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Tommy Wiseau

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Tommy Wiseau
Publicity shot of Wiseau
Occupation Actor, filmmaker, businessman
Years active 2003–present

Tommy Wiseau (/ˈwz/)[1] is an American actor, filmmaker, and businessman. He produced and directed The Room (2003), which has been described by many critics as "one of the worst movies ever made" and has gained cult film status.[2] He also directed the 2004 documentary Homeless in America and the 2015 sitcom The Neighbors.[3][4] The 2017 film The Disaster Artist chronicles the making of The Room and Wiseau's life behind the scenes of the film.

Personal life

Wiseau c. 1985

Wiseau is secretive about his early life.[5] In various interviews, he has claimed to have lived in France "a long time ago";[6] asserted that he grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana;[7][8] and described having "an entire family" in Chalmette, Louisiana.[9] In interviews following the release of The Room in 2003, Wiseau gave an age which would indicate he was born in 1968 or 1969,[10] but actor Greg Sestero claims in his 2013 memoir, The Disaster Artist, that his brother's girlfriend obtained copies of Wiseau's U.S. immigration papers and found that Wiseau was born "much earlier" than he claimed,[11] in an Eastern Bloc country in the 1950s.[12]

In his 2016 documentary, Room Full of Spoons, Rick Harper claims to have researched Wiseau's background and concluded that he is Polish and originally from the city of Poznań.[13] Wiseau confirmed that he is "originally from Europe" in an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in November 2017, also saying in an interview with the The New York Times earlier that month, "Long story short, I grew up in Europe a long time ago, but I'm American and very proud of it."[14][15] In a December 2017 interview with Howard Stern, he claimed to speak French and said he is a Catholic.[16]

In The Disaster Artist, Sestero asserts that Wiseau revealed to him—through "fantastical, sad, self-contradictory stories"—that as a young adult he moved to Strasbourg, where he adopted the name "Pierre" and worked as a restaurant dishwasher.[17] According to Sestero, Wiseau described being wrongfully arrested following a drug raid at a youth hostel and being traumatised by his mistreatment by the French police, which led him to immigrate to the U.S. to live with his aunt and uncle in Chalmette.[18] Sestero asserts that Wiseau subsequently moved to San Francisco, California, where he worked as a street vendor selling toys to tourists near Fisherman's Wharf. Wiseau supposedly gained the nickname "The Birdman" for his bird toys, which were only popular in Europe at the time; this led him to legally change his name when he became a U.S. citizen to Thomas Pierre Wiseau, taking the French word for "bird" (oiseau) and replacing the O with the W of his birth name.[19]

According to Sestero, Wiseau worked a variety of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area, including restaurant busboy and hospital worker, and ran a business called Street Fashions USA that sold irregular blue jeans at discounted prices. He eventually purchased and rented out large retail spaces in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles, making him independently wealthy. In the same book, however, Sestero admits that the idea of Wiseau becoming wealthy so quickly via the jobs he claims to have had is so unlikely that he himself finds it impossible to believe.[20] Sestero suggests on several occasions that many people involved with the creation of The Room believed the film to be part of some money-laundering scheme for organized crime, but Sestero himself considers this unlikely.[21]

Sestero recounts that at some point, Wiseau was involved in a near-fatal car crash in California after another driver ran a red light and struck Wiseau's vehicle; as a result, Wiseau was hospitalized for several weeks.[22] Sestero suggests that this incident was the turning point in Wiseau's life that led him to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor and director, ambitions that he had long neglected while pursuing financial security.[23] Wiseau's cinematic influences include James Dean, Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams,[24] Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, and Alfred Hitchcock.[25]



Wiseau's film The Room was released in 2003. Its budget was $6 million, the financing of which has remained a source of intrigue. The film was based on an unpublished 540-page novel written by Wiseau himself.[26] The movie was immediately lambasted by critics,[27] but ultimately became a "cult classic" with late-night showings at theaters around the world. Audience members typically arrive wearing wigs resembling their favorite characters, interact with the dialogue on screen, and throw plastic cutlery and footballs around the theater in reference to on-screen events. This attention grew into what was dubbed The Room's 2010–2011 "Love is Blind" International Tour, with the movie being screened in the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Australia and India, among other locations. Wiseau appears at many of these events, posing for photographs with fans and often addressing the audience before screenings.[28]

