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An Interview with Actor Greg Sestero

For fans of bad movies or cult cinema, The Room needs no introduction.  Starring, written by, directed by, produced by, and just about everything-elsed by the seemingly ubiquitous Tommy Wiseau, The Room has been playing steadily across the U.S. for nearly ten years and has inspired Rocky Horror-esque audience participation from everyone and their grandmother (haven't seen your grandmother lately?  She's probably at a screening of The Room.)

Nobody knows more about the mysterious Wiseau and the making of this cult phenomenon than Wiseau's longtime friend and co-star/line producer of The Room, actor Greg Sestero ("oh hai, Mark").  Along with author Tom Bissell, Sestero has written a fascinating account of his experiences making The Room in conjunction with the genesis of his friendship with Wiseau in the new book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.  I recently had a chance to chat with Sestero about the book, about the movie, and about his current book tour.

JASON HOWARD:  Why was now the right time to write about your experiences making The Room?

GREG SESTERO:  It's been 10 years since The Room was released, and I felt like it was the perfect time to share not only my experiences but Tommy's strange and inspiring journey in bringing The Room to the screen.

JH:  What made Tom Bissell the ideal choice to work on the book with you?

GS:  Tom wrote a terrific article in Harper's Magazine a few years back called Cinema Crudite. He has a great grasp on what makes The Room both hilarious and interesting. From the beginning, we shared the same vision for this book - to write something first-rate about something fifth rate.

JH:  In writing the book, was there a particular memory that cropped up that you had either intentionally or unintentionally previously forgotten?

GS:  Making The Room was such an unforgettable experience that most of my memories were still vivid ten years later. I did get pleasantly taken back when I revisited Tommy's brilliant idea to have his car fly off the roof and just how serious he was that his character Johnny might be a vampire.

JH:  You interviewed a lot of your fellow cast members in preparation for the book and the tour - how do they feel about the phenomenon continuing still ten years later?

GS:  I think we are all very surprised at the film's reception. They've all embraced The Room in their own way and have a great attitude about it.

JH:  Why the choice to structure the book as two alternating stories?

GS:  There were two stories--my unlikely friendship with Tommy and the chaotic making of The Room--that were bound together. One couldn't exist without the other. Tom and I both came up with a narrative to be able to tell the two stories simultaneously so they blended and complemented each other.

JH:  In reading the book, it seems to me that you don't have to have seen the movie to enjoy it.  Was that a conscious decision on your part?

GS:  I definitely wanted any reader to be able to pick up The Disaster Artist and get lost in the story. I feel like the journey behind The Room is as surreal and hilarious as the film itself.

JH:  I couldn't agree more.  In the book, you divulged many of the behind-the-scenes secrets of making the film, but at the same time, I think you were successful in not demystifying the experience for future viewing of the film.  Did you feel a responsibility to be sure not to take that away from the fans?

GS:  Absolutely. While I was writing it, I had several friends--who were big fans of The Room--page through it. One of my goals with the book was to make the movie a more enjoyable experience while also adding depth and answers to the madness.

JH:  You mentioned in the book that your friendship with Tommy started, in a nutshell, out of almost a curiosity that you had with him in an acting class.  Having taken the ride now of a friendship with Tommy, did it turn out even remotely like you expected it might?

GS:  I never thought that acting class encounter with Tommy would've turned into this. It's been a hilariously twisted journey, but at the end of the day, I'm grateful to have met Tommy and to have taken this ride.

JH:  Having attended many screenings of The Room, I noticed that your and Tommy's comfort level with fan's reactions are not quite the same - Tommy dives right in and is always 'on,' while you seem a bit more reserved (but still incredibly gracious).  How long did it take for you to fully embrace the phenomenon?

GS:  Tommy definitely dives right in and is a great showman. I'm more of an observer. We both believe The Room is a great movie, for very different reasons, which makes interviews and appearances quite comical. When I first showed a rough cut of The Room to my family, they laughed hysterically. It's always had that effect on audiences so I've long embraced its legacy. The fans and their reactions make the experience memorable.

JH:  Do you have a favorite audience participation moment from a screening that you've witnessed involving one of your scenes?  Something that may have caught you off guard?

GS:  I recently heard a genius Fight Club riff during the opening pillow fight scene with Johnny, Lisa and Denny. My favorite has to be the "1-2..F**k it!" call-out when Johnny throws down the dresser during his bedroom rampage.

JH:  Do you feel that Tommy, as a person, achieved the catharsis that he may have been looking for when he disappeared for a period of time and wrote The Room?

GS:  I think Tommy accomplished something quite incredible. He may have hit a bullseye on a different target but I think whatever happened during his disappearance had a profound effect on him and his work.

JH:  What did Tommy think of the book?

GS:  Tommy has been supportive of the book. I'm sure there are things he sees his own way but overall he's been cool. He showed up at the L.A book launch last month and signed books.

JH:  Who would your ideal cast be for a film version of The Disaster Artist?  Any plans for that to happen?

GS:  There has been a lot of interest in adapting The Disaster Artist--which is exciting. My choice for Tommy is Javier Bardem. What's compelling about this adaptation is there are a lot of ways you can tell it, so I'm looking forward to the process.

JH:  I think it would make an amazing movie, as a matter of fact.  Tommy seems to still be happy riding the wave of The Room, but is The Disaster Artist your way of starting to close that chapter of your life?

GS:  I think The Room will always be part of my life, but I'm definitely excited to go in a different direction. The Disaster Artist is a step towards that.

JH:  What can people expect when attending a stop on your current book tour?

GS:  The book tour has been a blast. I've been showing my 30 minute behind the scenes documentary about The Room with cast interviews. I've also had fans come up on stage and participate in a live reading of The Room's original script, which has been really hilarious. I'm sure its crazy for people to read that Tommy's initial vision for The Room was even crazier than the finished film.

JH:  What's up next for you?

GS:  I'm going to be shooting a feature next year with the creators of 5 Second Films and go on the international leg of my book tour. After that, I hope to do more creative projects that I'm passionate about.

So, there you have it.  Even if you haven't yet seen The Room or are somehow not a fan (leave your stupid comments in your pocket), The Disaster Artist is an amazing read.  And, if you have seen the film, The Disaster Artist pulls off the near-impossible feat of making the movie even more enjoyable than it already is.  It's at times incredibly funny, touching, informative, engaging, surprising, and just all around fascinating, beginning to end.  To pick up a copy, and you should, or to see if Sestero's book tour will be stopping in your city, visit www.thedisasterartistbook.com (good thinking!).  Heck, you can even pick up a second copy for a loved one (anything for your princess!).   I promise that you won't regret it.  Anyway, how is your sex life?

Interview by Jason Howard, Lead Entertainment Writer

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