The Room (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tommy Wiseau|
|Produced by||Tommy Wiseau|
|Written by||Tommy Wiseau|
|Music by||Mladen Milicevic|
|Editing by||Eric Chase|
|Distributed by||Wiseau Films|
|Running time||99 minutes|
|Box office||$1,900 (original box office run)|
The Room is a 2003 independent romantic drama film written, directed, produced by, and starring Tommy Wiseau. It was Wiseau's directorial debut, and while the film is primarily centered on the melodramatic love triangle between an amiable banker (Wiseau), his fiancée (Juliette Danielle), and his conflicted best friend (Greg Sestero), a significant portion of the film is dedicated to a series of unrelated subplots involving the friends and family of the main characters.
Entertainment Weekly has called The Room "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" and a number of notable publications have labeled it as one of the worst films ever made. Originally shown only in a limited number of California theaters, the film quickly developed a cult following as fans found humour in the film's bizarre storytelling and various technical and narrative flaws. Although Wiseau has retroactively characterized the film as a black comedy, audiences have generally viewed it as a poorly made drama, a viewpoint supported by some of the film's cast. Within a decade of its premiere, the film was selling out showings around the United States and had inspired a video game, book, and traveling stage show.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Reception
- 5 Home media
- 6 Other media
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Johnny is a successful banker who lives in a San Francisco townhouse with his fiancée, Lisa. They share an intense relationship characterized by constant, passionate lovemaking. Despite this idyllic existence, Lisa has inexplicably become dissatisfied with her life, and one afternoon confides to her best friend Michelle and her mother Claudette that she finds Johnny boring. Although Michelle advises her to be grateful for what she has, and her mother counsels her that financial stability is more important than happiness, Lisa decides to seduce Johnny's best friend, Mark. Although he is initially reluctant, Mark gives in to Lisa's advances. Their affair continues through the remainder of the film, even though Mark appears reluctant at the outset of each sexual encounter and repeatedly tries to break off the relationship. Lisa, meanwhile, having come to the realization that she "wants it all", decides to stay with Johnny for financial support and the material goods he can provide her. As the wedding date approaches and Johnny's clout at his bank slips, Lisa alternates between glorifying and vilifying Johnny to her family and friends, both making false accusations of domestic abuse and defending Johnny against criticisms. Meanwhile, Johnny, having overheard Lisa confess her infidelity to her mother, attaches a tape recorder to their phone in an attempt to identify her lover.
Against the backdrop of Lisa and Mark's affair, numerous subplots involving secondary characters begin to develop: Denny, a neighboring college student whom Johnny financially supports and "loves like a son", has a mysterious run-in with a drug dealer named Chris-R, whom Johnny and Mark overpower and take to the police. Denny also lusts after Lisa, ultimately confessing to Johnny his attraction; once Johnny tells Denny that Lisa loves him as her friend, Denny resolves to propose to his own girlfriend. Johnny takes on a mysterious client at his bank whose identity he is sworn to protect. Claudette experiences real estate problems, bemoans failed relationships, and informs Lisa that she has breast cancer. Michelle and her boyfriend, Mike (Scott Holmes), break into Johnny and Lisa's home to have sex. Peter (Kyle Vogt), a psychologist friend of Johnny's and Mark's, alternates between defending Lisa and assessing her as a sociopath, which results in Mark briefly trying to murder him. Each of these subplots receives little exposition, and none are ever resolved.
At a surprise birthday party for Johnny, Steven, a previously unseen friend of Lisa's and Johnny's, catches Lisa kissing Mark while the rest of the guests are outside and confronts her about the affair. Lisa expresses no remorse, while Mark angrily urges Steven not to tell anyone. Johnny announces to the guests that he and Lisa are expecting a child, only for Lisa to tell Steven and Michelle that she lied about it in order to "make it interesting". At the end of the evening, Lisa flaunts her affair in front of Johnny, who physically attacks Mark.
