “500 Days of Summer” and “The Fault in Our Stars.”

  • paul

    I’m eagerly awaiting the Room 2. If they can make 55 Hangovers, then they can get another Room flick out. Get it done.

  • CJ

    I’ve never had the nerve to endure THE ROOM. Although by now I think I’ve seen clips of most of the best stuff.

    Actually, I was just about to Carson to ask if he would do another column about books that should be made into movies.

    From one of the previous ones I discovered Joe Abercrombie, who is now probably my favourite author at the moment.

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      Abercrombie fan! Which book reeled you in?

      • CJ

        BEST SERVED COLD.

        In a way I’m glad I read a standalone first, but I also missed out a lot of details having not read the trilogy beforehand.

        Now I’ve read all of his books multiple times and eagerly await his next one. If he stopped playing video games he would probably finish them faster! :-P

        • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

          At least he’s not George R. R. Martin bad. I popped my cherry with The Blade Itself and the second part of the trilogy whose name now escapes me (yeah, number 1 fan talking).

          I put it on hold while I read some history books because I love prolonging the wait between novels (so long as it is voluntary, not when the author operates under the delusion we are all immortal creatures and have all the time in the world)

    • LostAndConfused

      I think one problem of turning Abercrombie’s work to the big screen is who it appeals to. It’s vulgar, violent, and will probably demand a high budget. Doesn’t seem like studios are much into investing in properties that’ll be high budgeted that can’t be marketed at teenagers. If anything it’d probably adapt better to a TV Show (looking at you HBO), which is the medium that best suits fantasy novels anyways. They’re turning The Name of The Wind into a TV series.

      I think the fantasy series that will most likely be made into a movie is The Warded Man. It has that YA like feel to it, and although it’s fantasy, it’s not typical medieval fantasy. It has the most unique world dynamics I’ve read in a book since The Lord of the Rings.

  • Garrett

    That’s an interesting point Carson brings up regarding fear and getting one’s self out there.
    For many people that’s a very realistic possibility; I personally have never had a fear of getting my stuff out there, it’s more just a realistic (or innate) ability to judge whether my stuff is ready to be seen. Do I have the talent? Is it good enough?
    But, I also like that Carson pointed out the balls it takes for Tommy to go out and do what he really wanted to do, REGARDLESS if everyone laughs at it and thinks it sucks. There’s something to take from that, for sure.

    • paul

      Yeah, but he’s seriously being ridiculed. Most of the youtube comments are quoting various lines where they are laughing AT him.

      • Garrett

        Yeah, that must be difficult for him to see.

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      I don’t know, man, I decided to watch the movie just so I wouldn’t be out of the loop and I couldn’t sit through it. Making this movie and releasing it for public consumption takes as much balls as jogging on the street bare-ass naked and literally showing your bouncing balls. It may take some courage…or maybe zero intelligence and/or self-respect. What’s the point?

      Maybe some people find this funny. Well, bully for them. I know humor is subjective, but I think we’re doing humanity a disservice by saying making a turd like this takes balls. Shit, by that token we should be should be inspired that Hitler started World War II and murdered all the people he did because that’s what he really wanted to do.

      Okay, I know that’s an extreme example even as I write it, but damm, if this movie can get as much attention as it does for being worse than the contents of a toilet the day after Thanksgiving, I sure as hell can drum up whatever extreme example I like.

      • Garrett

        Haha, yeah good point. Hours after I wrote that, I started thinking from the same point of view. Namely, when Carson was talking about the example of how he seemed to not take constructive criticism in his drama classes. When it comes to that, you’re right, he’s being stupid, and it’s his fault alone that it sucks so bad. So, I guess we can at least learn from that aspect of this “Thanksgiving toilet.”

        • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

          Yeah, and I guess we should add that at least something as atrocious as this can inspire others to work hard and make a fantastic movie, even if it’s just because they’re pissed off something like this got made.

  • Garrett

    Oh my God guys, you have to see this: I was looking up some of Tommy’s other stuff on IMdb, and apparently he is writing this new show called “The Neighbors.” Check out this poster. Love the chicken…

    • klmn

      He does make great chicken sounds, as shown in some of the clips linked to here.

