Cult-Classic “The Room” Celebrates 20 Years

The Room is known as the worse movie ever made, but many consider it the best.
The plot follows a successful bank executive named Johny, who is happily engaged with Lisa, until she seduces his best friend Mark. From there, nothing is ever the same again. There are also many sub-plots in this film, including Denny, a young man Johny practically adopted, having a run in with some trouble when he’s unable to pay back drug money, Lisa’s mother mentioning she was diagnosed with breast cancer once and the house of Johny and Lisa basically having an open door policy where any of their friends can walk in at any time.

(Courtesy Wiseau-Films)

The plot may not seem that wild to anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, but what makes it so special is the movie’s director, writer and star, Tommy Wiseau. He certainly stands out with his long black hair, sunglasses and European accent. Yet nobody knows where he’s from, how old he is and how he became rich. If you ask him where he’s from, he’ll likely say “New Orleans.”
The dialogue in the movie is what also makes it famous. Some compare the script to what artificial intelligence or aliens would come up with if they were trying to write a script about humans.
Though the movie, with a $6 million budget, only made $1,916 with its initial Hollywood release in 2003, it has since earned its title of cult-classic. Greg Sestero, the film’s co-star and a close friend of Wiseau (they met at an acting class in San Francisco in 1998), wrote a book about the making of the movie called The Disaster Artist in 2013. And in 2017, James Franco directed a film adaption of the book. James Franco played Wiseau, Dave Franco played Sestero and Seth Rogen plays the script supervisor. Many other famous comedians and actors also took part in the film.
On March 17, in celebration of The Room’s 20th anniversary, Sestero made a stop at the Cinema Art Centre in Huntington as part of a screening tour of the movie. There, he hosted a meet and greet and held a Q&A with fans. Two screenings were held at the Cinema Art Centre that night, and the 7:30 p.m. showing was sold out. There were only a few seats open for the 8:30 p.m. screening.
Watching The Room with an audience is a much different experience than watching it alone. Similar to watching live screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, there’s a ritual to watching The Room.
There’s a framed photo of a spoon in the set’s living room that finds itself in the background of many scenes. Whenever the crowd spots this photo, someone will scream “spoon!” and audience members will throw plastic spoons at the screen. When a character appears on screen with little explanation of who are they and how they know the main characters, people will scream “who are you?” During long stock footage of the Golden Gate Bridge, the audience will yell “Go! Go! Go!” until the car crossing the bridge finishes its journey. Some clap to the R&B music that plays during the uncomfortably long sex scenes. These are just some of the things fans do when watching this movie.
Ahead of the screening at the Cinema Art Centre, Long Island Weekly had the chance to ask Sestero some questions about the making of the movie, what he’s up to now and about his friend Wiseau.

Long Island Weekly: Have you ever been to New York?
Sestero: It was in New York I went to a screening at Ziegfeld Theatre that I got the idea to write the book Disaster Artist. It was the seventh anniversary when I realized people love this movie, and the story behind this movie is even more crazy. New York always brings about good vibes.

Long Island Weekly: Could you imagine that these screenings of The Room would still be showing 20 years later? And what’s your favorite part about doing these screenings?
Sestero: Back in the day, I didn’t think anyone would see it. There’s a lot of big studio films, a lot of big movies that just come and go. Especially for me back then, I just thought it would be something that would never come out. What are the odds of ever putting out a totally independent film? It’s just one of those things I’ve come to embrace, because clearly there’s something about this movie people really like. I’ve attended weddings of people that are now married and have families because of this movie. And that’s what you set out to make films for, is to connect people. And that’s what this movie’s done. I think this year is about celebrating the connections and joy this crazy movie has brought people. And for myself, I always wanted to get into writing and film making, so I was able to write The Disaster Artist because of The Room and I’m now making a UFO abduction movie, and without The Room I know that stuff would never be possible.

Long Island Weekly: What was the process of writing The Disaster Artist?
Sestero: I wrote a sequel to Home Alone, called “Home Alone, Lost in Disney World,” when I was 12, so I always wanted to make movies and tell series… And then when The Room amassed a cult following and people were asking questions, I thought the making of The Room would make a great movie in itself… And so, it was really about trying to tell a story about much more than the making of that movie. It was about two friends following their dreams, two friends who were polar opposites. Really, I wanted The Disaster Artist to be a book anybody could pick up.

Long Island Weekly: Did the bad reviews of The Room bother you at first?
Sestero: I was always fascinated by the character of Tommy because I met him in an acting class and I watched him perform and I thought ‘does anybody see how entertaining this is? What would people think if they saw this guy in front of a crowd?” I got the comedy early on, nobody else did. So when we made The Room and it started showing, I thought, ‘what are people going to think?’ Because I was a passenger of this crazy journey, I was always intrigued by the response.

Long Island Weekly: What does your friendship with Wiseau look like now?
Sestero: We still talk pretty frequently. This year it will be 25 years since we met in an acting class. It’s just one of those things where after a certain point you’re connected forever. I enjoy the wacky places that he can push you to go. I think at times we get comfortable in life and it’s cool to try new things, and when you’re put in peculiar situations it helps you grow.

Long Island Weekly: What are you doing now and what are your future plans?
Sestero: I made a horror movie called Miracle Valley which is coming out this year. I did some screenings last year. During the pandemic I took a UFO night tour in Sedona, Arizona and I got this really crazy about a UFO abduction movie. I did a lot of research, met with some ufologists… We’re hoping to launch later this year.

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