Which is why he’s probably the only actor-director alive who could pull off the meta-somersault of making a movie about the making of the modern cult classic The Room, while also playing the movie’s eccentric creator and star, Tommy Wiseau.
The result, The Disaster Artist, just played at SXSW, and it may soon join Tim Burton’s Ed Wood in the ranks of great movies about terrible movies.
If you live in New York or L.A. or anyw with a vibrant midnight movie scene, you probably know about The Room, an overwrought tale of human relationships with unimaginably clunky dialogue written by, directed by, produced by, and starring Wiseau, an affable man with the long hair of a vampire rock star and a vaguely Eastern European accent.
You don’t have to have seen The Room to appreciate Franco’s making-of movie, which is at its heart a tribute to those who dream so big and fail so spectacularly that they actually triumph.
His movie, based on a book by Wiseau’s best friend and co-star Greg Sestero, holds nothing but love.
Ari Graynor has a wonderful turn as Tommy’s movie love interest, Juliette Danielle, while Jacki Weaver shows up as Carolyn Minnott, the actress who has that line about breast cancer.
To nail Wiseau’s voice, Franco listened to it obsessively in his car, just as he did when playing James Dean, Wiseau’s idol, for a 2001 TV movie.
Franco said he saw in Wiseau a kindred spirit: “I really respected that he came out to Hollywood like so many millions of people have done, and he got this movie made.” And while he thought Wiseau’s behavior on set, like showing up four hours late for his own movie, or insisting his naked butt be prominent in sex scenes, seemed insane, he later realized, “I am Tommy Wiseau. So much. In ways I don’t want to admit.”
Wiseau, after all, is nothing but dedicated to his craft, so it’s fitting that Franco insisted on staying in character as Tommy while directing this movie about Tommy directing his movie.