Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Room...Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero at Indiana University


Article: Cassius Wright   Photographs:  Jordana Wright Photography

Imagine yourself walking into a giant university building for the first time.  Upon entering, you stop and survey a typical university scene.  Students walk about, going to their various classes and study sessions.  You look for a map with a "you are here" sign.  Only then does a man (name tag: Dan) come over to you and feverishly whisper, almost reverently, "Are you guys here for.... The Room?"  We assure him that we are.  After a brief set of directions, Dan concludes, "they're all upstairs......playing football and wearing tuxes and stuff."  He says it matter-of-factly and without jest.  What in God's Name are we getting ourselves into?

     Believe it or not, this scene plays out all over the United States on a VERY regular basis, thanks to the creative and marketing genius of the one and only, Tommy Wiseau.  Wiseau is an enigmatic persona of unknown european origin (we think? maybe Louisiana?) who travels from screening to screening, show after show, a one-man carnival, selling memorabilia to eager fans and building his cult status one packed college theater at a time.  The Room is a 2003 Independent film, dubbed by audiences and critics the world over as 'The Worst Movie of All Time'.  And, yes, that includes Ed Wood films.  Since The Room's initial flop at the box office, Wiseau has cleverly crafted this disjointed story of love, betrayal, friendship and lust into an international phenomenon which now screens to sold out crowds, enjoys popularity amongst Hollywood elites, and has its own growing merchandise line.  Of course, none of this makes the movie any better.

     What makes The Room better are the people who come to see the screenings, Tommy Wiseau, co-star Greg Sestero, and the atmosphere the group creates.  For those familiar with Rocky Horror Picture Show and the antics the crowds engage in, you understand.   Instead of cross-dressers like Rocky Horror however,  The Room features scenes which have spoons (in picture frames) in the background,  so people throw spoons whenever they appear, and LOTS of them.  Some of the establishing cinematic scenes have REALLY LONG panning shots,  so people chant "go, go, go!" excitedly when one starts.  Clapping and cheers ensue every single time Wiseau steps onto the screen.  It's only after the bad R&B music kicks in during the second of four uncomfortably long, topless sex scenes that you begin to realize the depth of the insanity around you.  But you realize at the same time that you've never had a better time at the movies, and for only $5.  Random characters with major plot dialog disappear, and then others appear unexplained, throughout a barely understandable tangle of euro-English and hilarious one-liners.  The crowd grows more rowdy as the film nears it's ending.  Then it's over and the lights come up.

   The crowd begins to go nuts as Wiseau and Sestero walk down the aisle from the top of the hall to the stage.  "How you like, everybody good time" lilts Wiseau into the microphone.  The entire house is on it's feet chanting "Tommy! Tommy!"  It takes some time to quiet them.  For the better part of an hour, fans pepper both Tommy Wiseau and a noticeably quiet Greg Sestero with questions, some real, some asinine, all with one thing in common:  Wiseau either responds in broken English and ends up talking about loving one another, or simply says "okaayy, next question".  Some questioners he berates, some he calls to the stage. "Come forward, have hug with me."  One young man takes his time at the podium to sing Tommy Wiseau a song, a Capella.  He sings poorly.  Wiseau takes a full 8 minutes to organize and play catch-football (watch the movie for great football action scenes) with fans at the front of the stage, yelling at them if they misunderstand his sporadic commands. Several girls approach the microphone to ask Greg Sestero on a date, for a hug, if he's single.  He looks bashfully at the floor, unsure about embracing this stardom, borne of epic movie failure.  Tommy Wiseau however, has no such bashfulness.  He looks at one girl and says into the microphone with all seriousness, "Helllooo sweetie, I call you sweetie now okaaayy, talk just you and me now, like there is nobody all these people here."  The crowd goes wild!    Tommy Wiseau is a legend with a hit film, if only to 250 students, and if only for one night.

   But what a night!  The packed house empties into the lobby for the promised photo-ops and autograph signing with Tommy and Greg.  They stand and sit, with Tommy grabbing, twisting, pulling, standing, sitting, jumping on furniture, and otherwise doing his best to get a great shot for anyone and everyone.  He leaves voice mail for random people he will never know, often starting with The Room's trademark phrase , "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!", or "oh, hi Josh, don't hurt you......byyyeee", as overjoyed girls thrust cell-phones into his face.   He asks for spelling of names he doesn't know.  He takes the time to speak with everyone in line.  He leaves cryptic, and often illegible scrawls across movie posters bearing his movie's trademark logo and font.  He asks nearly everyone if they liked the movie.   He seems at once proud and defensive of his achievement.  He watches as a young woman approaches and asks for his autograph.  "I liiike the way you walk."  Her jaw drops, and she blushes, but lets Wiseau and Sestero hold her up in the air between them for her chance at a photograph.  As she hangs between them, legs spread wide and smile breathless,  a voice from the crowd questions the pose incredulously.  "Oh yeah, dude?"  Wiseau looks up for the photograph, and down at the girl in his arms, smiling.  "Oooh yeah", he replies.  He is Tommy Wiseau, and tonight, he is a movie star.





  1. Great article about Tommy Wiseau.