  • hickeyyy

    I actually just received this book as a Christmas present. I read the first chapter last night before bed and was laughing hysterically. I had to keep explaining to my GF why I was laughing so hard.

    It’s an excellent book just based on that first chapter alone. Can’t wait to finish it.

  • ripleyy

    Tommy’s just a misunderstood human bean. :(

    Though, I am really glad James Franco is adapting this. It looks like’s going to be great.

    • Kirk Diggler

      I’d rather see Daniel Day Lewis play Tommy. Franco is too much of a joke himself that it would be a parody of a parody. I could be wrong and hope for the best.

  • Trent11

    You had me at “Johnny has sex with his fiancé’s dress just before shooting himself.”

    Goddamn, why did I never think of putting that into a script?!

    Fucking genius, man.

  • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

    I saw a trailer for a new project he’s working on – now he’s trying to make comedy. I think this is a bad move because it’s not honest.

    Part of the allure of The Room was that he was bearing his soul (I don’t care that he says otherwise in interviews). It’s like tripping and falling then pretending to trip and fall. I admire his bravery for knowing everyone’s laughing at his pain and still accepting it (the money helps too I guess). I definitely plan on making that leap this year (in a few more days – for reals).

  • cjob3

    I keep looking for the Rifftrax version but I can’t find it anywhere online. I feel like I’m the only person who hasn’t seen this movie.

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      You are not! I never liked watching terrible movies, even if just to poke fun at them. Last time I tried it was with the Italian version of James Bond, starring Sean Connery’s brother. Ten minutes in I remembered life is too short and said screw this.

    • Midnight Luck

      You definitely aren’t.
      Years back people on here were talking up and down about The Room, so I went looking for it.
      I didn’t realize they were making fun of it, I guess. Or were they?
      I finally found it, and I gotta say, I have a very low threshold for “bad” art. I lasted maybe 2 minutes. So I still haven’t seen it.
      Wow, I mean Wow.

      I really don’t understand people’s fascination with incredibly terrible things. I had the same reaction to 99% of Reality TV out there, The Rocky Horror Picture show, on and on. Painful.

      Why some people want to talk and analyze and watch stuff like this is beyond me. Yes I may just not “get” it. Maybe there is some grand reason to spend a shitload of time on really bad cinema, but for me, I will take interesting, incredible, open my mind and soul filmmaking and story, every time.
      If I have the choice between spending my time with THE ROOM,
      or choosing to spend it watching WHEN HARRY MET SALLY for the 500th time,
      I will choose WHMS, every single time.

  • Mhocommenter

    I believe that oily hair guy poster been used once here. Anyone know who’s the screaming chap or have link to it? Happy new year!

    • klmn

      That’s the man himself, Tommy Wiseau. Others in this thread have posted links to various clips from the movie. Or just go to YouTube an enter The Room.

      • klmn

        Of course, no one has ever seen a pic of Carson without his hoodie.

        Could they be the same person?

        • Mhocommenter

          Only way Carson could remotely look this dreg hideous if he tangled with Breaking Bad contraband or under severe hang over.

  • Scott Strybos

    While we are on the subject of books, did anyone read any good books over the Christmas holidays?

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      I finally read the book that the movie “Casino” is based on. Pretty well documented true crime book. Good thing they finished the script first; it would have been a lot harder reading the book and deciding what to keep and what to leave out.

    • Midnight Luck

      Daniel Klein’s “Travels with Epicurus”.

      I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I tend to like all kinds of interesting, different-perspective kinds of things.

      The book is about the Author, at 71, deciding to go to Greece and study how to live the “Golden Years” as well as he can, and what that means, based on the Philosophy of Epicurus -from 341 B.C.E.- (whom he has studied extensively), and applying it to his elder years of life. The years which Epicurus describes as being the grandest time of life. That youth is a mess of wandering and unsureness, whereas the end years are full of life, wisdom and happiness.

      I know, it isn’t Harry Potter, but then again, I couldn’t get through a Potter book, nor have I tried. Give me something that reaches into the core of mankind and grabs hold to ever fiber of being. Whimsical and forgettable are not really my thing.

      So, maybe it sounds interesting to others? or maybe not?