After the party, Johnny locks himself in the bathroom, prompting Lisa to make plans to leave him for Mark. Johnny finally comes out of the bathroom and retrieves the cassette recorder he attached to the phone, and listens to an intimate call between Lisa and Mark. Claiming that all of his friends have betrayed him, Johnny destroys his apartment and then kills himself with a pistol. Denny, Mark and Lisa discover Johnny's body sometime later. Mark and Denny blame Lisa for Johnny's death, with Mark declaring he does not love Lisa and never wants to see her again. Denny asks Lisa and Mark to leave, but they stay and comfort one another as the sound of the approaching sirens grow louder.
Inconsistencies and narrative flaws
In addition to being rife with continuity errors, the film has several plots, subplots and character details whose inconsistencies have been noted by critics and audiences. The Portland Mercury has pointed out that a number of "plot threads are introduced, then instantly abandoned". One of the most notable examples of this is in an early scene, when halfway through a conversation about planning a birthday party for Johnny, Claudette off-handedly tells Lisa: "I got the results of the test back. I definitely have breast cancer." The issue is casually dismissed and never revisited during the rest of the film. In addition, the audience never learns the details surrounding Denny's drug-related debt to Chris-R or what led to their violent confrontation on the roof.
Beyond being Johnny's friend, the character Mark receives no exposition; when he is first introduced he claims to be "busy" while sitting in a parked car in the middle of the day, with no explanation ever given as to his occupation or what he was doing. Greg Sestero created a backstory for the character in which Mark was an undercover vice detective, which Sestero felt united several otherwise disparate aspects of Mark's character (such as his secretive behavior, clandestine marijuana use, mood swings, and his handling of the Chris-R incident); however, Wiseau dismissed adding any reference to Mark's past to the script. The makers of The Room video game would later introduce a similar idea as part of a subplot involving Mark's unexplained backstory.
In perhaps the most infamous example of the film's narrative flaws, the principal male characters congregate in an alley behind Johnny's apartment to play catch with a football while wearing tuxedos. When Mark arrives, he is revealed to have shaved his beard, and the camera slowly zooms in on his face while dramatic music plays on the soundtrack. Nothing that is said or occurs during the game has any impact on the plot; the scene ends abruptly with the men deciding to return to Johnny's apartment after Peter trips while trying to catch the ball. Wiseau received enough questions about the scene that he decided to address it on a Q&A segment featured on the DVD release; rather than explaining the scene, though, Wiseau only states that playing football without the proper protective equipment is fun and challenging. Greg Sestero has been questioned about the significance of Mark's shaving, though his only response for several years was "if only you knew". Sestero would eventually reveal that Wiseau insisted he shave his beard on-set just so that Wiseau would have an excuse for Johnny to call Mark "Babyface," Wiseau's own nickname for Sestero. Sestero further detailed how the football-in-tuxedos scene was concocted on set by Wiseau, who never explained the significance of the scene to the cast or crew and insisted that the sequence be filmed at the expense of other, relevant scenes.
- Tommy Wiseau as Johnny
- Greg Sestero as Mark
- Juliette Danielle as Lisa
- Philip Haldiman as Denny
- Carolyn Minnott as Claudette
- Robyn Paris as Michelle
- Scott Holmes as Mike
- Dan Janjigian as Chris-R
- Kyle Vogt as Peter
- Greg Ellery as Steven
The Room originated as a play, completed by Tommy Wiseau in 2001. Wiseau then adapted the play into a 500-page book, which he was unable to get published. Frustrated, Wiseau decided to adapt the work into a film, which he would then produce himself in order to maintain total control over the project.
