"He will be in charge ... It's up to him how respectful he will be."
It's a bit after midnight at the Sunshine Cinema in Manhattan, and just like every month around this time, people are tossing plastic spoons at a screen. Large handfuls are thrown to the front of the theater again and again. Roses are typically saved for the end of a beloved performance, but fans of Tommy Wiseau's "The Room" will toss their plastic utensils for almost the entire duration of the film.
This is one of the many games that devoted fans will play while watching the cult classic, this use of plastic cutlery calling attention to the gratuitous amount of spoon art in the movie. Other games include yelling during long pans of the Golden Gate bridge and getting up and tossing footballs back and forth, underhand, just like the characters on the screen. Occasionally, you can hear a line of dialogue over the fans Wiseau has brought together.
"I don't know if you're familiar with the term, plastic is cheaper than wood?" Wiseau asks the next day during a late lunch at the Sheraton. The meaning of this phrase isn't entirely clear, consider it a new Wiseauian knot to meditate upon, but he sort of continues: "A long time ago, my family actually had a wood spoon, not plastic." This is partially significant as one of the only instances the famously guarded Wiseau has ever talked about his family. Although it ends there, with a vague ownership of a wooden spoon, the briefness makes sense as Wiseau seems to devote his time and mental energy these days to his new family, the fans of "The Room."
And this new family of fans, at Sunshine and across the globe, they shower Wiseau in rainbows of plastic. Norwegian wood.
Right before this weekend's screening of "The Room," Wiseau premiered his new show, "The Neighbors," which he hopes will land a development deal. The show is as Wiseauian as you could hope for. The crowd immediately took to the project and laughed and cheered their way through the 20ish minutes of the pilot. They even organically created a new game on the spot which involved dancing during a repetitive club music-soundtracked establishing shot that were used as a transition. According to one of Wiseau's assistants and one of many stars of "The Neighbors," this happened in both screenings of the night.
As the laughing and cheering and dancing were loud during this premiere, it was a bit tricky to determine what was happening plot-wise, but that's all the more reason for the show to find a home somewhere. "The Neighbors" had a trailer back in 2009, but everything has been re-worked since then.
The main premise of the pilot seemed to follow a pizza delivery boy who decides he wants to move into an apartment building after realizing it's mostly full of scantily dressed women. His application is approved by the landlord's assistant immediately. (The assistant says, "I trust this kid" and then writes "APPROVED!" in all-caps red letters on his form, just moments after he applies.) There are multiple B-plots involving a missing chicken and a boy and girl who trick a stoner into giving away his gun for free. Wiseau plays two characters, the landlord and the boyfriend who gets the gun and the girl. It's great.
As Wiseau is pushing forward on this new project, "The Room" is getting closer attention with an upcoming movie from James Franco and his brother, Dave Franco. The Franco brothers are adapting the book, "The Disaster Artist," which is a behind-the-scenes account from one of the film's stars, Greg Sestero. Wiseau used to consider Sestero his "best friend." Now he feels betrayed. "I'm not so keen about it and I'm not so happy about it because some of the stuff in the book," he said, "it's not true."
In both the Q&A at the Sunshine screening and in our interview, Wiseau claims that only 50 percent of the book holds up and the rest is exaggeration and misunderstanding. Reached for comment, Sestero explained where he felt this repeated "50 percent" came from:
Tommy always has the best one liners. He refers to "The Disaster Artist" as the red bible. He attended a book event in Richmond, Virginia earlier this year. As people were waiting in line, he said to me, "Look, my god. They hold the book so tight! It is like bible. Wow is red bible. The red bible." So that's how he refers to it now. He did object to the subtitle of the book, "The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made." His advice was, "You shouldn't put yourself down," arguing it should be changed to "The Greatest Movie Ever Made." On that point, he deducted 50% off his approval of the book.
Wiseau is nervous about the new adaptation but hopeful. "I think James Franco promised me when I talked to him that he will be respectful," he said.
What Wiseau wants Franco, Sestero and all critics to respect is his insistence that everything he does in his work is intentional. "Let me stress something, nothing happens by accident." Wiseau believes in needing a strong focus when writing as he explains during lunch, "If you don't have vision, you have nothing to talk about. However, you can learn to visualize something. For me it comes very naturally. You can test me right now if you want, give me one word and I can give you the scene."
This is the scene that came to Wiseau after "gossip" was proposed...
OK. So this show yesterday was a gossip thing. They talk about gossiping and gossiping. And one girl did not pronounce gossip. That was on the TV yesterday. People were laughing, but she was so chubby, the girl, and she say gossip, gossip, gossip. Everybody was laughing. Scene ... That's your scene.
The table laughs together.
Talking about what it's like interacting with fans, Wiseau said, "They already know they can say whatever they want and I still love them and I think vice versa." Years of being game for almost any fan request and attending countless Q&As and screenings across the globe, the man legitimately adores the people who will share this unlikely ride. His face lights up just remembering the different games people have created over the years (even behind his trademark sunglasses he wears indoors through the duration of the interview). "I didn't anticipate that someone would bring the spoon to the theaters and throw it ... I love that."
"The Room" has created an American cultural phenomenon like no other and he just wants some recognition for this. In discussing what it means to have a good relationship with somebody else, Wiseau advises, "You have to be very respectful, whoever you love, what you love and how you want to be. I think respect is very important."
With the release of "The Disaster Artist" almost exactly one year ago, the last 12 months must have been a bit harder for Wiseau. His work has been portrayed in ways Wiseau is frustrated with, especially because the critiques have come from someone he used to consider a very close friend. He and Sestero knew each other all the way back into the '90s, as they were in the same acting class together, reenacting scenes from "Rebel Without a Cause" (pictured below). Despite what's happened over the last year, Sestero says, "I've known Tommy for over 16 years now. I think having endured this surreal experience together, there will always be a bond and appreciation there. We still toss the football around every now and then."
Wiseau is certainly an artist with no contemporaries. After over a decade of touring with "The Room," you have to wonder if there is a greater cause behind all this. Behind those Oakley sunglasses.
As I'm walking away from the table, Wiseau jumps out of his seat and comes over to ask what I thought about "The Neighbors." On a scale of one to 10 he insisted. I said nine. He gave me a hug.
When asked about the kind of advice he gives to his younger fans, he gave a thoughtful answer about the need to help others saying, "I learned that a lot of people need help. It's funny in America, we're the biggest strongest country, and some of the stuff's not right, that's my point. I'm trying to give young people advice as much as I can. Don't be too greedy." One of his most memorable quotes, that he repeated in this interview, is that while watching "The Room" fans can laugh and cry and express themselves, as long as they don’t hurt each other.
Wiseau is truly a king and his kingdom is one room, which you can choose to live in or not. If you choose to live in The Room, Wiseau is going to try to make sure you have as good a time as possible, even if it tears him apart.
"Just be a cool guy," Wiseau offered as advice.