  • fragglewriter

    I watched the trailer, and boy, I don’t think Ed Woods movies were that bad. Glad I know where that above pic came from “you’re tearing me apart Lisa.” I always thought the guy was Harvey Keitel.

    One-year is definitely too soon to give up on a new skill. If it’s a transferable skill, unless you’ve mastered the basics, it won’t be easy. If you are making the effort to learn or perfect your skill, and putting in the requisite amount on time, of course money is relative, I think there is no timeframe (depending on the profession such as doctors/lawyers – this might be incorrect, rappers,models, etc. unfortunately have an expiration age). I say reevaluate yourself after 5 years, with a TRUE assessment of your skills. Have your skills improved or have you hindered yourself?

  • Bacon Statham

    When watching the trailer and a few clips of the film, I couldn’t stop grinning at how bad it was, but then after reading the Wikipedia page for it, I feel kinda bad. Wiseau made the film on a $6 million budget and only got $1800 back. I don’t know what would hurt more. Losing that much money or the fact that people rip the shit out of the film. I’m actually really curious about the book now.

    • http://screenplayamonth.tumblr.com FilmingEJ

      I’m sure he’s made much more than he spent through the years of monthly showings and people buying the film to make fun of. I’m pretty sure he’s embraced that.

      • Eric

        Plus it got a blu-ray release, so it must be making some sort of money.

  • Scott Strybos

    I’m sure most of you have heard of the podcast “How Did This Get Made,’ a podcast devoted to skewering terrible films, but for those who have not, below is a link to their episode for The Room, which features guests Steve Heisler from The AV Club and Greg Sestero, author of this book. This episode is hilarious and is one of their best.

    http://www.earwolf.com/episode/the-room-directors-edition/

    P.S. the flower shop scene from The Room needs to be seen by everyone…

    • LostAndConfused

      I literally lol’d at that

    • fragglewriter

      I watched it twice yesterday, and thought, why wouldn’t the cashier recognize him?, then states to him after he pays for the flowers,”you’re my best customer.”

      While washing dishes last night, I have a scene in my work-in-progress script where a supporting character doesn’t recognize the protagonist, even though it’s been a year since they last saw each other. I missed a moment to clarify this for my audience. I will now go back to the beginning of the script, and change the protagonist’s appearance so that it’s clear why he wouldn’t recognize him, and also add a time lapse.

      Now I must watch this film so that I don’t make anymore beginner mistakes.

  • Eric

    “Do we have a white person speaking for all Caucasians?…White males don’t have one.”

    I nominate Adam Sandler. Or maybe Tom Hanks. He was wonderful in BIG.

  • writebrain

    I completely agree; I’m black and I can’t stand Sharpton. We don’t need “leaders” anymore. We did in the 50’s and 60’s, but that was in the wake of open hostility. We shouldn’t need anyone to “speak” for us.

  • jw

    Doesn’t this really speak to another, somewhat inconvenient fact that while many WANT to be in this industry or “thought of” in an entertainment light — “hi, I’m a writer” the fact of the matter is that most aren’t likely cut out for it. To me, this just seems to be a larger representation of people who are so consumed by the idea of “being” an entertainment professional that they never bother gathering the chops to actually pull it off. And, then it shows in spades when they actually try to put a project together. The psyche is a fascinating topic to me because I’ve met so many people who have little to no credits in this industry, but will tell me how great of a writer they are because of their contest placement 5 years ago. To which most would find the natural response… what have you been doing since then? “Dabbling” is the common response to that (which really means nothing). ahahahah All in good fun, but seriously, if you’re going to try to make this a profession, learn the craft and have story in your blood, not just a conquest to be “called” a writer, director, actor and all of the above.

    • Garrett

      Excellent point jw

    • Magga

      American Movie is a great documentary that follows an admirable, driven, talentless director and his weird friends in their pursuit of the Great American Movie. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, moving and almost a horror movie for aspiring filmmakers. One of the great docs

  • august4

    To me, it’s not really laugh-out-loud funny. Yeah, it’s terrible writing and acting, but after a few scenes it’s just more of the same. This is more on par with this country’s fascination with reality television. If you’re into laughing AT people (Honey Boo-Boo et al and this guy Tommy), then I guess you’ll love it… Kind of the bully, let’s make fun of some morons and feel better about ourselves, direction this country has taken. Btw… 6 million? I call bull, or someone really ripped this guy off.