In 2004, Wiseau produced and appeared in a short documentary, Homeless in America.[29] In 2010 he starred in a 15-minute parody horror film entitled The House That Drips Blood on Alex.[30]

Wiseau has stated that he has been influenced by the films The Guns of Navarone and Citizen Kane, and specifically the actors James Dean and Marlon Brando.[24][26][31] According to Sestero, Wiseau's obsession with James Dean was so intense that he often visited a Los Angeles restaurant owned by a former acquaintance of Dean,[32] and that several lines of dialogue in The Room (including the infamous cry "You are tearing me apart, Lisa!") were based on lines from Rebel Without a Cause.[33]

In March 2015, Wiseau stated in a Reddit "ask me anything" thread that he had commenced work on a new project named The Foreclosure.[34] He also was featured as the villain Linton Kitano in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, the sequel to the cult classic Samurai Cop. In October 2016, it was announced that Wiseau and Sestero would star in a movie called Best F(r)iends. The movie was written by Sestero and was shot in secret in Los Angeles.[35]

In the 2017 film adaptation of The Disaster Artist, James Franco portrays Wiseau. Wiseau approved of the choice, as well as that of Dave Franco playing Disaster Artist author and his friend Greg Sestero.[36] Tommy Wiseau makes a cameo appearance in a post-credits scene as Henry.[37][38]


In 2008, Wiseau produced and appeared in the pilot episode of a television series called The Neighbors. A trailer for The Neighbors showed a series of clips set in an office. The show's website, accompanied by trailers and announcements at The Room showings in 2015, stated that the show is coming to various media distribution outlets in March 2015.[39]

In 2009, Wiseau guest-starred in an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! entitled "Tommy", wherein Wiseau guest-directed a segment entitled "Pigman". After Wiseau expressed a desire to work with the duo again,[24] Tim and Eric announced in 2009 that they were developing two series for him.[40]

In 2010, Wiseau appeared in Marc Wooton's 2010 comedy TV series La La Land. In a mockumentary format, Wooton's character, Gary Garner, accepted a role in Wiseau's present production at the time. Wiseau kicked Wooton off the set after Wooton jokingly alluded to using production funds to buy instant lotto tickets.[citation needed]


In 2011, Wiseau starred in a YouTube web series, Tommy Explains it All, in which he explained his views on various topics ranging from Citizen Kane to the art of kissing.[41] Wiseau starred in segments on called The Tommy Wi-Show. The segments show Wiseau playing various video games, such as Mortal Kombat and Driver: San Francisco, and offering commentary.[42][43][44]



Year Title Director Producer Writer Actor Role Notes
2003 The Room Yes Yes Yes Yes Johnny
2010 The House That Drips Blood on Alex Yes Alex Short film
2011 Bump Yes Rick Short film
2015 Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance Yes Yes Linton Kitano
2016 Cold Moon Yes Rodeo Official Cameo
2017 The Disaster Artist Yes Henry Cameo[45]
2018 Best F(r)iends Yes Harvey Lewis


Year Title Director Producer Writer Actor Role Notes
2004 Homeless in America Yes Yes Yes Yes Himself Interviewer
2016 Enter the Samurai Yes Himself

TV, web shows, and commercials

Year Title Director Producer Writer Actor Role Notes
2009 Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Yes Yes Himself / Pig Man Episode: "Tommy"
2011–12 The Tommy Wi-Show Yes T. W.
2011 Tommy Explains it All Yes Himself
2013 Tommy Wiseau Wishes YOU a Happy Memorial Day Yes Himself Urban Outfitters commercial
2014–present The Neighbors Yes Yes Yes Yes Charlie / Ricky Rick

Awards and nominations

Year Work Award Category Result
2004 Homeless in America New York International Independent Film and Video Festival Best Social Documentary (L.A. Festival) Won
2004 The Room New York International Independent Film and Video Festival Audience Award – Feature (Miami Festival) Won
2010 Himself Harvard's Ivory Tower (Harvard Undergraduate Television) Filmmaker of the Year Filmmaker of the Year Won