Wiseau has been secretive about exactly how he obtained the funding for the project, but he did tell Entertainment Weekly that he made some of the money by importing leather jackets from Korea. According to Greg Sestero, Wiseau was already independently wealthy at the time production began, having amassed a fortune over several years of entrepreneurship and real estate development in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco. The budget for The Room reached $6 million, all of which was spent on production and marketing. Wiseau has claimed that the reason the film was relatively expensive was because many members of the cast and crew had to be replaced, and each of the cast members had several understudies. According to Sestero, Wiseau made numerous poor decisions during filming that unnecessarily inflated the film's budget, such as building sets for sequences that could have been filmed on location, purchasing unnecessary equipment, and filming identical scenes multiple times using different sets. Sestero further claims that the film's budget skyrocketed as a result of minutes-long dialogue sequences taking hours or days to shoot due to Wiseau's inability to properly remember his lines or move to the appropriate place on camera.
According to Sestero and Greg Ellery, Wiseau came to the Birns and Sawyer film lot, rented a studio, and bought a "complete Beginning Director package," which included the purchase of two brand new film and HD cameras." Wiseau, confused about the differences between 35 mm film and high-definition video, decided to shoot the entire film in both formats simultaneously, using a custom-built apparatus that housed both cameras side-by-side and required two crews to operate. Explaining his decision to shoot the film in this way, Wiseau said that he wanted to be able to say that he was the first director to film an entire movie simultaneously in two formats.
Wiseau has claimed in many interviews[which?] that while casting the film, he selected his group of actors from amongst "thousands" of head shots, yet nearly the entire cast of The Room had never before been in a full-length film. For example, The Room was the first film in which Carolyn Minnott had ever appeared. Greg Sestero, who had known Wiseau for some time before production began, had limited film experience and had only agreed to work with Wiseau as part of the production crew. On the first day of filming, Wiseau fired the actor originally hired to play Mark, and Sestero agreed to fill in. He would later admit to being uncomfortable filming his sex scenes; because of this, he was allowed to keep his jeans on while shooting them.
Greg Ellery has claimed that Juliette Danielle was just "off the bus from Texas" when shooting began, and that on the first day of shooting, "the cast watched in horror" as Wiseau jumped on Danielle and immediately began filming their "love scene". Sestero has disputed this chronology, stating that the sex scenes were among the last to be filmed. Wiseau has claimed that Danielle was originally one of three or four understudies for the Lisa character, and was selected after the original actress left the production. According to Danielle, the original actress cast to play Lisa was closer in age to Wiseau and had an accent Danielle described as "random;" per Sestero, the actress was "Latina" and came from an unidentified South American country. Danielle further claims that she had originally been cast as Michelle, but was given the role of Lisa when the original actress was dismissed from the production because her "personality...didn't seem to fit" the character. Danielle further corroborates that multiple actors were dismissed from the production prior to filming, including another actress hired to play Michelle.
Kyle Vogt, who played Peter, told the production team at the outset of filming that he only had a limited amount of time to dedicate to the project. Not all of his scenes were filmed by the time his schedule ran out, and he left the production despite the fact that Peter was to play a pivotal role in the then-unrecorded climax. His lines in the last half of the film were given to Ellery, whose character is never introduced, explained, or addressed by name.
The basic premise of The Room draws on specific incidents from Wiseau's own life, including the details of how Johnny came to San Francisco and met Lisa, and the nature of Johnny and Mark's friendship. According to Greg Sestero, the character of Lisa is based on a woman to whom Wiseau once proposed with a $1,500 diamond engagement ring, but who "betrayed [him] several times," resulting in the breakup of their relationship. Sestero further postulates that Wiseau based Lisa's explicit conniving on the character Tom Ripley, after Wiseau had a profound emotional reaction to the film The Talented Mr. Ripley.
The original script was significantly longer than the one used during filming, and featured a series of lengthy monologues; it was edited on-set by the cast and script supervisor, who found much of the dialogue incomprehensible. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, one anonymous cast member claimed that the script contained "stuff that was just unsayable. I know it's hard to imagine there was stuff that was worse. But there was". Sestero maintains that Wiseau was adamant characters say their lines the way they were written, but that several cast members managed to slip in ad libs that ended up in the final cut of the film.