  • Poe_Serling

    For those in the Los Angeles area, I know The Room screens at this theater every couple of months:

    Landmark Regent

    1045 Broxton Avenue, between Weyburn & Kinross, Westwood, Los Angeles, CA, 90024
    (310) 208-3250

    I think the next showing is Feb. 07, 2015.

  • scriptfeels

    The room is one of my top 10 favorite films. I have watched it over and over again and it is one of my favorite comedies. I feel like every person I’ve shown that movie to has changed their life in an indescribable way. The Disaster Artist is next in line for me to read after I finish reading 1Q84. Greg’s story is truly breathtaking. Carson analyzed the room.. or the book on how it was made, thank you… thank you.

  • fragglewriter

    Exactly. I’m black and I can’t stand Al Sharpton’s ass. And don’t get me started on Spike Lee and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

  • filmklassik

    “That they will back their brothers in arms, even when they strangle an unarmed man selling loose cigarettes on the street.”

    Most professions where the stakes are life and death are made up of people who “close ranks” whenever one of their own stands accused. The military does this all the time. Firefighters do it. Doctors do it. They ALL do it.

    Now of course you can say, “Okay but they SHOULDN’T do it,” but I think then you would be denying a certain immutable aspect of human nature.

    As for the death of Eric Garner — the guy was the victim of an overzealous cop using excessive force, no question, and that cop ought to be fired from the police and standing trial for his deed.

    But was he an overzealous RACIST cop? Probably not. Even Garner’s own longtime girlfriend doesn’t believe the cop who killed him is a racist. She thinks the guy was out of control and violent, yes, but not a racist.

    But the “R” word is being thrown around with such abandon now that we don’t really examine the veracity behind each usage, and we need to.

    The other thing we need to do is recognize that the overwhelming majority of cops in this country are honest, responsible, and unbelievably brave.

    How brave? Just consider that cops are the only ones besides soldiers and sailors willing to kill and die on behalf of strangers who hate them.

    On behalf of strangers who HATE them.

    Ask yourself: Who else would do that? Would YOU do that? (I sure as hell wouldn’t)

  • Jonathan Soens

    “The Room” is great to watch, aside from how fascinating and hilarious it is for all the ways it fails. I mean there are moments, as a writer, when you will understand writing failure very clearly. We all know that feeling when we watch a capable professional actor doing the best they can with bad lines. But it’s a really informative practice to sit through bad actors trying to work with bad lines, because they’re not propping up the writing at all. Bad dialogue really flounders without a lifeline when bad actors take on the task.

    I know when I write, I often imagine lines being delivered the way I want by the actor I’ve cast in my own private version of the movie that is plays in my head. Perhaps I need to start asking myself how lines would sound if I gave them to worse actors, and see if they still hold up.

  • brenkilco

    Wiseau isn’t just another bad film maker. We find him admirable because of his crazy sincerity, his belief in himself as an artist and his ability to keep going even when that faith gets t-boned by reality. And he frightens us a little. None of us see his work objectively. Faith, enthusiasm and ego all get in the way. At some level and to some degree we realize that we are all Tommy Wiseau.

  • kenglo

    You hit the nail right on the head grendl…..race is not the issue with her. It is her blatant disregard to think before she speaks that is the problem. Her brain filter is non-existent! Most people like that don’t and never realize they have a problem, therefore tries to ‘make it seem’ like she doesn’t have a problem by fronting like she doesn’t and inviting a well known person of color (who is by far NOT a representative of people of color). Sharpton is as you say, a fame whore. To Pascal, it makes perfect sense. To those who recognize and understand the truth, it’s just a dumb move.

    One thing I disagree with you on – white folks have FOX news! :)

  • Bacon Statham

    Yeah, I had a look on Amazon for the book and now I’m getting recs for The Room t-shirts. I had no idea it was this… popular?

  • Bacon Statham


    Tommy Wiseau does Darth Vader.
    2:16 is the best part.