  1. ^ "INTERNET SLUMBER PARTY WITH W. Kamau Bell LIVE - 8/22/12 (Full Ep)". August 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ Collis, Clark (2008-12-30). "'The Room': Worst movie ever? Don't tell that to its suddenly in-demand star". Retrieved 23 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "Shlocking encounter". Retrieved 2017-06-01. 
  4. ^ Tommy Wiseau: The Complete Interview(s), The Portland Mercury; accessed June 1, 2017.
  5. ^ Collis, Clark (2008-12-12). "The Crazy Cult of 'The Room'". Retrieved 2013-10-30. 
  6. ^ Seattle Post-Intelligencer article: "Is 'The Room' the worst movie of all time?"
  7. ^ "Interview: Tommy Wiseau « Terminal Laughter". Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  8. ^ Maddux, Rachael (May 8, 2012). "Trapped in The Room with Tommy Wiseau". CL Atlanta. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Capone's wacky Windy City weekend with Wiseau, creator of THE ROOM!!!". Ain't It Cool News. April 12, 2010. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  10. ^ "Interview with Tommy Wiseau, actor/writer/director/producer of The Room | Cinetology". 2010-02-16. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  11. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, p. 258.
  12. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, p. 192.
  13. ^ "The Irresistible Mystery Of Tommy Wiseau". Huffington Post. January 29, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  14. ^ Romano, Nick (2017-11-30). "The Room mastermind Tommy Wiseau actually opened up about his secret origins". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2017-12-05. 
  15. ^ Lyall, Sarah (2017-11-29). "When Your Movie Is a Hit for All the Wrong Reasons". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-12-05. 
  16. ^ The Howard Stern Show, December 5, 2017.
  17. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, pp. 192–94, 200–03.
  18. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, pp. 200–03, 207–08.
  19. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, pp. 244–45.
  20. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, pp. 246-50.
  21. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, pp. 100, 160.
  22. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, p. 59.
  23. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, p. 179.
  24. ^ a b c "Josh Rubenoff: Interview of Tommy Wiseau". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  25. ^ Sloan, Will (April 27, 2011). "The Varsity Interview: Tommy Wiseau". The Varsity. Retrieved 2015-01-08. 
  26. ^ a b Knegt, Peter. "Tommy Wiseau Goes Legit". IndieWire. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  27. ^ Entertainment Weekly "The Crazy Cult That is the Room"
  28. ^ "The Room Official Movie Site". Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Homeless in America (2004)". IMDb. 
  30. ^ "SD Comic-Con 2010: Teaser Trailer: Tommy Wiseau's The House that Dripped Blood on Alex". 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  31. ^ Interview: Tommy Wiseau, The A.V. Club; accessed June 1, 2017.
  32. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, pp. 84–87.
  33. ^ Sestero & Bissell 2013, pp. 126-30.
  34. ^ "Tommy Wiseau, creator of THE ROOM and the new TV show THE NEIGHBORS, available now on Hulu. AMA! • r/IAmA". reddit. Retrieved 2017-12-10. 
  35. ^ Rebecca Ford (2016-10-12). "'The Room' Director Tommy Wiseau and Star Greg Sestero Reunite for New Movie (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  36. ^ Clark Collis (2015-01-18). "Dave Franco to star in James Franco's movie about 'The Room'". Entertainment Weekly. 
  37. ^ Chitwood, Adam (March 22, 2016). "'The Disaster Artist': James Franco Reveals Tommy Wiseau Has a Contractually Obligated Cameo". Complex Media. Retrieved December 21, 2016. 
  38. ^ Wagmaster, Elizabeth. "'Freaks and Geeks' Reboot? Judd Apatow Teases 'Anything Can Happen'". Variety. Retrieved February 2, 2016. 
  39. ^ "The Neighbors official site". Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  40. ^ "Wired article". 2009-10-19. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  41. ^ "Episode 2: How Do You Know When You're In Love". "TommyExplainsItAll. 2011-06-01. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  42. ^ "The Tommy Wi-Show Ep. 1: Mortal Kombat (Machinima)". 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  43. ^ "The Tommy Wi-Show is a video game show with Tommy Wiseau". Joystiq. 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  44. ^ "The Tommy Wi-Show Ep. 5: Driver: San Francisco". 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2014-10-06. 
  45. ^ "The Disaster Artist (film)". Retrieved June 1, 2017. 

Further reading

External links