The Brothers Franco Discuss the Making Of 'The Disaster Artist'
Dave Franco and James Franco in The Disaster Artist. Photo by Justina Mintz. Courtesy of A24.
James Franco’s new film, The Disaster Artist, opened in San Francisco on Fri, Dec. 1. Based on the book of the same name, Franco directed, produced and starred in the film, alongside his younger brother Dave Franco.
The film follows the life of Hollywood outcast Tommy Wiseau (James) and disastrous production of his film The Room alongside his best friend Greg Sestero (Dave). Previously the brothers starred in a Funny or Die series, but this is their first time appearing on the big screen together.
“I’ve tried in the past to cast my brother in bigger things, but he always turned me down because he was trying not to live in my shadow.” James said. “I knew from making those Funny Or Die videos—which were parodies of acting lessons in which I was playing an exaggerated version of myself and he was my student—that our dynamic was perfect for the central relationship in The Disaster Artist.”
When The Room premiered in 2003, it was released in only two theaters grossing $1,800. It has since developed one of the strongest cult followings for a film of such a strongly negative critical consensus, with regular theatrical viewings shown internationally where fans throw spoons at the silver screen during pivotal moments. Much of the film's success is due to its bizarre script and the charisma of mastermind Tommy Wiseau, its enigmatic actor, director, writer and star of indeterminate age who has an ambiguously eastern European accent and mysterious wealth.
Courtesy of A24.
“We wanted to make Tommy sympathetic. We had similar heroes—James Dean, Marlon Brando—it’s just that Tommy’s self-awareness was almost nil. The whole town rejected him. He said, ‘You don’t believe in me, I’ll show you.’ And he did,” James said. “How many millions of people come out to Hollywood to break into the movie industry and don’t make their own movie and Tommy did. It’s the story of anybody with a dream. Outsiders with a dream.”
This is largely where the film gets most of its laughs. It’s a story that is enjoyable, because sometimes life is truly stranger than fiction. The star-studded cast, which includes Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Sharon Stone and Bryan Cranston, most of whom play actors in Tommy’s film, alternate between wisecracks and disbelief at the cinematic choices Wiseau makes and the filmmaker’s complete lack of self-awareness concerning its production.
James took painstaking measures to recreate the absurdity of the original film taking out the same billboard in Los Angeles that Wiseau infamously used to promote his film in 2003, which featured Wiseau’s face with a half-blinking eye and his personal phone number. He also recreated 28 minutes of The Room with the cast of The Disaster Artist, which he hopes to release in the near future.
The extra promotion power and dedication to the source material has paid off with the film receiving widespread accolades from both fans and critics for its accurate portrayal of the melodramatic antics of The Room.
In an oddly poetic circle of art begetting art, this film based on the making of another film has inspired the book author and The Room co-star, Sestero, to reenter Hollywood and make another film, giving fans something to look forward to.
“When Greg first saw an early screening of our film, he was really touched by it,” shared Dave. “It inspired him to write a new feature-length film for him and Tommy to star in. He said seeing my brother’s portrayal of Tommy allowed him to view Tommy in a new light.”
All in all, The Disaster Artist is 104 minutes of outlandish comedy for those who have seen The Room, and, for those that haven’t, it might cause confusion similar to those unsuspecting viewers who wandered into the original theater screenings in 2003. Either way, The Disaster Artist is entertaining and succeeded in doing perhaps the most important work of its mission—perpetuating the myth of Wiseau.