Sestero recalls that Wiseau intended for the film to contain a subplot in which Johnny was revealed to be a vampire, due to Wiseau's own fascination with the creatures. Sestero recounts how, at the outset of production, Wiseau tasked members of the crew with figuring out a way to execute a sequence in which Johnny's Mercedes Benz would lift off from the roof of the townhouse and fly across the San Francisco skyline, revealing Johnny's vampiric nature. Wiseau eventually decided to drop the subplot after learning that there was no practical way to film the flying car scene on the production's budget.
The script is characterized by numerous inexplicable mood and personality shifts in characters. In analyzing the film's abrupt tone shifts, Greg Sestero highlighted two scenes in particular. In the first scene, Johnny enters the rooftop in the middle of a tirade about being accused of domestic abuse, only to become abruptly cheerful upon seeing Mark; a few moments later, he laughs inappropriately upon learning that a female friend of Mark's has been severely beaten. On set, Sestero and first assistant director Sandy Schklair repeatedly tried to convince Wiseau that the line should not be delivered as comical, but Wiseau refused not to laugh. In the second instance, occurring a few scenes later, Mark attempts to kill Peter by throwing him off a roof after Peter expresses his belief that Mark is having an affair with Lisa; just as Peter is about to fall to his death, Mark pulls Peter back over the edge of the roof, apologizes, and the two continue their previous conversation with no acknowledgement of what just occurred.
Much of the dialogue is repetitious, especially that of Johnny, whose speech is partially composed of a series of catchphrases: he begins almost every conversation in the film with the salutation "Oh, hi!" and ends most conversations by saying "That's the idea". Many of the principal characters use the phrase "Don't worry about it" to dismissively end conversations, and Lisa often ends discussions about Johnny by saying "I don't want to talk about it". Almost every male character in the film has dialogue discussing Lisa's physical attractiveness, including an unnamed friend of Johnny's whose only line of dialogue in the film is "Lisa looks hot tonight". Despite the significant amount of dialogue regarding Johnny and Lisa's forthcoming wedding, no character ever uses the words "fiancé" or "fiancée", only referring to Johnny as Lisa's "future husband" or Lisa as Johnny's "future wife".
Principal photography lasted six months. It was mainly shot on a Los Angeles soundstage, but some second unit shooting was done in San Francisco. The film's many rooftop sequences were shot on the soundstage, with exteriors of San Francisco later greenscreened in. A behind the scenes feature reveals that some of the roof scenes were shot in August 2002. The film employed over 400 people, and Wiseau is credited as an actor, an executive producer, the writer, producer, and director. Two others are credited as executive producers, but according to Sestero, one of them had no involvement in the film and the other had been dead for years prior to filming. Wiseau had a number of problems with his behind-the-camera team, and replaced the entire crew twice. Some people had multiple jobs on the film; for example, in addition to playing the role of Mark, Sestero also worked as a line producer, assistant to Tommy Wiseau, and helped with casting. Wiseau frequently forgot his own lines or missed marks, requiring numerous retakes and on-set direction from the script supervisor; as a result, much of his dialogue had to be re-dubbed in post production.
The score was written by Loyola Marymount University music professor Mladen Milicevic. The soundtrack features four R&B slow jams, which play during four of the film's five love scenes (an oral sex scene between Michelle and Mike uses only instrumental music). The songs are "I Will" by Jarah Gibson, "Crazy" by Clint Gamboa, "Baby You and Me" by Gamboa with Bell Johnson, and "You're My Rose" by Kitra Williams & Reflection. "You're My Rose" is also reprised during the end credits. The soundtrack was released by Wiseau's TPW Records on July 27, 2003. Gamboa later appeared as a contestant on American Idol.
