The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

the_disaster_artist

The Disaster Artist is the absolutely hilarious behind-the-scenes look at the making of terrible cult classic film The Room, and the relationship between its two main stars, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero. It’s written by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero himself, who also narrates the audio book and provides some hilarious impressions of Tommy Wiseau in the process. I would recommend searching for some clips of the audio book or Mr Sestosterone giving a reading, because it really is very funny. (You should absolutely go down the Youtube route and make sure you get a decent quality video, because Greg Sestero is a total babe. Just sayin’).

I’m personally a big fan because it’s so batshit crazy, but The Room has (rightfully) the reputation of being ‘the best worst movie’, i.e. it’s the worst film ever made but it’s darned good fun to watch. Judging by Greg Sestero’s account, the making of the movie was just as bizarre and comical. Nothing was straightforward. By the sounds of it, Tommy would change the cast and crew more often than he changed his underwear, and the ones he didn’t bother to fire walked out anyway. There’s a pretty large who’s who list at the front of the book, but despite this I did still find it hard to keep track of the many comings and goings, especially because I’m unfamiliar with the cast’s names and can only think of them in terms of the characters they play.

When the cast and crew were on set long enough to get anything done, the filming process itself was also illogical. There was no proper sequence of scenes thought out, so sets would be created for a scene and afterwards stripped, but then Tommy would decide he wanted to refilm it or he’d inserted another scene which required the set to be rebuilt from scratch. The script didn’t make any sense to anyone, and even Tommy couldn’t hit his marks or learn his nonsensical lines properly. It all sounded like a bit of a nightmare.

The Disaster Artist is genuinely hilarious though. It’s great to hear the backstory explaining how certain wacky scenes came about (even though none of it made sense), and my favourite anecdotes from the book concern Tommy believing the famous dog in the flower shop scene to be a fake dog, and the producer cutting certain scenes from the final film because Tommy’s acting in them frightened his wife. There are loads of really interesting asides and snippets of information that we’d have never known otherwise. Apparently, Tommy wanted the character of Johnny to turn into a vampire, and he wanted a shot of him leaving the roof in a flying car. Tommy wrote the film after being inspired by The Talented Mr. Ripley, and named a character Mark in tribute to the actor ‘Mark’ (Matt) Damon. (He genuinely thought his name was Mark. Seriously). Tommy had originally also planned for the infamous repeated sex scene to be filmed to the soundtrack of ‘Always’ by Bon Jovi which, as a huuuuge Bon Jovi fan, repulses me no end. That is not an image I would ever want to see associated with that song.

Snippets aside, the book is a really unique insight into Greg and Tommy’s very bizarre relationship. I wonder if they actually consider themselves to be real friends as such, as it’s really hard to tell whether they even like each other. Tommy was paranoid and jealous of Greg, but also a complete nightmare to live with. But at the same time, he did provide Greg with somewhere to live. I can’t help feeling sorry for Greg, he clearly absolutely hates The Room and the role he plays within it, but then at the same time it’s what has made his name and influenced his life. He’s been able to write The Disaster Artist because of it, and he attends live screenings and Q&A sessions with Tommy on a pretty regular basis. It must be pretty uncomfortable to owe your career to something you’re so embarrassed about being involved in.

Tommy Wiseau himself is a real enigma though, and rather than shedding light on him as a person, the book has only served to exaggerate the mystery surrounding him. No one knows for sure what his real name is (Oiseau?), how old he is, where he comes from (he says Mars, and it’s sounding more believable by the day) or how he came by his enormous fortune which enabled him to fund and promote such a terrible film. The entirety of his life outside of The Room and the acting classes he shared with Greg is a complete mystery. It’s slightly unnerving in a way (he could really be a vampire!), but at the same time I think it really adds to his whole persona and suits the caricature of ‘Tommy Wiseau’. Theories about his past live are presented in The Disaster Artist, but they are just theories and it’s hard to tell what could be plausible and what could be imagined.

But if you can’t get enough of The Room and The Disaster Artist, fear not! A film is currently being made of The Disaster Artist, therefore a film about the filming of The Room, by the Franco brothers. James will play Tommy Wiseau (as well as directing), and Dave has been cast as Greg. This is a little distressing to me; I’ve seen a picture of the two of them in their roles, and ‘Greg’ is nowhere near hot enough. I don’t know why the real Greg can’t just play himself, as it’s his story after all and his book that it’s based on, plus I don’t think we really need an excuse to get Greg back on the big screen. (Seriously, total babe!) I will of course be watching the film, but I would really recommend that you read the book (and of course watch The Room) first. I’m not sure how much sense the film will make by itself. I think it would work, but to get the most out of it and really be able to appreciate the story, I would definitely recommend familiarising yourself with The Disaster Artist in book (or audiobook) form, and The Room. If you’re really on the ball, you could even go to a live screening of The Room and meet the stars of the show themselves! Trust me, that’s an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. (Tommy’s even more terrifying in the flesh, but Greg put his arm around me – twice!)

See also The Room (Live!), or read previous Book Review featuring Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

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One thought on “The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

  1. Pingback: Sula by Toni Morrison | The Steel Review

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