The film was promoted almost exclusively through a single billboard in Hollywood, located on Highland Avenue just north of Fountain, featuring an image Wiseau refers to as "Evil Man": an extreme close-up of his own face with one eye in mid-blink. Although more conventional artwork was created for the film, featuring the main characters' faces emblazoned over the Golden Gate Bridge, Wiseau chose the "Evil Man" for what he regarded as its provocative quality; around the time of the film's release, the image led many passers-by to believe that The Room was a horror film. Wiseau also paid for a small television and print campaign in and around Los Angeles, with taglines calling The Room "a film with the passion of Tennessee Williams".
Despite the film's failure to enjoy immediate success, Wiseau paid to keep the billboard up for over four years, at the cost of $5,000 a month. Its bizarre imagery and longevity lead to it becoming a minor tourist attraction. When asked how he managed to afford to keep the billboard up for so long in such a prominent location, Wiseau responded: "Well, we like the location, and we like the billboard. So we feel that people should see The Room. [...] we are selling DVDs, which are selling okay."
Directorial credit dispute
In a February 18, 2011 Entertainment Weekly article, veteran script supervisor Sandy Schklair announced that he now desires credit for directing The Room. Schklair told EW shortly after being hired on as script supervisor, Wiseau became too engrossed with his acting duties to direct the film properly; Schklair claims that Wiseau then asked him to "tell the actors what to do, and yell 'Action' and 'Cut' and tell the cameraman what shots to get." The script supervisor also claims to have had a conversation with Wiseau in which he refused to give up the title of "Director", but asked Schklair to "direct [his] movie." The story is corroborated by at least one of the film's actors, who requested anonymity for the story. Wiseau has dismissed Schklair's claims. Greg Sestero's memoir about the making of The Room partially corroborates Schklair's version of events, describing him taking charge of numerous sequences in which Wiseau found himself unnable to remember lines properly or adequately interact with the rest of the cast; Sestero further questioned Schklair's desire to receive a directorial credit, equating it with bragging about "[working] on the Hindenburg".
The Room premiered on June 27, 2003 at the Laemmle Fairfax and Fallbrook theaters in Los Angeles. Wiseau additionally arranged a screening for the cast and the press at one of the venues, renting a spotlight to sit in front of the theater and arriving in a limousine. Ticket buyers were given a free copy of the film's soundtrack on CD. Although actress Robyn Paris recalled the audience laughing at the film, Variety reporter Scott Foundas, who was also in attendance, would later write that the film prompted "most of its viewers to ask for their money back — before even 30 minutes [had] passed." IFC.com described Wiseau's speaking voice in the film as "Borat trying to do an impression of Christopher Walken playing a mental patient." The Guardian called the film a mix of "Tennessee Williams, Ed Wood, R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet".
The Room played in the Laemmle Fairfax and Fallbrook for the next two weeks, grossing a total of $1,800 before it was pulled from circulation. Towards the end of its run, the Laemmle Fairfax theatre displayed two signs on the inside of the ticket window in relation to the film: one that read "NO REFUNDS" and another citing a blurb from an early review: “Watching this film is like being stabbed in the head.”  During one showing in the second week of its run, the sole audience member in attendance was 5secondfilms' Michael Rousselet, who found unintentional humor in the film's poor dialogue and production values. After treating the screening as his "own private Mystery Science Theater", Rousselet began encouraging friends to join him for future showings to mock the film, starting a word-of-mouth campaign that resulted in about 100 attending the film's final screening. Rousselet claims he and his friends saw the film "four times in three days," and it was in these initial screenings that many of the famous "The Room" traditions were born, such as the throwing of spoons during the film.
After the film was pulled from theaters, those who had attended the final showing began e-mailing Wiseau telling him how much they had enjoyed the film. Encouraged by the volume of letters he received, Wiseau booked a single midnight screening of The Room in June 2004, which proved successful enough that Wiseau booked a second showing in July, and a third in August. Demand for tickets soon rose to the point that Wiseau had to book midnight showings on two screens, and ultimately at multiple theaters around Los Angeles. Celebrities fans of the film included Paul Rudd, David Cross, Will Arnett, and Patton Oswalt. Kristen Bell acquired a film reel and hosted private viewing parties; Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas would also slip references into episodes of Mars "as much as possible". The film eventually developed national and international cult status, with Wiseau arranging screenings around the United States and in Canada, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
The film now shows on the last Saturday of every month at the Laemmle in Los Angeles, with tickets regularly selling out in advance. Fans interact with the film in a similar fashion to The Rocky Horror Picture Show; audience members dress up as their favorite characters, throw plastic spoons (a reference to an unexplained framed photo of a spoon on a table in Johnny's living room), toss footballs to each other from short distances, and yell insulting comments about the quality of the film as well as lines from the film itself. Other cinemas regularly showing The Room include the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis, the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa, the Metrocinema in Edmonton, the Drexel Theater in Columbus, the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland, and Huset KBH in Copenhagen, all of whom screen the film once a month; the Coolidge Corner Playhouse in Brookline, Massachusetts, which shows the film normally once per month; and the Prince Charles Cinema in London, where a permanent sign advertises the theater as "The London Home" of The Room. The Nova Cinema in Melbourne, Australia, the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Sydney, Australia, the Glasgow Film Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland, the Prytania Theatre in New Orleans, the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, and the Clay Theatre in San Francisco also play the film on a regular basis.
In December 2005, The Room was released on DVD. It is available for rental at select video rental shops via direct distribution from Wiseau Films, GreenCine, Netflix, and Amazon.com. The Room has not been made available for download.
The DVD's special features include an interview with Wiseau, who is asked questions by an off-screen Greg Sestero. Wiseau sits directly in front of a fireplace, with a mantel cluttered by various props from the film; next to him sits a large framed theatrical poster for the film. Wiseau fails to answer several of the questions, instead offering apparently unintentional non sequiturs. When asked to explain the scene where the men play football in an alley while wearing tuxedos, Wiseau only replies that playing football without protective gear is fun and challenging. Wiseau's dialogue throughout the interview, like in the film, is heavily dubbed.[original research?]
Among the outtakes included on the DVD is an alternate version of the Chris-R scene, set in a back alley; instead of tossing a football, Denny is playing basketball and attempts to get the drug dealer to "shoot some H-O-R-S-E" with him to distract him from the debt. Another bonus feature on the DVD is a more than half-hour long fly-on-the-wall style documentary about the making of The Room. The documentary includes no narration, very little dialogue, only one interview (with cast member Carolyn Minnot), and consists largely of clips of the crew preparing to shoot.
In September 2010, Newgrounds owner Tom Fulp released a Flash game tribute, in the form of a 16-bit styled adventure game played entirely from Johnny's point of view. The game's artwork was provided by staff member Jeff "JohnnyUtah" Bandelin, with music transcribed by animator Chris O'Neill from the Mladen Milicevic score and soundtrack.
In May 2011, it was announced that Greg Sestero signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster to write a book based on his experiences making the film. The book, titled The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room and co-written with Tom Bissell, was published in October 2013.
On June 10, 2011, the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center presented a live play/reading based on the original script for the movie. Wiseau reprised his role of Johnny and was joined by Greg Sestero playing the role of Mark.
In popular culture
The cable network Adult Swim has run the movie several times since 2009 as part of their April Fool's Day programming. In 2012, they showed the first twenty seconds of it before switching to Toonami for the remainder of the night.
The comedy show Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, also on Adult Swim, featured Wiseau prominently on an episode titled Tommy. Recruited as a "guest director", Wiseau is interviewed in mockumentary style along with the show's leading actors during the production of a fake film called "Pig Man". Two scenes from The Room are featured during the episode.
American punk rock musician Brendan Kelly wrote a song, "A Man with a Passion of Tennessee Williams", which is loosely based on The Room phenomenon. The song appeared as a single and also was the third track on the album I'd Rather Die Than Live Forever by Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds.
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